Tomatoes – Better Late!!!

It has been my experience, tomatoes planted late are far superior to early or standard planted. As the temperatures start to cool down, you get better flower set and consequently better fruit.

I prefer to cage my tomatoes for better foliage cover to reduce the chance of sun-scald. Heirloom tomatoes have superior taste and texture. However, the plants can exceed the size of the cage!! Next year I plan to grow the plants on 5 foot centers to allow for easier harvesting and increased air circulation.


BTW, the plant to the left of Papa is a variety called Granny Cantrell. This beloved heirloom has quite a following. The plant to the right is Daniel’s, which produces very large pink red fruit and appears to be well suited for our Missouri Ozarks climate.

The above variety has the unusual name of “1884”. The plant was discovered after a flood in West Virginia in 1884. This beauty weighs in at 1 pound 10 ounces. BLT sandwiches are written all over it!!!!

Kellog’s Breakfast is the name of this bright yellow/orange sweet confection. Boasting a good balance of sweetness and acidity with few seeds make Kellog’s Breakfast a highly desirable choice.

The expanded list of tomatoes grown are:

  • 1884 – large pink/red beefsteak
  • Black Prince – small purple/red 2-3 oz
  • Black from Tula – medium red/purple, meaty/few seeds
  • Coyne – red Roma type, large 4-8 oz
  • Daniel’s – large pink/red beefsteak, many over a pound
  • German Johnson – medium pink/red beefsteak, one of the parents of Branywine
  • Granny Cantrell – medium/large pink/red beefsteak, plants are huge!
  • Hannah – medium/large, pink/red oxheart, meaty, few seeds
  • Hazelfield Farm – pink/red, medium beefsteak, well adapted to hot/humid
  • Kellog’s Breakfast – large yellow/orange beefsteak, sweet and meaty
  • Mary Robinson German Bicolor – large, red/yellow, beefsteak
  • Omar’s Lebanese – large pink/red, may exceed 3 pounds
  • Pineapple – large, yellow/red, very sweet and juicy
  • Pink Boar – pink with green streaks, small 3-4 oz
  • Rutgers – small, orange/red old fashioned for canning, juicing
  • San Marzano Lungo #2 – 3-4 0z Roma type for sauce and paste

It never ceases to amaze me, how traditional tomato eaters are about the color of their tomatoes. As one man said to me “If it ain’t red, I ain’t going to eat it”. However, when they try the different colored tomatoes, they often change their mind.

For the Ozarks, start your tomato seeds the second week of May and plant your seedlings the first of July. Your tomatoes will start coming in by late August through October. BTW, for you market gardeners, late tomatoes command a higher price by late September/October due to limited supply.

Plant late, I promise you, you will not be disappointed!


Heritage Day Festival with Papa

Sunday was a beautiful day for a festival. It was a wonderful day to meet and greet new people and the Bluegrass music from the Missouri Ozarks was amazing! What more could you ask from the day?


My Miss Sunshine was a wonderful helper.


Gardening questions included “How do you change the color of hydrangeas?”, “Why did my strawberry plants die?”and “You can grow lettuce during the hot summer months?” I plan to address these questions in future posts.

The booth was a stunning success. Heirloom Tomato and Hot/Sweet Pepper transplants in addition to potted June bearing Strawberry plants, Annual Phlox and Hollyhocks were for sale.



The lettuce bowls with Oak Leaf, Amish Deer Tongue and Red Romaine lettuces with edible Pansy’s were well received.


Sweet Peas on the vine, Bachelor’s Buttons and Snowball Hydrangeas complimented the booth receiving surprised and rave reviews. People in this area are not familiar with cultivated Sweet Peas and were pleased with their knockout colors and fragrance.




Thanks again for visiting the world of Papa’s Gardens.




See you Sunday!

Sunday, June 5, I will have a vendor space during the Baker Creek* monthly Heritage Days festival.


I will be selling tomato and hot/ sweet pepper transplants. In addition I will have potted June bearing strawberry plants, Hollyhocks, Annual Phlox and Lettuce bowls for sale.



I will be featuring my Sweet Peas as cut flowers. They are colorful and fragrant.These may be purchased by the stem or in a bouquet.


Come on out and say “Hey”.



*Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., 2278 Baker Creek Road, Mansfield, MO 65704

Festival hours: 10AM to 7PM


What is blossom end rot? Is it a disease?

Papas Gardens received a great question from Lorrie near Denver, Colorado. She writes:

I have heirloom tomatoes in my garden beds from your Baker seeds. They were heavily hit by hail shortly after transplanting. Unsure of how they would recover, I lost six plants out of 22, I purchased three WalMart plants and kept them on the deck. One of these three plants, an Early Girl, has been ripening but as soon as the tomatoes begin to turn red a brown rotten spot starts on the bottom of the fruit. What is that? Should I just get rid of the plant? Will it affect others nearby? The heirloom plants are doing wonderfully and are loaded with fruit.

This symptom strongly suggests blossom end rot.


