Saturday, August 1, 2015

July Tomato Tour

It is the end of July and the tomatoes are busy setting and ripening fruit.  I have already harvested a few of the smaller tomatoes, but the rest will have to wait until August. Since the plants are a lot more interesting with fruit hanging on them, here is a quick tour.




I have four Opalka plants, a Polish paste tomato I first saw at Tower Hill Botanical Gardens. Fruits range from big blocky fruits to long and skinny. Unfortunately, The skinnier fruits are highly susceptible to blossom end rot and I have removed a lot of them to conserve the plants’ resources.




The bottom tomato shows why it is useless to try to ripen the fruit, thinking you can just cut the end off. By the time the tomato is ripe, the rot usually affects the entire tomato.



I am also growing four generic Roma determinate tomatoes. These plants were started from seed saved by a neighbor gardener from some amazing no-name Roma plants that produced bushel baskets of tomatoes. The fruit have the typical Roma oval shape. I am not sure we will get the same results this year but there are some nice trusses of fruit, and BER has been less of a problem than with the Opalka tomatoes.




I have two Sunkist tomatoes, a yellow slicer with large, meaty fruits. Plants are very stocky and built to hold large clusters of fruit. This is an F1 hybrid from High Mowing Seeds, bred by Dr. Brent Loyof of the University of New Hampshire with seed grown on HM’s farm in Wolcott, Vermont. I grew these last year and they were terrific. Fruits are large, perfect complexion, very meaty with a mild tomato flavor. Yeah, I know, they are not red, but they are still beautiful tomatoes.




Another Sunkist cluster of large fruit.




Another slicer and at last a red one is Celebrity, a gift from a neighbor.  It is an AAS winner developed by plant breeder Colen Wyatt of Petoseed and is supposed to be highly disease resistant. Celebrity is determinate and is already showing a nice setting of fruit. While determinate and growing to 3-4 feet in height, Celebrity is supposed to produce tomatoes all season long. The only negative on it is a lack of great flavor, but I have yet to taste it.




This is the second year growing Jaune Flamme, a French heirloom tomato that produces large trusses of 2 inch orange fruit. I have tasted these and they are very juicy, with an intense sweet-tart, citrus-like flavor. They make a great salad tomato and are supposed to be good for drying. Last year I had mixed results, but it was not a great tomato year. This year all of my plants, both in raised beds and in soil, are doing great and setting large trusses of fruit.





Thus truss of Jaune Flamme could have twelve fruit set if the  pollination gods do their thing.




This is a Jaune Flamme planted in soil under red plastic and it is doing as well as the three plants in the raised beds.




Juliet is a reliable variety I have grown for years, a sort of mini-plum tomato. I have four plants this year, two in raised beds and two planted in soil under red plastic. Both are doing well and I have harvested quite a few, with large numbers still to come, as evidenced by the trusses on this plant. Juliet is great for salads, sauces and drying.




And here is one the Juliet plants grown in soil under red plastic, with large trusses of fruit on the bottom of the plant. Note how healthy the foliage looks. Juliet is fairly disease resistant, and I did use a soil drench when planting and have sprayed with copper and Actinovate to try to head off disease. What I did not do right is my selection of tomato stakes. Juliet is pretty robust and I just happened to pick the two shortest stakes. The plants are now over the tops of the stakes and I have to do something soon.




Again this year I am growing Esterina, an F1 hybrid yellow cherry tomato. Esterina has an excellent, sweet tomato flavor and is more crack resistant then Sungold, which used to split on me anytime it even looked like rain. I already have harvested several hands full of these with plenty more to come.





This is Chocolate Pear, a black, pear-shaped red heirloom tomato from Baker Creek Seeds. I decided to try this last year because I got so little yield from Black Cherry and these were described as very productive. They are slow to get going but once they start producing, you will have tomatoes until frost, and the vines are now loaded with fruit.




This tomato is going to be my one (or two) really large heirloom red slicers. This is Pruden’s Purple and this one plant was an impulse buy, since I swore off heirloom beefsteak types because of BER, catfacing, disease and cracking.  The plant is huge and robust but is not setting a lot of fruit (a good sign?) and most of the early ones were lost to BER. Lots of yellow leaves, however.




Finally, this is Sweet Treats, another tomato I first saw growing at Tower Hill Botanical Garden. It is a pink cherry tomato (pink is almost red), an F1 hybrid developed by Sakata Seeds. Seeds were hard to find last year but a lot more seed catalogs are carrying it this year and I purchased my seeds from Fedco. The fruits are large and ripen to a matte rose color. Taste is supposed to be excellent and disease resistance good.I am looking forward to my first taste.


That is the tour of the garden. I have 28 plants, fourteen in the raised beds and fourteen in the other plot planted in soil under red plastic mulch. Plants in both plots look healthy, although there are more yellow leaves (mostly septoria) on the raised bed plants. Yield looks like it will be good from both plots.


  1. That's a great selection of tomatoes, Dave. My approach is similar - I like to have lots of different ones rather than several plants the same. All of mine are grown in containers though, which tends to restrict the size and yield. Like you, I have found that the beefsteak varieties are more difficult to get right - but that's a challenge that is fun to overcome! One of the best aspects of tomato-growing is the sheer variety of types available. I have not grown any of the ones you mention. In fact I don't think I have seen them on sale in the UK (excepting of course the Sungold to which you refer). I hope you get good weather during August to help boost your yield.

    1. Thanks, Mark. I agree, I like variety and like to try new ones. I would think some of these like Jaune Flamme would be available to you since it is touted here as a French heirloom grow for centuries in Europe.

  2. This is definitely turning out to be a wonderful summer for tomatoes - and I'm kicking myself for not starting them as early as I did last year. I think it would likely have been a record breaking tomato year had I done so (although this is only my 4th year, so I suppose that's not saying much!)

    I just removed practically all of the tomatoes on my Opalka plants because of blossom end rot too. What's interesting is that that's the only tomato variety out of the many I'm growing where that has been an issue so far. So at least that's something to be thankful for.

    1. Yes, Opalka is definitely the worst for BER among the varieties I am growing, I hope I like the tomatoes I do get from them.

  3. I need to look into the plastic mulch, I'm really doing a terrible job weeding this year! I tend to grow just a few varieties as I'm not sure how long seeds last so I grow around the same # of plants as you but just a few varieties. I think I counted 10 varieties you are growing so do you have seeds that become too old or am I worrying for nothing?

    1. Susie, tomato seed keeps pretty long, 2-3 years for sure if stored properly/ Some of the F1 tomatoes I grow are expensive with 10 seeds in a packet so long storage is not an issue.

    2. Ah, good to know ... I might start expanding my choices a bit more.

  4. Your tomatoes are looking really good. Too bad about BER. I used to get it on some tomatoes too when I grew them. I think it is unavoidable to an extent. Though some varieties are more prone to it.

    1. Opalka is one of those. Supposedly paste tomatoes are prone because of their long shape, but the Roma I am growing has had very little.

  5. That's a really nice variety you are growing (and 28 plants--wow!). I did not see any blight evidence in the photos you posted, which is great. Even in brand new soil my tomatoes have some blight. Do you think the red plastic makes a difference in that, or maturity, or anything?

    1. Studies have shown a 20% yield increase. For me. it helps keep soil from splashing on to the foliage, and it conserves moisture so I have to water less. I still am getting yellow leaves (septoria?) but no blight. Late blight is air-borne so plastic won't stop that. Your fate is up to the wind patterns each season.


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