Here are some tomato plant updates for the week (as well as tomato seed updates). Sorry I haven’t been around much this week — I’ve been busy with my tomatoes (not to mention with my other veggies).
I mentioned in my first tomato update post that I had three SuperSweet 100 plants, and I was going to run an experiment with them. One I kept inside in a south-facing window. Another I took outside to a protected area with strong indirect sunlight (as well as a couple hours of direct sun). The third I went and planted in its final container outside. Three weeks later, how did they fare?
It’s been rather cool here lately, so the plant I kept inside in a south-facing window is by far the tallest and has the most leaves. However, it’s verging on leggy. I’m keeping it inside for the time being, seeing as the forecast is for temps in the upper 30’s next week — if I sent it outside now, I’m afraid it would have a severe setback.
The one I planted in its final container in the garden is the next most developed; it has medium-sized new growth — not as much as the one I left inside, but it’s stockier — not leggy at all. It has a nice, dark green color.
The third that I left outside in a protected location is the smallest. I decided to go ahead and plant it in its final container out in the garden area, so it could get some more growth. Dark green leaves, though, so that’s good.
All my started to grow quite well by about the 10th, when I potted them up twice since then. I was thinking I had the red version of Brandywine, but they all ended up potato leaf style, so I either have red Brandywine with potato leaves or pink Brandywine. Hmmm. I’ll have to wait and see the color of the fruit.
These are for the Great Tomato Experiment, and they are doing very nicely. I transferred them to the next size container, and am keeping them inside for now, given that lower temperatures are forecast during the week. All my Pineapple seeds germinated nicely, so I have four plants to choose from — the three strongest will take part in the experiment.
I originally said that one of my White Bush seedlings had been going for the sky. Well, it had, then a short while later it looked like it was going to keel over. So I brought it inside and hoped for the best. It hasn’t been until the last few days that it’s started looking healthy — now it’s growing fine again.
The Rest of the Tomato Plants
I have Juliet, Tomatoberry, Big Rainbow, Kellogg’s Breakfastall repotted up. I brought one Kellogg’s Breakfast inside, and everything else I left outside. Yellow Cherry is also outside, but I’m not sure how it will fare. I probably should bring it inside.
New Tomato Seeds Germinated
I tried for some of my legacy seeds, and so far, Green Grape and Loxahatchee are the only two up. I had also planted newer seeds for Tumbling Tom, and they both came up. For the legacy seeds, still waiting on Black Krim.
Loxahatchee is a strain I am developing. I originally saved the seed from an unknown globe-shaped tomato that tasted wonderful, and hoped that the resulting plant would also have great-tasting tomatoes. I didn’t know if the tomato was hybrid or open pollinated, so I wasn’t sure what I’d get. At any rate, I’ve selected plants for three generations whose tomatoes tasted the best.
Whoops! For some reason I was down to just 6 seeds — not sure where the rest ran off to. So I carefully planted 3 of the seeds. Two have germinated so far, and hopefully the third as well.
For these, I want to do two things. First is still select the largest of the great-tasting red globes — that will be two of the plants. The third plant I want to use as the female cross with another tomato variety. Not sure which I want to use for the male parent of the cross. I’m debating using Pineapple, Kellogg’s Breakfast or maybe Druzba. I’ll have to see how this generation fares, first.
Finally, I planted two new varieties yesterday — the heirloom tomato and the hybrid Fabulous. (If you plan on planting seeds and need some guidance, check out the germinating tomato seeds post.)
With Tomatoes and Flowers
Almost forgot, I have tomatoes on Patio, Celebrity and Husky Red (a cherry-type). I have more blossoms on all these, plus also with Mr. Stripey (Tigerella) and Park’s Whopper. It’s been a cooler winter than normal, so everything is growing slower than usual; I should have already had at least some almost-ripe tomatoes by now. I’ve still got a ways to wait, though.
Tomato varieties for the Southeastern USA are pretty wide-open for most locations, but there are certain considerations. I thought I’d start some posts about tomato varieties well-suited for different locations around the USA. And this, my first post, is on the Southeastern USA.
What is the South East?
Well, here are the boundaries I’m considering the Southeast:
- South of Virginia on the eastern seaboard
- East of Texas
- South of Kentucky in the middle part of the USA.
- I’ll include Arkansas, but exclude Missouri.
So now that we know the boundaries, what tomato varieties are good for this area? Let’s consider the two things common to Summer in most of these locations.
While a little of both are great for growing tomatoes, too much of a good thing spells bad news for your eventual fruits. So what kind of problems do the heat and humidity cause in the Southeastern USA?
Yikes! There’s a Fungus Among Us!
Unfortunately, fungus thrives in humid locations without good air circulation. Diseases related to fungal infections include alternaria, blights, gray leaf spot, fusarium wilt, damping off, verticillium wilt, mold….you get the idea.
If you are finding a lot of fungal infections in your plants, you’ll want to at least think about some hybrid tomato varieties that are more resistant to these problems. You’ll recognize them by the letters after the tomato name; they include:
- A – alternaria
- F – fusarium wilt strain I
- FF – fusarium wilt strain I & II
- V – verticillium wilt
So for example, if you look at the description for the tomato variety called Big Beef, you’ll see the letters VF1F2TNA, which means the tomato is resistant to alternaria, both strain 1 and 2 of fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt, tobacco mosaic virus (the “T”) and nematodes (the “N”).
