March 9, 2017
The Cure for Spring Fever
I never know how spring fever is going to hit me. Sometimes it's the pleasant shock of finding my shopping cart full of beautiful perennial plants—when I only went to the big box store for light bulbs. Or waking up on Saturday with a full-blown panic attack realizing that if I don't get to the nursery immediately they will be sold out of my favorite tomatoes, and if they are sold out, I won't have my favorites and I will suffer with lesser tomatoes all spring omg where are my keys?
So off I race to my local nursery for veggies and thank goodness, Yellow Pear tomatoes are in stock—whew. Then I find a whole tray of Sun Gold tomatoes; heart rate is almost back to normal. And finally I find a couple Celebrity plants, and all is well in the world again.
There are plenty of tomato transplants available at nurseries and garden centers that do well for me, but if I'm not growing my favorites I just don't enjoy my garden as much. If you have ever grown Yellow Pear, Sun Gold, or Celebrity tomatoes, you know they are easy, prolific, disease resistant, and delicious.
Yellow Pears are about 1½ inches long and you guessed it, yellow and pear-shaped, with a mild flavor. They are vigorous indeterminate vines that take up a lot of space; you have been warned, so get the cage on them when you plant. They produce up until the first frost for me. Sometimes they have issues with cracking if you don't pick them often enough, so harvest every day when they are producing.
Sun Gold is a very sweet cherry tomato that is tangerine-orange and one of the sweetest picks from the garden. The fruit is about the diameter of a quarter and grows on this indeterminate plant with strong, thick stems.
My last current favorite is Celebrity, and you can usually find it wherever they sell tomatoes, so no need to panic about getting this one. I love it because it dependably produces tasty mid-sized tomatoes that do not crack and it does great in a container. Celebrity is resistant to many diseases and nematodes. I one time grew a Celebrity plant right next to another tomato plant—which shall remain nameless—in an area of the garden where I had been battling nematodes. The lesser tomato's roots were loaded with bumps and knots, signs of a root knot nematode infestation, but the Celebrity's roots right next to it were white, smooth, and healthy. That made a believer out of me in a big hurry.
There is a cultivar called Garden Gem that I want to try in the future. It's not yet commercially available, but for a $10 donation to support new tomato variety development, the research lab of UF/IFAS professor Dr. Harry Klee will send you seeds of this flavorful tomato.
I hope buying tomatoes is part of the cure for your spring fever; if not, there are many beautiful edibles and Florida-Friendly plants to choose from that might scratch your itch.
-- Wendy Wilber