Friday, June 22, 2012

Tomato Inventory 21 Jun 2012

This will be my first year for tomatoes grown in a SFG bed in the garden. Last year I quit at building 11 boxes and just planted the tomatoes right in the soil. Now I have two nifty new 4x6 boxes filled with Mel’s Mix, with 14 tomatoes (selected to be indeterminate) planted one per square. I also have a trellis system using cords and not netting, so I will see if I remember how train a single stem tomato up a rope.

Most of the tomatoes were put in June 26 so they have been in the ground about three weeks and all are looking great. We are getting some hot, sunny weather now so hopefully that make them even happier. Many have flowers and are setting fruit, particularly the cherries and my Cherokee Purple. Here’s a rundown on what I planted this year.
Sun Gold
Sungold tomatoes

I tried this cherry tomato last year after seeing it around the community garden. It’s a golden colored tomato with a tangy, fruity taste, I liked it a lot, enough to put it on my list this year. Since all I could find was a 4 pack, I decided to plant two because I really did not get enough last year.

Matt’s Wild Cherry (heirloom)
Matts Wild Cherry tomato

This is a variety I had to try this year after reading so much about it last year. Matt’s Wild Cherry (MWC to us cognoscenti) is just that, a wild cherry tomato found growing in Mexico by a friend of Dr. Matt Liebman of Maine. MWC is a small red cherry with good flavor and high sugar content.It bears over a long season and is slightly blight resistant, but is prone to splitting.

I had no hopes of finding this at a garden center so I purchased seeds and started them on March 26 (see planting schedule). Unfortunately, I used a coir-based planting mix and had miserable results (see sad tale). Come planting time, I picked the best of my four plants and set it in the garden. Now three weeks in Mel’s Mix, the plant has doubled in breadth and the past week has started growing, doubling its height in a week. I am hopeful the guy will take off and give me a bounty of fruit (or at least a taste).
Black Krim  (heirloom)
Black Krim tomato

I saw this variety last year while looking for something else but didn’t recognize it. After seeing various accounts praising the tomato and doing a little research, I decided to try it this year and luckily found the plants. This s a medium size round tomato with purplish brown shoulders. When sliced, it is very dark red inside and brownish around the edge.

Black Krim is one of the Russian black tomatoes, this one coming from the Isle of Krim in the Black Sea near the Crimean the Ukraine.This s a medium size round tomato with purplish brown shoulders. When sliced, it is very dark red inside and brownish around the edge. The taste is supposed to be very good, wish a salty flavor to it. I hope to find out soon.
Cherokee Purple (heirloom)
Cherokee Purple tomato

This will be my third year growing Cherokee Purple and I like this tomato a lot. Last year it was fairly productive and the tomatoes delicious. The red beefsteak-shape fruit has grown shoulders that ripen to a purplish color.Fruits weigh about a pound and have a dark red interior. Taste is excellent.

Ubiquitous last year, I could not find this tomato at any independent garden centers this year I wound up buying one at Lowes. The Bonnie Plant comes in a 5 inch peat pot. Say what you want,the plant was well grown and looked like it was well cared for at the store (contrast this with the trays of dried out, wilted plants swarming with white flies I have seen at many garden centers this year). The transplant took right off and has been growing vigorously. It is blooming non-stop and is starting to set fruit. The blossoms are beautiful and have pointed, star-shaped petals. I will post a picture if I can get one to turn its head up and smile for the camera
Big Rainbow (heirloom)
Big Rainbow tomato

I have planted an heirloom yellow tomato each year and really enjoyed them. In years past I have grown Striped German, German Pink, and Mr. Stripey. This year I am planting Big Rainbow, but not by plan. I was at a local garden center looking for tomato plants on my planning list. They had a Kellogg’s Breakfast, which I had at least heard of. Not finding anything I wanted, I went back to grab a Kellogg's. When I got home I found I had a Big Rainbow, which was mixed in with the Kellogg.