Other hybrid tomato varieties with good fungal resistance include:
- Applause (ASCF1F2StV)
- Celebrity (VF1F2NTASt)Â (one of my favorite hybrids)
- Country Taste (F1F2TV)
- Fabulous (VF1F2TASt)
- Razzleberry (VF1F2)
So this gives you an idea of what to look at when evaluating one of the tomato hybrids. (In addition to taste, of course.)
Other Tomato Diseases
Unfortunately, fungal diseases aren’t the only ones to threaten our homegrown tomatoes. We also have to worry about bacterial diseases (bacterial speck, spot, wilk, canker, fruit rot, etc.). And if that wasn’t bad enough, we have nematodes and viral diseases. It’s a wonder that we have any tomatoes at all!
The chances of bacterial diseases can be greatly reduced by careful mulching, as it’s the bacteria in the soil that causes problems. Nematodes…well, if you have them in the soil, the best thoughts would be to either plant your tomatoes in containers (using potting soil) and/or plant hybrids that are resistant to nematodes. Viral diseases can also be present – yikes!
(You may want to read the post on tomato diseases to become more familiar with these banes to growing tomatoes.)
What About Heirloom Tomatoes?
Sure, you can grow heirlooms! Just keep in mind that because they since they don’t have all those extra letters after their name, you’ll not know right off the bat what kind of resistance a variety has. You’ll need to be more on the lookout for any problems. Make sure your plants have plenty of air circulation (without being too windy), mulch the soil and consider growing in containers if you have a problem with nematodes. Oh, and don’t splash water on the plants when watering.
If you live in a location where it’s hot but not necessarily humid, you have more wiggle room in the summer. But of it’s really hot, you’ll want to pick tomato varieties that set fruits when many days go well over 90 degrees. The big beefsteaks are usually a little more trouble in this respect, compared to the tomatoes which grow to be less than 8 ounces.
Heirlooms that seem to do well in the southeast heat and humidity are:
- Cherokee Purple
- Black Krim
- Black Prince
- Clear Pink Early
- Just about any cherry tomato
Where I live in South Florida, I try to grow most of my heirloom tomatoes on the “shoulders” of the season. In other words, I do my best to avoid having the fruit trying to set between mid-July and mid-August, when it’s the hottest. This may mean starting the seeds earlier than normal so I can get the seedling plants outside at the first possible moment.
Hybrid tomatoes sometimes get a bad rap. While I will agree that most heirloom tomatoes have a better overall taste, let’s face it – any homegrown tomato will taste better than one from the grocery store!
So why are hybrid tomatoes looked down upon at times? Are they truly worth growing? And what makes a hybrid different from an open-pollinated tomato?
What Are Hybrid Tomatoes?
As you probably know, a hybrid is a cross. The hybrid tomatoes are simply crosses between two different varieties to create a third.
So why make these crosses? Here’s one reason — a particular tomato variety may have superior disease resistance, but the tomatoes produced aren’t very tasty. Since disease resistance can be crucial for some growers, a cross is made to a tomato with great taste. The resulting cross will include better disease resistance combined with better tasting tomatoes.
Another reason for a cross might be to create a tomato specifically for a very warm or very cool climate.
Here’s something important to note; if you plan to save seeds from your crop, don’t bother with a hybrid. This is because the seeds can resemble the “grandparents” more than the parent plant — in other words, they might be great or they might be tasteless. The magic only happens when the two varieties are combined.
(On the other hand, an open-pollinated tomato is a stable cross over many generations and reproduces itself.)
Hybrids and Taste
I’ll be the first to admit that most hybrids aren’t as sweet as most heirlooms. But if all you’ve ever had are the plastic-tasting tomatoes from the grocery store, a homegrown hybrid tomato will taste like heaven! Still, the hybrid cherry tomato Sungold is just about unbeaten for sweetness — by either hybrid or heirloom! And you can see my Supersweet 100 plant in the photo above — those were tasty cherry tomatoes. 😀
A lot of hybrids are bred for disease resistance or for being early or something like that. Not many hybrids are bred for taste alone, but they are out there! I have the tomato Glory on my list of tomatoes to try this summer, when I grow most of my hybrids.
Why Grow Hybrids?
I live in South Florida, and our summers are brutal here — strong sunlight, very hot and very humid. The combination isn’t great for setting tomato fruits, but is just right for bacterial and fungal diseases. When I grow tomatoes in the summer here, I need the extra properties of the hybrids to keep me in tomatoes!
But if you live in a cool, short-summer climate, you’ll likely be wanting a hybrid that is bred for a cooler climate. An early-season tomato variety bred for cooler weather, like Early Girl. Most heirlooms are later-season plants, and won’t grow fast enough in a short-summer climate.
A good percentage of determinate tomatoes are hybrids, and if you want most of your tomatoes ripe at the same time (like for preserving), then determinates are what you need.
If you plan on growing tomatoes, I suggest that you grow hybrids and heirlooms. Try them both and see what you prefer and what grows best in your particular climate. Like me, you may end up growing both!
Here’s to homegrown tomatoes, no matter what variety!