Sungold Tomato Plant: 1 Month

Our lone sungold survivor, one month after potting its seed.

It’s been four weeks since I planted a dozen of last year’s sungold seeds in a soil-filled container, and 18 days since the first (and only) sprout appeared. I decided to call it Seth, because I have a soft spot for religious lore; Seth was the brother of Cain and Abel, and is the progenitor of all mankind. So, you know, appropriate. All future generations (ideally) will stem from his line. I don’t much like the name Seth though, so I tend to just call it Tomato.

It’s been two weeks of trying to ensure that the plant stays appropriately watered, properly sunned, and a little mechanically stimulated. A couple of times a day, whenever I can sneak away for a moment, I’ve been giving its leaves a bit of gentle stroking, and maybe talking to it a little bit too — breathing lots of lovely carbon dioxide on him, etc. Providing light physical stimuli to plants imitates outdoor growing conditions like wind, rain, and animal passersby; it’s called thigmomorphogenesis, and it results in hardier specimens. Still, please don’t tell Heather I caress the tomato.

Today, our sole second-generation plant is doing very well. It’s sprouted a number of true tomato plant leaves, and stands at just over two inches tall. I created a little greenhouse dome thing for it by affixing a larger plastic container to the top of a smaller one. Usually I leave him outside during the day to stay warm and sunned (though it’s been pretty gray lately), but yesterday, I left the top down, so he could feel some real New England air for the first time. Now that he’s got the warm(er) air on his leaves and the wind at his back, I’ll pull back on babying it and just enjoy watching it grow. With some luck, it’ll be ready for transplanting at the end of the month. Ish. Wish him luck!

How are your tomato plants doing?

Heir to the Throne

COMING THIS SPRING: Twelve seeds were planted. Only one survived. Dun dun dunnnnn.

Ten days ago, I planted twelve sungold seeds I’d saved from last year into a little plastic container filled with soil. After a week of fretting that nothing was happening, sometime last night, a stem emerged from the ground: the (potentially) only heir to our sungold family lineage.

I’m hoping against hope that more of them sprout up over the next 48 hours or so, that this week’s cold and rainy weather has simply made these little guys run in slow motion. I’m not sure what the odds of any given sprouted plant have of surviving, but given the fact that we’re first-time parents, I’m worried that they’re not particularly good. It’d be nice to have more than one shot at it. But if this is the only plant we’ll get, then dammit, we’ll give it all we’ve got. It’s currently got a front-row seat in the sunniest south-facing window of the house.

What you’re looking at right now is a cotyledon, essentially the first growth which shoots out from the plant’s seed. Isn’t it remarkable how much larger the sprouted plant already is than the seed itself? Tomato plants are dicots, meaning that they have two embryonic leaves, as you can see in the picture. These are not yet truly tomato plant leaves, as they are present in the seed prior to germination (as opposed to growing after the seed germinates), but they are photosynthetic, meaning that as soon as they open up, they’re in charge of supplying the growing plant with energy. That’s why it’s important that they get immediate sunlight.

It looks like there’s some sun in the forecast for tomorrow and Friday, which hopefully is the case. I don’t really feel as though it’s proper to run an indoor fluorescent light just to develop this one plant. It’s going to have to grow naturally or not grow at all. Hopefully the little guy’s hardy. Things happen quickly in the springtime, so there’ll be plenty to monitor in the coming days.

Saving Seeds

It's okay that they're a little fuzzy, right? I think it's okay.

We had a very successful go of it last summer with our crop of sungold tomatoes. We did make one mistake, though: we weren’t very good about saving our seeds. As such, our eldest plant was mostly expired when we finally thought to try and save seeds from it, and the last seed-bearing stragglers we plucked from her branches from were only half-ripe. We took them anyways, hoping that their champion pedigree would make up for our haphazard collection practices.

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Taking a Load Off

A few of our sungolds, resting in the rain. // Boston, MA

After five straight days of gray and constantly rainy weather, we’re scheduled for a weekend of nothing but sunshine. I figured it’d be a good time to head back into the city to check on our old back alley garden and pluck whatever was ripe in advance of a probable growth spurth over these next few days. Since we recently moved to Watertown, we’re only able to stop and check on the plants once every week or so; I arrived yesterday to bunches of ripe sungolds, and picked off about a pint in all, leaving behind plenty of green ones and even some new yellow flowers to receive lots of sugary attention in the next few days.

Above, a little bunch of tomatoes has made its way through to the Western (shaded) side of the trellis, and is clearly taking advantage of the added support, though these little guys are certainly not getting as much sun as they’d like to. A few days of heat and sunshine should make for a great weekend for the city’s gardens.

The Day of the Triffids

So, we recently moved from the Back Bay to Watertown. While this was personally a big upgrade for us, we were regrettably forced to leave our little back alley garden behind. We’d planned on being there until September, but a place opened up in mid-July, and we couldn’t resist the opportunity to move. We’d stop by and keep up with the maintenance, we said. The lesson, as always: nature will win.

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At First Blush

A little but altogether wonderful surprise noticed when walking by our tomato plants — we’ve got our first blushing sungold! Blurry though it may be (ahem — it’s hard to notice this on a cell phone camera), it’s clear that this little guy will be ripe in short order. We’ve been more or less successful in figuring out how to grow the suckers. Now we’ve gotta figure out how to pick them.

(The first tomato to blush is, not surprisingly, the first tomato we ever had, which appeared about three weeks ago to the day. My, how you’ve grown.)