Below is my report from 5/14/2003 with the mid-season update
Greetings from Zone 6B. Today was perfect tomato growing weather. It
was about 75F for the high and will be in the 50's tonight. May 5
wasn't as kind.
Around 2:00 AM on the 5th, we had the worst hailstorm I have ever seen
in my mear-half-a-century on this planet. Size wasn't the issue. It
was duration. Here in Tennessee I have seen it hail for 3-5 minutes
many times but this storm was different. We had hail for at least 15
minutes. Fortunately, the wind only served to clear some of the
detritus known as the Bradford Pear. I had 16 tomato plants in the
ground which ranged in size from 5 inches to 18. They all experienced
some damage and some were reduced to but a single leaf. Here is the
lowdown, 9 days after "the storm". I am trying something new this year
I call "bucketing". Here is how it goes. Plant as deep as you can,
usually 8-10 inches here. Use a large breed of plant. Once the plant
reaches 12-15 inches tall, take a 1-2 gallon plastic nursery planter
and put it next to the plant. Strip off the bottom leaves of the plant
to the level of the top of the planter.
Cut the bottom off of the planter. Fit the planter over the top of
the plant. Fill planter with compost. Voila, increased root volume.
So far this looks like an effective method.
Storebought plants indicated by *
Bucketed plants indicated by #
Kentucky Beefsteak - planted 3/22 - 27 inches - trellised plant - one
of two growing tips broken by hail - first buds did not set fruit -
waiting to see on second - this looks like it will be a very tall
Jeff Davis - 4/2 - 12 inches - wispy plant with 1 bud set and 1 green
tomato about 1/3 inch dia. - little storm damage
Russian Black# - 4/2 - 15 inches - lush plant with first bud set -
bottom of plant denuded by storm
Hawaiian Hybrid - 4/11 - 12 inches - this plant gets none of my tasty
homemade compost as an experiment - 16 inches - splindly plant with
first bud set - little storm damage
Tropic - 4/2 - 14 inches - very stocky plant absolutely wrecked by
storm - re-growth has been vigorous - 2 tomatoes on first bud set -
1/2 and 1 1/2 inches
Neptune - 4/2 - this plant was a weak seedling with choriosis due to
overwatering - lean plant but with lots of secondary growth - caged -
has two bud sets just developing
Mortgage Lifter# - 4/11 - 14 inches - lush plant developing first bud
set - bottom denuded by storm but has really filled out since
bucketing on 5/7
Super Sioux - 5/11 - seedling
Neptune2 - 4/22 - 12 inches - average plant with first bud set
Husky Cherry Red* - 5/1 - 4 inches - extremely stocky dwarf plant
taken down to one large leaf by the storm - recovering nicely
Russian Black2 - 4/22 - 4 inches - a very weak plant that was almost
broken by my mishandling then trimmed down to a stem 4 inches long
with a nub from where I had pruned it before the storm - believe it or
not it now has a 3 inch growth from the side where the nub was
Patio* - 4/26 - 10 inches - another extremely stocky dwarf plant but,
oddly, virtually no storm damage - several bud sets - 3 green tomatoes
1/2 to 1 in.
Mortgage Lifter Red# - 4/19 - 14 inches - Lush, powerful looking
plant, prettiest one I have, imho. Bottom was denuded by storm but
has responded nicely to bucketing. This plant is caged and since it
is so powerful looking, I think will allow it to have 3 main stems
from the bottom rather than my customary two.
Super Sweet 100# - 5/1 - 6 inches - another sad story - i hate cherry
tomatoes but my wife wanted some so....i waited until sunday on a
beautiful weekend to get a plant and everything was extremely picked
over. Wound up with a sad little plant that was actually growing up
the side of the cup. You could hold the cup up to the light and see
the roots. It responded nicely to being transplanted and was looking
really great at about 10 inches when the storm reduced it to a single
leaf. It now has two nice new shoots and is growing very rapidly.
Brandywine*# - 4/19 - 24 inches - leggy potato leafed variety with
lots of foliage - lost one of 3 growing tips to storm but is
recovering nicely - has two new bud sets
Bullsheart - 5/11 - seedling
Ponderosa Red - 5/11 - seedling
Mystery Plant - 5/14 - seedling - found growing next to mortgage
lifter plant. probably a Juliet since that what was planted nearby
last year and they are notorious for self-seeding - i hate them too
but i had to see - moved it to my seedling bed
I think I should be on track for my average first ripe tomato date of
Jun 4 but the storm has probably lowered my early production
considerably. I hope some of you will post so I can see how your
tomato plants are growing. I will try to post again every month or
so. It has certainly been an interesting growing season so far.
Middle Tennessee - Zone 6B
"He who hesitates is lost, and vice versa."
The first harvest was very late this year due to the hailstorm damage.
I harvested my first tomato, a Tropic, on June 20, more than 2 weeks
later than normal.
Bacterial Speck has reared it's ugly head again, affecting all of the
plants except the ones planted in May to some extent. The most
affected plant is the Mortgage Lifter Red VFN, which continues to
produce large tomatoes anyway. The Bradley plant is showing signs of
So, here are the winners and losers, so far.
Kentucky Beefsteak - Very rangy plant, moderate production, very late
I have just now picked my first tomato from this plant. While
advertised as an orange beefsteak tomato, what I have is a dark pink,
medium sized specimen. Will let you know how it tastes on next
Jeff Davis - Medium sized plant producing medium sized dark pink
tomatoes. They have a nice taste with a mix of sweet and acid. Very
fleshy with few seeds. Might try these again. Have picked a couple
Russian Black #1 - Large plant, moderately productive. Produces golf
ball size pretty mahogany color tomatoes with less green shoulders
than other so called "purple" or "black" tomatoes I have grown in the
past. The tomatoes have a very sweet taste which is not to my liking
but my friends who don't like highly acid tomatoes rave about these.
