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The Taste is Amazing!

Tomatoes in the Garden

Great Tomato Experiment, Revisited

I’ve had a bit of a setback on The Great Tomato Experiment; I ran into a stretch of bad weather, followed by what I think was possibly an overdose of potassium.  As a result, all three plants are in sad, sad shape.  In fact, so sad that I am starting over!

What Will I Do Differently?

First, is that I have come across some nice 17-gallon containers, and I’ll use them instead of the 10-gallons I had been using.  I’ll sterilize and re-use the 10-gallons for some other tomatoes I have coming up for the summer (including two mystery tomatoes).

I’m going to add sphagnum peat moss and perlite to each of the containers.  I’ve found the original mixture I used compacted a bit too much for my liking.

I’m going to add the main dose of fertilizer to the soil before planting, then mix it in well.  I found with my raised bed tomatoes that when I did this, the plants grew more vigorously compared to the ones where I added the fertilizer as a side-dressing in the beginning.

Finally, I am using a different tomato variety.  For some reason, Pineapple doesn’t seem to like my growing conditions (I have a 4th plant that I am growing in the ground in another part of the garden).  It’s growing fairly well and putting forth tomatoes, but it’s not as vigorous as I would hope.

And the New Tomato Variety Is…

I have chosen Big Raspberry as the new tomato variety for The Great Tomato Experiment for the following reasons:

  • Big Raspberry is a potato-leafed plant, and I find that tomato plants with potato leaves generally fare better in my garden.
  • The tomatoes don’t generally  get large (maybe 9 ounces), so if I can get a tomato of this variety over 1 lb using the giant tomato techniques, it will be an accomplishment.
  • The plant is productive, but not necessarily tall.  So if I can get the plant over 6 feet using the world record tomato techniques, it will be a visible  accomplishment.  Especially since I am growing it in a container!
  • Finally, I’m choosing Big Raspberry because it’s an earlier tomato compared to Pineapple.  Since it’s already April, I need to play catch-up before the worst of the South Florida summer heat arrives.

If you’re still wanting to experiment along with me and can’t locate Big Raspberry, a good second choice might be Prudens Purple.  In fact, I would have used Pruden’s Purple as my first choice for this test if I hadn’t already had some growing in the garden.  My other choice would be Caspian Pink.

So, I planted my seeds today.  I planted 5 so I could choose the best 3 for the experiement.  The other two…well, I’m sure I can find someone in my neighborhood who might like a couple of plants!

So, while the first part of the experiment failed, I still have an opportunity to continue.  Onward!

Hybrid Tomatoes, Part 2

I talked about hybrid tomatoes in part 1 of this post.  Now that we’ve discussed the cherry varieties, let’s talk about how the slicer-size hybrids are doing in the garden.

Hybrid Tomatoes in the Garden

Just as a review, I have the following slicer-sized hybrid tomato plants in the garden:

  • Celebrity Bush (determinate slicer)
  • Fabulous (determinate slicer)
  • Goliath Bush (determinate slicer)
  • Park’s Whopper (indeterminate slicer)

All these plants have there own merits, but so far, Fabulous has been, well, fabulous!  It’s by far the most vigorous, and has a nice, healthy growth, and regular leaves.  I have it growing in a 5-gallon container, and it behaves as if it were in the ground – very lush and full of blossoms.

There aren’t any ripe tomatoes yet on Fabulous (darn!), but I’m looking forward to them.  If they taste even half as good as the plant currently looks, it’s earned a continued spot in my garden.

And how have the others fared?

Bush Goliath Tomatoes

Bush Goliath has been the most prolific to date, and the tomatoes from one of the plants has been fairly good; the other one’s taste has been forgettable.  Both plants currently have ripening tomatoes, so we’ll see how this batch does.  Bush Goliath is a fairly small plant in my garden, at just 16 inches tall, with rugose leaves.

Celebrity Bush has had a hard time with the cold weather this year.  While it’s normally quite productive, this season’s chillier-than-usual winter has taken its toll.  It has come back some, now that the warm weather is here to stay.  I’ll keep an eye on it.  This plant is about 12 inches tall at the moment, and has rugose leaves.

