Plum Tomatoes

Good bye back fat, hellooooooo gardening.

Welcome to the season of my sport. People tend to think gardening isn’t really a sport, but anyone who has back fat knows differently. Gardening is hard WORK. Especially the beginning stages of it when you’re planting and raking and hoeing. That’s with an e. Although I’m sure hoing also burns a lot of calories, you have the added stress of jail time, a pimp named Sassafrass and routine courses of antibiotics.

Front yard gardening on the other hand, is only illegal. In some cities.

As you may know, I’ve been making my own tomato sauce since I was a teenager. I buy the tomatoes, squish them, boil them, can them, and then use my homemade tomato juice to make homemade spaghetti and other sauces.

Up until now I thought that was pretty good. You know? Impressive. Press my own tomatoes to make my own sauce? That’s pretty pioneerey of me. Self sufficient and all that.

But last year I started to have thoughts that verged on crazy talk. Why not grown my own tomatoes as well? I mean, WHY NOT?

So I got to figuring out how many tomato plants I’d need.

Every year I press one or two bushels of plum tomatoes for canning. So how many plants would I need to get 1 or two bushels of plum tomatoes, RIPE AT THE SAME TIME? It’s one thing to produce a bushel of tomatoes throughout a season, but quite another to produce a bushel that’s ripe at the same time.

I researched and calculated and added and subtracted and came to the conclusion I haven’t gotten any better at math since grade 12. So I gave up and guessed.

15 is the number I decided on. 15 tomato plants to create one bushel or more.  I  know 6 tomato plants will create a bushel throughout the season, so hopefully 15 will give me a bushel all at once at the end of the season. Hopefully.  Total guess.  Almost failed math.


Plum Tomatoes 2


Now the next problem needed to be addressed.  I have room for exactly 5 tomato plants.  And 2 of them have to be in planters in my backyard.  Soooooo.  I quickly scanned my little brain for who I knew that had a big backyard.  Exellent.  Got it.  Everyone but me.


Plum Tomatoes 1


Now who had a big backyard with enough space for me to plant 15 tomato plants?   My sister.  Not the sister who wears a pink suede toolbelt with Chanel sunglasses, the other sister.  The one who won’t watch movies unless all of the actors in it are dead.


Plum Tomatoes 3


Enter 15 more tomato plants.  If I was going to get half of her backyard for planting my tomatoes I was going to have to have some sort of incentive.  Since she also presses tomatoes in the fall, I figured if I also planted 15 tomatoes for her she’d agree.

She did.


Now she’ll have to do all the hard work while I, on the other hand, will grow more back fat.



  1. Feral Turtle says:

    I am so excited to see your beautiful garden Karen. A true green thumber!

  2. Deborah says:

    Last year I had hubby make me a couple of self-watering planters out of rubbermaid totes for my tomatoes at the cottage. They hold tons of water and the plants never dried out while we were back home during the week. Anyone wanting to know how to make their own self-watering planters for minimal bucks, here is my tutorial:
    Kudos Karen to growing so many plants (kudos to sister for allowing you to take over her space too), best of luck!

  3. Jan says:

    I have friends who have great luck growing tomatoes in pots but mine always do much better in the ground. Last year we had a drought and even then the tomatoes in our garden plot made it through, although it looked iffy fir awhile . Our water bill went up as we struggled to p the potted tomatoes wet enough. Those pots dry out quickly.

    This year I think I’ll wait till te kids down the street sell tomatoes and clean them out of their stock unless they have become astute business people and raised prices accordingly. They grow great tomatoes.

  4. Shauna says:

    I have had such a day at work. I totally needed the laugh that first paragraph (and others) gave me!

  5. So jealous! We have zero backyard w out pool and deck so gardening is done in pots. Not so easy in the Phoenix.

  6. Barbie says:

    Aren’t all creative people bad at math? I will trade math for creativity any day!

    I bought seeds (heirloom and organic) from your suggested sources and I must say I have been surprised ….they have been in the pots and under heat lights, and the heirloom ones just won’t grow more than about two inches (they have been at a stand still) and it has been about 8 wks now. The un-organic and regular seeds are big as yours in the photo. I must have done something wrong….any suggestions?

    All the other stuff is doing great, squash’s, peppers, eggplant, ect….it’s just the tomatoes.

  7. Jeannie B. says:

    We have a lot of big old shade trees on our property so, not a lot of sunny spots. Plus, one of the trees is a black walnut. But, I’m going to try to grow tomatoes this summer, cherry and maybe beefsteak in big black tree pots in a few strategic places. I wish that I had the energy to do it your way Karen, starting plants from seeds in newspaper pots, hoeing, planting, weeding, making tomato sauce, etc., along with everything else you do. Do you use Epson salts as a fertilizer on your plants. I keep hearing that it does them good? As always, thanks for the inspiration.

