big beef tomato
It’s the end of March, and the tomato plants are growing and blossoming and producing LOTS of tomatoes! But along with my successes, I’ve had a failure as well. Come on and let’s take the tour!
Big Beef – Wow!
My Big Beef tomato plant has gone through some tough times, what with multiple multiple transplantings, an ant invasion and losing some foliage. It did set a tomato shortly after Big Boy and Early Girl, and it has far outstripped those plants! It’s got the biggest tomato in the garden, and it is getting bigger every day.
Big Beef is a hybrid tomato, and produces red beefsteak-type fruits. I can’t wait to taste it when it ripens!
Black Cherry – Finally Hit Its Stride
My Black Cherry tomato plant took quite awhile to do anything. For several weeks it just sat in its pot and didn’t grow – not until I gave it a drink of worm compost tea. That perked it up, and now it’s flowering and producing cherry tomatoes with abandon. Black Cherry is an open-pollinated tomato plant (although sometimes it’s classed as an heirloom).
I’ve tried growing Black Cherry in the past, but one year almost my whole garden was decimated by hornworms – including Black Cherry. Another year I got rained out before I really got the plants started — that was my fault for starting so late. I am very much looking forward to the cherry tomatoes, as they are supposed to taste heavenly!
This is such a pretty plant – I love the rugose foliage and deep green color of the leaves. Better Bush is a determinate – the only one I have in the garden at the moment. It’s not a large plant at all, but it’s loaded with fruits. The tomatoes don’t get to be very large; maybe in the 3 to 4 ounce size range — but they are abundant. Better Bush is a hybrid.
I’ve grown this tomato variety in the past and it never fails to give me a nice harvest. It might not look it in the photo, but the plant actually has lots of tomatoes.
Maybe they aren’t the biggest tomatoes, but nevertheless they taste great when fully ripe. Yum!
I have two of these open-pollinated tomato plants, and they are gorgeous at the moment — big and lush and full of both tomatoes and blossoms. One is doing slightly better than the other, but not by much. Even though they are container-grown, these should give me some 12 ounce to maybe a pound beefsteak-type red tomatoes. A lot of them. 😉
This plant in the photo, as well as its sibling, have reached the top of the cage already, and I have about 6 to 8 weeks of decent growing weather left (after which it gets super-hot). I expect that it will keep growing during the summer; I just don’t know how well (or if) it will produce fruit then.
BTW, having grown both in-ground and in large containers, I can say it’s a fallacy that you can’t get a good harvest of big tomatoes from a container tomato plant. But more about that in another post.
And the Big Disappointment….
Big Boy and Early Girl ran into a problem a couple of weeks ago — they got waterlogged. Between me getting a little over-zealous with watering, a plastic mulch cover that kept in the moisture and cooler temps, the plants were almost swimming. I corrected the situation, but they looked really sad — even though they both still had tomatoes. Both plants are hybrids.
Since then, Early Girl has perked up some; she’s put out new suckers, started flowering more and also setting more tomatoes. She still looks spindly but seems to be coming back from her near-drowning experience.
But Big Boy…I don’t think he’s long for this world. Almost overnight it’s developed what looks like rust on its leaves. Granted, we have had a lot of rain in the past week, but none of the other plants are reacting this way.
I’ll try some mild organic fungicide, but if it’s not showing signs of improvement in the next few days — out Big Boy comes, tomatoes or not. I have plenty of other tomato plants at the moment, so losing one isn’t the end of the world.
What’s Up Next?
In the next garden update, I’ll talk about the trials and tribulations of Juliet, and how Cherokee Purple and Husky Cherry Red are doing. Plus — I have the Isis Candy Cherry “wannabes” in the garden, and they are growing like there is no tomorrow. I’ll talk more about the experiment I plan to run on two of them, to see if some new organic supplements live up to their claims.
I already had some small-sized tomatoes in my Winter/Spring garden and I mused on which of the larger tomato variety would set fruit first. I speculated it would be between Big Boy and Early Girl.
I have some surprising (to me) updates. And yes, I do plan to have a video walk-through, but I thought I’d wait until I actually had a little more going on — it’s always nice to be able to show larger tomatoes, rather than have to get super-close for the itty-bitty ones.
My first update is that I have my Isis Candy cherry tomatoes in the garden — I finally got around to taking them off my windowsill and into larger (temporary) pots in the garden. I actually ended up with four plants, instead of the three I mentioned before. But — I still do plan on an experiment when they get into their final homes.