Park’s Whopper currently has the best tasting fruit of the group.  The winter has been hard on it as well, but it’s coming back and producing some nice tomatoes.  Had a great one on a sandwich yesterday!  The plant is now at 12 inches tall (the February frost nearly did the plant in totally), and has regular leaves.

Hybrid Tomatoes and the Garden

Hybrid tomatoes are deliberate crosses between two different tomato varieties.  Hybrid tomato plants are often thought of as being more productive or disease resistant – but not as great tasting as heirloom tomatoes.  Is that true? And how are these hybrid tomato plants doing in my garden?

Hybrid Tomato Varieties

Although I mostly grow heirloom or open-pollinated tomato varieties, I do grow some hybrids.  I especially like some of the cherry tomatoes.  Then of course I have to try something new every year — you never know when something will earn a continued spot in the garden.

This year, I am growing the following hybrid tomato plants:

  • Celebrity Bush (determinate slicer)
  • Fabulous (determinate slicer)
  • Goliath Bush (determinate slicer)
  • Juliet (cherry)
  • Park’s Whopper (indeterminate slicer)
  • Supersweet 100 (cherry)
  • Tomatoberry (strawberry-shaped cherry)

So how have they been faring?

The Cherry Tomatoes Win for Productivity

Tomatoberry Tomatoes

That’s really no news, since cherry tomatoes are known for their prolific yields.  But one variety in particular is amazing — Tomatoberry.

I bought Tomatoberry because the description sounded intriguing — a cherry tomato the size and shape of a strawberry.  While I’m not sure that the fruits are really strawberry-shaped (although I do see a slight resemblance on some of the fruits), the plant is amazing!

Juliet Tomatoes

I didn’t take a photo of the awesome flower sprays this plant has, and so far, pretty much each flower has set a fruit.  So “prolific” is a little bit of an understatement.  I’ll have to take a photo as the tomatoes start to turn red — that will be a sight!  (I wish I had taken a better picture to show what the spays of tomatoes are like.)

Juliet bears some lovely fruit — it’s a grape cherry tomato.  While setting on nearly every blossom, it’s not quite in Tomatoberry’s league.  Then again, I am growing Juliet in 5-gallon containers!    I imagine that Juliet would do far better in a larger container, or in the ground.

Supersweet 100 Tomatoes

Supersweet 100 was the first of the cherry tomatoes to set fruit.  Once again, pretty much every flower sets fruit.  I have it growing in the ground, but it’s not in the best location — it only gets about 6 hours of sun a day.

It’s been nibbled by a bunny, blown down in a windstorm and I’ve not always been the best in watering that particular area.  Still, this plant continues to grow and set fruit with abandon.  I’d call it quite hardy in less-than-desireable conditions.  I’ll have to grow one of these plants in the main garden that gets full sun one of these days.  That should be a sight!

Well, this post is getting kind of long, so I’ll stop for now, and pick up later with the report on the slicer-sized hybrid tomato plants.

Heirlooms in the Garden

The heirlooms in the garden are growing strong!  With 2 days of gentle rain, the plants are rocketing skyward.  Who said hybrids were the only ones to grow fast?

I mentioned in my post for the last heirloom tomato report that I’d post some photos.  I just walked out to the garden, camera in hand, so here they are!

Brandywine Tomato Growth 4 Days

How Fast Have They Grown?

On this past Sunday (March 15th), I decided that I’d go around with my Sharpie permanent marker and mark how high the plants were.  That way, by Sunday the 22nd, I could tell how fast they had grown.

I decided to wander out with my camera today and Brandywine has declared its intentions to make a run to the top of the 6-foor pole.   See the red arrow?  That’s pointing to where I marked its height on Sunday.  And blossoms?  The photo doesn’t show it, but there are lots and lots on the plant.

But Kellogg’s Breakfast isn’t far behind!  Nor are my Pinapple tomatoes, for The Great Tomato Experiment.

Truth be told, every tomato plant is showing marked growth since Sunday.  The plants that have gained the least height are my Loxahatchee plants.  On the other hand, they have apparently decided that large, dark green leaves and flower buds are more important, and they are truly lovely plants.

Kellogg’s Breakfast and Loxahatchee

Here’s a photo showing Loxahatchee (foreground) and Kellogg’s Breakfast (background).  And speaking of Kellogg’s Breakfast, it’s also gotten a lot wider, as well as a fair amount taller.