  8. Nonny says:

    Hoping we have a dry summer in the UK this year, as 2012 was so wet that tomatoes didn’t growoutdoors. I normally grow about 20 plants/5 varieties, with the hope of exceesive amounts of green tomatoes at the end of the season…..for green tomato chutney. I’m on my last jar, and have no stock left for hostess gifts when I’m invited to dinner.

  9. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Illegal front yard..Illegal back are the nicest criminal I know..and the smartest..if your tomatoes do as well this year as ours did last year..your sauce will runneth will be busy selling extra jars of sauce instead of being out luck Karen!

  10. jackie says:

    Did I misunderstand something or did you say it’s illegal to garden in the front yard?? hopefully I’m dense this morning because that would be crazy. As for “room”, I am with most of your readers in that I just plant in big buckets. I don’t pay for them, I ask the garden centres for their spent buckets from big trees that people didn’t want for whatever reason. They’re also black so that helps the tomaters even more. So why don’t you have room for containers?

  11. Reg says:

    I’m awestruck. Gobsmacked. The math would have stumped me and ended any and all efforts. Meh, I’ll buy the tomatoes at the nearest outdoor market and feel righteous helping support local growers.
    Besides, my property is lined with Black Walnut trees and tomatoes don’t like Black Walnut trees. Nothing likes Black Walnut trees except squirrels. grrr.

  12. Whitney says:

    30 tomato plants?! What ambition! I’m completely awestruck by your dedication to homegrown tomato sauce. Good luck!

    I can barely handle the 5-6 tomato plants that I’ll plant this year…. With any luck, I’ll get a couple of batches of gazpacho. More likely, the stink bugs will enjoy the fruits of my labor.

  13. ev says:

    “Determinate” tomato plants ripen their fruit all at once–“Indeterminate” plants ripen their fruit through the season. When you are deciding what varieties you want, they are usually labeled as one kind or the other. I learned this because I too wanted to can tomatoes all at once! It mostly works, but not always. How is your remodel going, Karen? Need more Pics!

  14. Debbie Neal says:

    I gave up planting ornamental plants by my driveway and now plant tomatoes in big pots in the back!I just hope the neighbors walking by early in the morning don’t pick my groceries! I might have to install security cameras!

  15. marilyn says:

    i have a big yard..just sayin

  16. Renee says:

    I recommend diversifying the crop. Some years, depending on the weather, some tomatoes perish while others thrive. (I am the one who posted the gallons and gallons of sauce … And 750# of cucumbers fron 12 plants,). Heirloom tomatoes also make great sauce, and with desperation, we made a good few batches with cherry tomatoes. (Also out of desperation, I learned that an immersion blender helps quickly deal with all those skins.) All this from 4 sweet 100’s, 4 brandywine, and 4 pink girls (not a great year for them, but the others went crazy). Still have sauce in the freezer from summer 2012.

    • Linda S says:

      I am aware that this blog originates in Canada, but why is the woman posting above speaking in a foreign language? I can’t understand a thing Renee is trying to tell us. Oh well, I do know the location of a good grocery store!

  17. Kim says:

    Great (weird?) minds must think alike. I too was considering my back fat this morning and how much it hurts this time of year. And then I saw your adorable iddy biddy baby tomatoes from a northern garden whilst ours have reached teenager status and flopped out of the beds in rebellion. Time to trellis…

  18. Carol-Anne says:

    I didn’t have enough room in my garden either so I planted my tomatoes and variety of peppers in large pots and 5 gallon Home Depot buckets and set them around my patio.

  19. KiwiKat says:

    You can also grow them in bags…I can usually get 5 plants to a bag of potting mix – 6 if I push it – you simply slice ‘x’s into the bag and put the plants in and let them do their thing…

  20. Kim says:

    I don’t know about sucker pruning but sounds like Karen is good at sucker planting! :-P

  21. This reminds me of a Garrison Keilor report from Lake Woebegon about midwesterners getting their heart (read heart as salivary glands) set on fresh tomatoes, so they plant too many. And end up sneaking bags of the things onto their neighbor’s back porches.

    But, if you are going to make your own sauce (and sauce for your sister who is growing the ‘maters) you’d better have plenty! Good luck with that…. are you going to try roasting the tomatoes first before saucing them?

  22. Amie says:

    You had me in fits of laughter with “a pimp named Sassafrass”! Genius!

    Gardening is exhausting! I use a calorie counting app that includes gardening as exercise. It’s been pretty accurate too! It’s called my fitness pro; brilliant!

  23. theresa says:

    well this weekend is the big weekend for planting the garden and this little post has inspired me to try the grow your own sauce- 15 plum tomatoe plants you say hmmm- i think ican do it- love the newspaper pots by the way
    good luck!

  24. Caarin says:

    Have you tried sucker pruning? I’m attempting this with 25 plants to save space in my raised beds this year, otherwise I end up with tomato trees.

  25. Karen B says:

    You are too funny! Good luck.

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