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Growing Tomatoes in the Low Desert


…and so does material

When I ask people what they would like to grow in their gardens, one of the first plants that’s usually mentioned is tomatoes. I am a huge fan of homegrown tomatoes - there is nothing like that taste! And you have so many choices, especially when you learn to grow them from seed. Early December is one of the best starting times for our spring gardens, so for the next few weeks I’m going to talk a lot about starting seeds indoors, next steps some, and also provide you with some valuable insights from Joe Lampl 'Joe Gardener. #joegardener.

midnight roma tomato seedlings, vegetable gardening, low desert gardening, Phoenix
Midnight Roma Tomato Seedlings

This is my first time growing this tomato. These are extraordinary seeds from a company called Row Seven. One of America’s finest chefs and some amazing seed breeders got together for this beautiful selection called 'Midnight Roma'.

I’m not saying these are great seedlings - in fact sometimes you learn best from mistakes. After these seeds germinated, they were too far away from micro light so you can see they stretched. I was able to take them out of the small cell to up size. Tomatoes have a great root system! I carefully pushed part of the stem below the surface of the dirt - the results are in the next photo. The results are due to the little hairs that tomatoes have along their stems that will root.

tomato gardening, low desert, phoenix, az
Midnight Roma plants from seedlings

So now all I had to do was waiting for our low desert weather in Phoenix, AZ to cool down just a little bit. These midnight roma's were planted the first part of October. This is actually kind of late for growing tomatoes in the low desert, but it was still so hot here I didn’t want to take a chance.

You can see from the next photos that I tried an experiment. Actually, I just didn’t have enough 10 gallon grow bags so I used a smaller black plastic nursery pot.

tomato in plastic pot, tomato plant, low desert gardening
Unhappy Midnight Roma in black plastic pot

And you can see the results my poor little beautiful very special tomato looks kind of like a “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree. All the others fabulous!

tomato plant in garden bag, low desert, phoenix, az
Happy Midnight Roma Tomato in garden bag

There are about 10 days from harvest thanks to the cooperation of a beautiful warm fall. So why does size matter? It's very important to know how much room the roots of your crop or plant needs to be happy. One of the benefits of grow bags is air pruning. When the root hits the side of the bag it will stop grow out and turn downward. This is unlike traditional plastic pots where the roots will continue to grow around in circles - I’m sure you have all seen a root bound plant.

In a few weeks will be canning these unusual Midnight Roma tomatoes. We might even do a small class, so if you’re interested let me know!

tomato plant, midnight roma, low desert vegetable gardening, phoenix, az
Beautiful Midnight Roma Tomatoes

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