– The Grape Tomato Seed Adventure … A criminal/immoral idea that could potentially help you with your grocery and seed buying budget!
I love grape tomatoes but the price at the grocery store is killing me and quite frankly paying for them is starting to cut into my seed buying budget. As for the quality of store bought grape tomatoes … well when they’re good, they’re very good … and when they’re bad, they are simply horrible!
Paying for an expensive plastic container of little, tasteless, sour, wrinkled, red rubber balls is usually not what I had in mind when buying grape tomatoes at the supermarket, so whenever possible I try to liberate one out of the container and do a taste test before buying any. Even if they pass the taste test, the lifespan of a store bought grape tomato is so short that it doesn’t take very long before they start to get all wrinkly. After paying top dollar I find this more than a little offensive so I’ve added some grape tomato seeds to my seed buying list.
Since I’m trying to adhere to a self imposed seed budget I tried surfing the internet to try to seek out some deals on grape tomato seeds. As a Guerilla Gardener I was pleasantly surprised to discover that buying seeds in packages wasn’t my only option. Apparently there are some suspected fellow guerilla gardeners out there who have had great success using seeds harvested from store bought grape tomatoes.
From a taste point of view, nothing beats the taste of a homegrown tomato and I couldn’t help but think that from a financial point of view this idea could help both my seed and grocery budgets to go just a little bit further.
Now, it just so happens (and I speak from experience) that if you mention this gardening idea to a Master Gardener they will tell you a bunch of technical stuff like it’s a hybrid, it won’t grow true to seed, it won’t taste good, blah, blah, blah.
As a Guerilla Gardener trying to work within the seed budget, my opinion is that if you already bought some good tasting grape tomatoes and there are a few wrinkled ones in the bottom of your refrigerator or rolling around on your counter, what do you have to lose? This especially holds true if you have plans to plant tomatoes on property that does not belong to you.
The internet consensus on growing grape tomatoes from supermarket varieties is that the Santa Sweets® brand of grape tomatoes (the containers with happy little tomatoes wearing Santa hats on the label) seems to work the best. When I grocery shop and can find this brand of grape tomatoes in the supermarket I usually buy them because they are always very sweet and they always pass the taste test. Now, if you happen to live in the U.S.A you can buy these plants already started from the Santa Sweets® company website but they will cost $32 (plus shipping and handling) for 8 plants. However, even if you had the money to waste, you still could be totally out of luck trying to obtain these plants as the company does not ship live plants to Canada.
As a Guerilla Gardener living in Canada, who is always open to new adventures the idea of trying to grow a grape tomato plant from my favorite brand of supermarket tomatoes seemed like a brilliant money saving plan that was going to help me to get the most out of both my grocery and seed budgets.
However, there’s a bit of a hitch. Apparently the Master Gardener’s concerns are the least of my problems because it turns out that there may be some criminal/moral issues to this money saving seed plan. It seems that there is some kind of copyright/trademark/patent tomato-rule-thing going on with this particular brand of tomatoes.
The Santa Sweets company grows only proprietary varieties of tomatoes such as the Santa Sweets® grape tomatoes. The company boasts that this is an exclusive “100% Pure Santa Variety (F1)®. This simply means that by law they are the only ones allowed to grow them and it has been highly recommended that I find out what kind of fine/legal costs/jail sentences might be incurred before trying to use the seeds from some Santa Sweets® grape tomatoes.
After checking all the trademark/copyright/patent information out thoroughly I cannot in good conscience condone or recommend using any store bought tomatoes for seed harvesting, no matter how good an idea I think it may be.
As a matter of fact, I am not willing to assume any responsibility or liability for anyone who decides to embark on their own Guerilla Garden Tomato Adventure. Just saying … if you get caught doing this you are on your own.
However … if you are willing to take the risk of the Grape Tomato Police possibly breaking down your door and are willing to assume all liability, responsibility or legal/financial implications for your own guerilla gardening actions then according to what I’ve read here’s how you would go about embarking upon your own…..
Guerilla Garden Grape Tomato Adventure!
Look around in your refrigerator or your counter for a spare grape tomato. If you bought a bunch and there’s a wrinkled one be sure to choose it-apparently, they seem to sprout better for some reason.
Fill a 10-12” pot with indoor potting soil.
Squish the grape tomato with your fingers and try to separate the seeds from the pulp.