(By the way, you can click on the photos to see a larger image.)

Black Sea Man and Druzba have grown, but not quite as spectacularly.  Then again, they are both much younger plants, being in the main garden for not even 2 weeks yet.  Actually, I kind of take that back — Black Sea Man has grown some huge, long leaves, and gotten quite wide.  It’s just only grown an inch taller in height (which isn’t as exciting as Brandywine growing 5 inches).

The others are also doing well; White Bush is blossoming, and I can’t wait to see the ripe tomatoes on it (getting ahead of myself, though).  Eva Purple Ball and Pruden’s Purple are about a week away from being transplanted into their final spots.

Oh, you may be wondering who won the blossom contest (i.e. which heirloom had the first open blossoms).  The winner was…Pineapple, closely followed by White Bush.  Brandywine followed and all the older plants (those that have been in the ground for at least 3 weeks) all have buds.

So that’s it for today.  And if you’re womdering if I grow any hybrids, the answer is yes…and those photos are reports are coming up shortly!

Heirloom Tomato Report

I thought I’d update you with an heirloom tomato report, on how these wonderful plants are growing in the garden.  I’ve had extremely unsettled weather from January through the beginning of March and the tomatoes have taken it with differing results.  Here’s a homegrown heirloom tomato report!

Heirloom Tomatoes in the Garden

First, in case you aren’t aware, I am in South Florida.  Although my winters have been pretty mild in the recent past, it was a cold one this year, with several freezes.   Last week’s temperature dip into the 30’s didn’t help matters.  But it’s warming up now, and the plants look happier.

Here’s a list of the heirloom tomatoes currently in the garden:

  • Black Sea Man:  Determinate, black fruit
  • Brandywine:  Indeterminate, pink fruit
  • Druzba:  Indeterminate, red fruit
  • Eva Purple Ball:  Indeterminate, dark pink fruit
  • Kelloggs Breakfast:  Indeterminate, orange fruit
  • Loxahatchee:  Semi-determinate, red fruit
  • Mr. Stripey:  Indeterminate, bicolor yellow/red fruit
  • Pineapple:  Indeterminate, bicolor yellow/red fruit
  • Pruden’s Purple:  Indeterminate, dark pink fruit
  • White Bush:  Determinate, white fruit

And here are the heirloom plants that (sadly) succumbed to one of the freezes:

  • Big Rainbow:  Indeterminate, bicolor yellow/red fruit
  • Green Zebra:  Indeterminate, green striped fruit
  • Yellow Cherry:  Indeterminate, yellow fruit

That’s not too bad, though — just three that are more temperature-sensitive.

Last Week’s Cold Snap

Almost all the plants got nipped by the dip into the 30’s last week.  Green Zebra was the only casualty, but all the other plants except two showed signs of stress and/or what I call “freezer burn” on some leaves.

The two heirloom tomato varieties that came through totally unscathed were Loxahatchee and White Bush.   Both acted as if the cold snap never happened.  Unfortunately, White Bush doesn’t seem to be in circulation anymore (couldn’t find any seeds for sale) and Loxahatchee is from my own heirloom breeding program, and I don’t have enough seeds to offer for sale at the moment.

Heirloom Tomatoes — Who’s Blooming?

Mr. Stripey is the only one with tomatoes and blossoms, but that’s the one variety I bought as a plant; all the rest I have grown from seed.

None if the seed-grown plants are actually in full blossom at the moment, but about half have small (and in Brandywine’s case, not so small) blossom buds.  So far, I expect Brandywine to have the first open blossoms, probably by Saturday.

The heirloom tomato plants that aren’t showing blossom buds, like Druzba and Pruden’s Purple, are just too young yet (I just put them in the garden a few days ago).   I plant my tomatoes is waves, hoping to extend the season.  While it doesn’t always work (sometimes they all stubbornly decide to ripen at the same time no matter what I do), sometimes I get lucky.

I’ll be taking some photos this weekend of the various heirloom tomato plants.  I’ll also be updating The Great Tomato Experiment report.  Meanwhile, you can take a look at other posts I’ve written on heirloom tomatoes.