The Big Rainbow tomato, a family heirloom tomato from Polk County, Minnesota, is similar to the Striped German. It is a large (2 pound) beefsteak tomato with yellow flesh swirled with magenta, very sweet, meaty and non-acidic. I’m looking forward to trying one of these monsters.
Pineapple (heirloom)
Pineapple tomato

Pineapple is actually the second large yellow tomato I am trying this year. I have heard great things about it and when I couldn’t find a Striped German or Mr. Stripey, I decided to try this. In some pictures I have seen, this is more a red tomato striped with yellow than a red tomato striped with red. Others show it as a yellow tomato mottled with pink.  We shall see.

Meanwhile, this has been the biggest challenge to single stem training. At first, the top of the plant seemed to have multiple branches all tightly squeezed together in an upright fashion. I could not figure out what was the growing tip and what was a sucker. Now that it had grown a little, it is starting to loosen up and spread out so I can see what I am doing.
Black Cherry (heirloom)
Black Cherry tomato

Black Cherry from seed grown in coir

A neighbor in the gardens had one of these two years ago, The fruits were about an inch in diameter, with a purplish brown shading on the skin. They were resistant to splitting and productive, bearing fruit right up to first frost. And the taste was great. I tried to find a plant last year but failed, so this year I tried starting from seed (oh my, see here).

I started my seeds on March 26 along with the others. Germination was good but the plants grew an inch or two and looked sick and stressed. Fortunately, I ran across a Black Cherry at Lowes of all places and purchased it. That is the large, robust plant in the top photo which is now flowering. But I was determined to save one of my seedlings, partly so I could compare it with the purchased plant. The second photo  shows that plant 3 weeks later. It is now a nice green, the stem has thickened and reddened, and it is growing, so I have hopes of seeing fruit from this plant.
Striped Roman (heirloom?)
Striped Roman tomato from seed

Why this one? I usually grow a few Roma-type tomatoes for sauce, but they haven’t done very well the last two years. I saw this one in the Baker Creek catalog and it looked spectacular (of course, my tomatoes never turn out looking like the catalog pictures but I can dream). Since I was going to start plants this year, I decided this was going to be my paste tomato and purchased seeds.Might as well look good while we’re failing.

Striped Roman is a Roma-shaped tomato with orange stripes, very striking looking in the catalog photos. Baker Creek lists it as an heirloom, but it was developed by plant breeder John Swenson as a cross between Banana Legs and Antique Roman. How can a modern cross be considered “heirloom”. I clearly don’t understand the rules. Is any tomato not a F1 hybrid automatically an heirloom?

So are they any good? Way too early for my own experience but if you goggle around, this variety seems to have more personal reviews than most of the tomatoes I am planting. A summary of accounts on growing this tomato include: wimpy looking as transplants, then explode into monster tomatoes, very productive, great taste, great paste tomato, little too mealy and non-acidic to be a great table tomato. Many gardeners claim this is their standard paste tomato.

How are mine doing? Well, you’ve read my sad story and these plants were also affected, so bad I wasn’t sure I would be able to plant any of them. But I badly wanted them so I did select two and put them in  the raised beds. They are behind the MWC and Black Cherry recovering from their time in that nasty coir, but they are now looking healthier and starting to grow. I was thinking they do look wimpy, but after reading reviews about how wimpy they look as transplants I am less worried. The leaves a re still curled and a little purplish, but they are greening and growing. Stems have thickened and are flushed with red like a healthy transplant. I am looking forward to this being one of my best efforts this season.

What didn't I plant? I wanted to try Moskvich, a Russian heirloom, but this year no one had plants. I also could not find Striped German, German Pink, or Mr. Stripey. I wound up with Big Rainbow and Pineapple as substitutes, almost by accident. I wish I understood the planning process of the independent garden centers. Just because they have a variety there is no guarantee they will have it next year. Ideally, you need to grow your own transplants. Just not in coconut coir.


  1. A very nice variety of tomatoes growing in your garden. They look like very healthy lanky teenagers. I love how you research and appreciate the history of your plants.

    It always amazes me how resilient tomato plants are. I had some extras that I grew from seed for a neighbor but he decided he wasn't going to have a garden. They suffered in small pots, grew very tall and lack of nutrients caused the foliage to yellow. I planted them very deeply about a week ago and the new growth is very lush and green.

    1. I agree and I do the same as you, but it is not optimum. Will the yield be reduced? I'm kind of a piggie that way when it comes to tomatoes, but some tomatoes are definitely better than no tomatoes.


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