Note-Kid’s love this job! Discard the pulp and spread the seeds evenly around on top of the soil and then cover with about 1 inch of dirt.
Check your tomatoes everyday for water.
Keep the soil moist (do not let it dry out!) and in a week or two you will see a bunch of seedlings pop up. When they are big enough to grab, separate them and then transplant them into different containers. Note: The Brooklyn Seed Company has a really good tutorial on making self watering containers out of old pop bottles. These work great for those people who are not known to adhere to a strict watering schedule and would rather use their garden budget to buy more plants and seeds than spend it on containers.
Harden the plants off and then plant them outside in the garden. Before transplanting to the garden be sure to fill the hole with rotted manure or compost. Tomatoes love this type of crap!
Pick and enjoy the taste of your homegrown grape tomatoes. Note-if you used a Santa Sweets® grape tomato you also might want to keep your eyes out for the Grape Tomato Police…..just saying!
Additional Tomato Growing Facts and Tips for Success:
– Start tomato seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last anticipated frost in your growing area. In other words if you live in the Pacific North West and you don’t have some tomatoes started you should be starting them now!
(March 15th is ideal)
– You can also plant tomato seeds directly outdoors in May but your yield will be limited.
– Any tomatoes (not just grape tomatoes) will work using this growing method but organic and heirloom supermarket tomatoes are more likely to grow true to seed. FYI-be aware that some tomato varieties might also have a copyright/trademark/patent tomato-rule-thing, so try this at your own risk.
– Choose the best tasting tomatoes but for a variety of reasons don’t be surprised if the tomatoes that you produce do not look like the ones you bought. Just remember, you’re most likely using tomatoes that you were going to throw out anyways, and as a guerilla gardener you should never look a gift tomato in the mouth.
– Some (but not all) supermarket type tomatoes are indeterminate –in guerilla garden simple speak they don’t usually do well in pots as they can grow quite large so they do best when transplanted directly into the garden. Also be aware that they may need a heavy duty trellis or a fence as a regular tomato cage usually doesn’t stand a chance of holding up most indeterminate tomatoes. Here’s the catch, you will most likely have no way of knowing if they are actually indeterminate. If space is an issue, just remember it’s only a old wrinkled tomato anyways so it’s worth trying to grow it in a large pot.
– When transplanting tomatoes outside (approximately the end of May/early June) place them where they will receive 6 or more hours of sun.
– When watering tomato plants apply water directly to the roots and try to keep water off the leaves. If possible plant under the eves on the southern side of the house to keep the rain off the leaves as well. This lessens your chance of blight.
– Keep your tomato plants well watered. Tomatoes are approximately ninety percent water and if they are not watered enough the tomatoes will end up being shriveled and sour.
– If you don’t see any bees or butterflies around the little yellow tomato flowers then pollination might be an issue. This means that you won’t get very many tomatoes. You can solve this by taking a Q-tip or a small (unused) paint brush and start poking it in all the flowers. This kind of works like artificial insemination for plants. Or if you are like me you can just go all guerilla gardener and grab your tomato plant occasionally and give it a shake to distribute the pollen and then give it a good talking to. Either way pollination will take effect and you will be rewarded with more tomatoes.
My only dilemma now is just what type or brand of tomatoes am I going to buy
from the supermarket for my Guerilla Garden Grape Tomato Adventure.
PS -I know what you’re thinking;
When it comes to tomatoes
Does she, or doesn’t she?
Well, only my accomplices will know for sure!
Brenda Dyck is a Fraser Valley writer AKA a Guerilla Gardener
Guerilla Garden Adventures
Using unconventional gardening ideas,
to get maximum results from minimal resources.
You can reach Brenda by clicking here.
Articles on the Guerilla Garden Adventures should never be construed as professional advice. Any resemblance to Master Gardeners, living or dead is purely coincidental.
I do not in any way condone or recommend following any of the advice or ideas contained on or linked in any article. These articles are based on my own Guerilla Garden Adventures (or that of some anonymous close friends), and have been considered by some people to be dangerous, immoral and/or down right illegal.
The only purpose of these articles is to share my Guerilla Garden Adventures, stories, disasters and triumphs with a warped sense of garden humor. Neither myself nor anyone I know will assume liability for any issues or legal proceedings arising (either real or imagined) from anyone who decides to embark upon their own Guerilla Gardener Adventure!