This physiological disorder results in inadequate supplies of calcium for the development of vegetable fruiting. You will notice a watery sunken brown spot developing on the blossom end of developing fruit. This area will widen as the fruit grows and may become black. This fruit must be discarded as the lesion will invite disease.


As this is a physiologic disorder it does not spread from plant to plant. Insecticides or fungicides are of no use.

How did this happen?
– Plants take up moisture/water from the soil/roots and the calcium travels along with the water from the roots to the leaves and flowers/maturing fruit.
– If the water/moisture is limited or excessive the calcium will be transported to the leaves rather than the maturing fruit.
– Maturing fruit need calcium to support new cell growth.
– If the water has been limited due to drought or moisture fluctuations or  too much watering (flooding), the  blossom end of the maturing fruit will start to show cell death which is called blossom end rot.

Additional factors which contribute to this disorder:

  • Genetics. Some varieties are predisposed to blossom end rot.
  • Tomatoes planted in cold, heavy soils often have poorly developed root systems. Since the roots are unable to supply adequate amounts of water and nutrients to plants during times of stress, blossom end rot may result. You may see this on the first tomato bloom. This may subside as future fruiting occurs if there is a sufficient supply of calcium in the soil.
  • Soils that contain excessive amounts of soluble salts may predispose tomatoes to the disease; availability of calcium to the plants decreases rapidly as total salts in the soil increase. This may be seen when chemical fertilizers are applied.
  • Soil ph which is too acidic or too alkaline will interfere with root function thus calcium release becomes blocked to the plant. A soil ph of 6.5 to 6.8 is ideal.
  • Fertilizers using ammonia for their nitrogen source will tie up the calcium in the soil. Rapid growth in plant development may cause calcium to be transported inefficiently. You will see lush plant and leaf development and poor or little blossom/fruiting.
  • Root damage and /or poor root development. Be careful when cultivating around your tomatoes.

Are there treatments for this disorder?

  • Some gardeners use a treatment of garden lime (calcium carbonate) sprinkled on the soil around the drip line of the plant.
  • A foliar spray of calcium chloride may be applied however it may be phytotoxic (cause burning of the plant) if applied frequently or in excessive amounts.
  • Some gardeners use Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) as a foliar spray to effect calcium uptake and absorption.
  • Other suggestions include these drenches: Powdered milk, crushed eggshell tea, bone meal tea and Tums tablets.

Best management practices for your soil and garden

  • Soil test at least 6 months prior to planting as calcium enrichment needs 3-4 months to incorporate into the soil. Late fall would be the best time for this.
  • Irrigation must be sufficient to maintain steady even growth. Drip irrigation would be ideal.
  • Mulching will help with moisture stress.
  • Shading is helpful with dry blowing winds/drought/extreme hot temperatures.
  • Boosting your soil with organic soil amendments. Late fall is a good time for this as you prepare your garden for the winter months.
  • Plant your tomato transplants when the soil has warmed to above 60 degrees.


Did you know?

Cucumbers, zucchini, squash, melon, watermelon, eggplant and peppers are prone to blossom end rot as well. All the more reason to check your soil with a soil test before you are faced with this disorder.

Tomatoes Papa

What Does it Mean to “Harden Off” Seedlings?

I often get this question this time of year. You can hardly wait to get your tomatoes in the ground! You’ve grown the plants out with great care. You’ve babied them.

You desperately want to plant them in the ground.  You take your hand or trowel and plant them in the cold ground. You water the seedlings and hope they will quickly grow. Uh oh, something is wrong! For some reason the plants don’t look so good after a couple of days in the soil. They look like they are burnt or dying. What did I do wrong?

Here are the steps you must take for  successful transplant.

  1. A seedling must be 45 – 60 days old prior to transplanting into your garden or container.
  2. Seven (7) to 10 days prior to transplant, start to wean the plants to use less water. Only water enough to prevent wilting.
  3. Treat your seedlings with seaweed emulsion, either by spraying or watering with a one (1) tablespoon per gallon of water solution.
  4. Take the seedlings outside for 2 hours the first day. Make sure you do this on a warm day with little wind. A cold wind could damage the seedlings. If you are using a cold frame*, completely opening the lid. Use the same guidelines as above.
  5. Each day increase the time outside by one (1) to two (2) hours.
  6. By the tenth day the seedlings will be tough enough to take the rigors of full sunlight and wind.
  7. Now you may safely plant your seedlings outside.

*Cold frame – a box with no bottom that has a hinged or removable clear or translucent top. The top may be opened or closed when the temperature outside is too cold or too warm. The box may be constructed out of  hay/straw bales, glass, poly carbonate, wood, etc.


Transplant Progress of Coyne and Hannah Tomatoes

The Coyne and Hannah German Heirloom tomatoes were started on April 4th. It is amazing to see the progress from seed into seed flats, then transplanted into cell flats. They are continuing to grow in the cold frames. Plus, the cooler growing temperatures and fresh air is making the transplants more sturdy. Hopefully, the transplants will be short and stocky when it comes time to plant directly in the garden.

Below you will see the original seed flats and then the transplanted cell flats. Quite a transformation!

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