The experiment involves two new humic acid products — TeraVite and Extreme Blend. I keep hearing that humic acid will help your plants (of all kinds) grow bigger, stronger, etc. So — may as well put them to the test! I was only expecting three I. Candy plants to grow large enough, soon enough. But…with four plants, I may throw in another test — one plant may get Miracle-Gro (I have a ton of it leftover, so may as well use it up) and the final plant will be the control.
Should be interesting!
I mentioned previously that my Black Cherry tomato plant was just languishing — wasn’t dying, wasn’t growing — just looking like it did when I planted it. Of course, a couple days after I said that, what do I see? The plant has taken off! It was so sudden that I wondered if someone had come in the middle of the night and put a new plant in its place.
(The “secret sauce” is worm compost tea, which I’ll talk about in another post.)
Another surprise was Big Beef. It had been going gangbusters, until I had to transplant it to another pot (which had been invaded by fire ants). It seemed to be OK at first, then just stopped in its tracks.
I guess the worm compost tea did some magic on it as well, as I see a small ‘mater on it — woo hoo!
I am very much looking forward to having some homegrown tomatoes. I have some lettuce growing (which has been delicious), but I need some delicious tomatoes, too! It’s hard to wait, but with any luck, the first of the cherry tomatoes will start ripening within about 10 days.
Growing tomatoes in Florida, especially in South Florida, is something that I have a great deal of experience with. So, for all you Florida gardeners, here are some tips for growing some luscious, vine-ripe tomatoes of your own!
Seasons for Growing Tomatoes in Florida – Winter
Here in South Florida, you can grow tomatoes practically year-round…with some caveats. One is that if you have ever had a frost during the winter, don’t grow a large tomato garden in winter, unless you are prepared to cover your tomato plants or you have them in containers and can bring them inside.
Here’s a sad but true story. One year I planted a gorgeous tomato garden, with at least a dozen plants (probably closer to two dozen). It had been a cool, but not cold, Winter, with sunny days. Beautiful growing weather!
Alas, one night it was expected to get down to around 40 degrees. I debated covering the plants, but figured they would be OK. They probably would have been if the temperature had stayed around 40. Unfortunately, they plunged to the low 30s, we got frost and my tomato plants died. What made it worse was that they were bearing a wonderful crop at this point! I was able to salvage some of the ripest (although still green) tomatoes, but lost most of the crop.
If you want to grow a Winter crop in South Florida, plant your seeds in September. I like to plant heirloom tomato seeds in the winter, as well as at least one variety of cherry tomato like Supersweet 100 hybrid
Spring is great in Central and South Florida. Generally mild with mostly sunny days, it’s a wonderful tomato-growing time. North Florida can still get chilly, though, so plan accordingly if you live in the Panhandle or around Gainesville and north.
Spring is the end of the Florida dry season, so remember to water accordingly, as the sun is getting stronger each day. Especially in South and interior Central Florida, it can get mighty hot in late Spring.
To harvest a Spring crop of vine-ripe tomatoes, start planting your seeds in December to late January. I usually plant a mix of heirloom tomato seeds, as well as hybrids. Some of my favorites include Cherokee Purple, Black Prince, Red Pear, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Celebrity, Better Bush and Supersweet 100.
Growing Tomatoes in Summer in Florida
For Florida in general, Summer can be brutal on your tomato plants. Nor only is the sun exceedingly strong, but it’s hot and humid — excellent conditions for mildew and gray spot to develop. I tend to not grow many tomatoes in Summer in Florida — I used to, but the heat and humidity just made it too difficult to get a good harvest.
Another problem you may run into in South and Central Florida is plants growing too fast and developing lots of cracks. So the tomato varieties I do grow are generally cherry- to medium-sized.
For Summer tomatoes, I sow seeds sometime in March.
Tomato Garden in Fall
Fall can be a nice time of year to grow tomatoes, at least in South Florida. If you live in North Florida and the Panhandle, you’ll want your main crop in for harvest by mid to late October. Central and South Florida can extend that a bit into November.
Fall’s main issue is how cold it gets how fast. Here in South Florida, we can get nighttime lows in the low 40s as early as November. I know this year, it’s been into the 20’s and 30’s in North Florida by late November — too cold for warmth-loving tomatoes. So the further north in Florida you live, the more you’ll want to consider growing your tomatoes in containers that you can bring inside when you get really cold snaps. Or — grow early tomatoes, so they ripen before the really cold weather hits.
For Fall, I like some of the cherry tomatoes and a bush type like Better Bush hybrid tomato
For a fall crop, I sow the seeds around mid-July.