Have picked about 8-10 so far.
Russian Black #2 - The "given up for dead twice" plant. This little
dude is bushy, compact and productive. It is only about 2 1/2 feet
tall but is loaded with little dark green tomatoes in clusters of 3 or
Hawaiian Hybrid - Shows no more resistance to bacterial speck than
non-hybrids but still producing nicely. As a matter of fact, this is
the plant i experimented with by using no additional compost on it.
It has the heaviest load of fruit of all of my plants. I am not sure
whether it is the lack of compost or the fact that it is a hybrid.
Will try same experiment next year with two plants of same variety.
Produces very tasty orange/red, medium large tomatoes with a nice
blend of acid and sugar. Will probably grow these again.
Tropic - This was the plant which had the most foliage before the
storm but it has never recovered completely. Instead, this had become
a short bushy plant with a lot of stem and not much leaf. This was
the opposite of the intent of the breeders who were trying to produce
a heat-resistant variety. Production on this plant is low, due not
only to the storm but the plants uncanny ability to attract corn-borer
caterpillars which have ruined 5-6 of these. The intact fruits,
though, are very tasty, medium sized pink/red jewels. Will probably
grow these again.
Neptunes #1, 2 and 3 - Yuck. These plants are the losers for this
year. Weak determinate plants with no resistance to bacterial spot,
whatsoever. Even before being blighted these plants were starting to
look puny. They are advertised as red tomatoes but mine are decidely
orange. Taste is fair but blander than most of the tomatoes I have
Husky Cherry Red - Surprise, another good tasting hybrid. Another
plant which was very bushy before the storm that sprung back with a
rangier habit. Produces a moderate number of large tasty cherry
tomatoes. I am not a cherry tomato fancier but my wife loves these.
Another repeat for next year. BTW, sure it's a hybrid, but still no
resistance to bacterial speck.
Mortgage Lifter - A reclamation project. This was a spindly seedling
with choriosis. Very low production of beefsteak size tomatoes.
Haven't harvested the first one yet. Mortgage Lifter was my biggest
producer by weight last year so I'm pretty sure I just have a messed
up plant here.
Super Sioux - A later addition. None harvested yet. Has a couple of
nice clusters of what should be medium sized tomatoes.
Patio - Another hybrid stricken badly by bacterial speck. Produced
the second and third tomatoes I harvested in the early season. Nice,
salad sized, pink/red tomatoes. Just now recovering enough to set new
fruit. I don't think it knows it's a determinate.
Mortgage Lifter Red VFN - This is where all the blight started. What
was at one time my biggest plant has now been denuded up to about 4
feet above ground level. The one tomato I have harvested so far was
GREAT. It was actually pink/red and about 24 ounces with a great
taste and just the right bite. Will try these again in a different
location. Still has about 4 very large beefsteaks hanging on it.
Super Sweet 100 - The other given up for dead twice plant. This one
is tall and rangy and productive with massive clusters of red cherry
tomatoes. The taste nod goes to the husky's but these sure put out
Brandywine - I am still looking for a strain of Brandywine that is a
better producer. This storebought, potato-leaved variety isn't it.
These are the best tasting tomatoes in my garden this year but I have
only harvested 3 from a massive 7 foot tall plant. Fortunately, it
still has about 3 more on it. I may try a non potato-leaved
Brandywine next year. BTW, the tomatoes on this plant are running a
bit small, about 12-14 ounces. They are pink/red and the taste is
fantastic with a lot of sweet and a lot of bite.
Bullsheart - There is a contest in about 8 days here locally for the
biggest and the ugliest tomato. The one tomato on this plant is a
contender for both categories. It is a hideous looking pumpkin-shaped
monster which is probably 2 pounds already. Will report on taste
later. Plant is small and wispy.
Ponderosa Red - Corn-borer caterpillars ruined the first two fruit
from this plant so I haven't tasted them yet. Looks like it will
produce medium large fruit at a moderate rate.
Bradley - Moderate production of pink/red thinskinned salad tomatoes.
This Bradley is smaller than the ones I grown in the past. The fruit
are typical of Bradley, tart and sweet. This is the only plant
showing signs of late blight despite heavy sprayings of Neem oil
during wet weather.
Super Sioux - Bushy plant that looks like it will produce a large
number of medium sized tomatoes. I hope they don't turn out to be
4th of July - I have grown these several times before. As usual, they
should produce a very large number of golfball sized tasty red
tomatoes. This is an early season variety so we shall see how they do
when planted late.
Mystery Plants - the original mystery plant wasn't looking too great
so the 4th of July took it's place. Have since relocated two other
volunteers which are now about a foot tall. They both look like
Juliets but it is hard to say for sure at this stage.
I successfully cloned a Neptune (hey, I didn't know) and a Super Sioux
for my boss in late may. He says there a lots of green ones. Hope to
get a report soon on how the ripe ones taste.
I accidentally broke a stem off one of the Russian Blacks so I decided
to clone the stem. I actually didn't expect it to survive in the July
Tennessee heat but it seems to be doing very well.
Okay, folks, while it's too hot to hang out in the garden, let's hear
the lowdown on what is happening in your tomato patch. I need some
good ideas on varieties to try next year. Have already added to the
list Eva Purple Ball and Siletz from comments I have read in the NG.
More suggestions, please. I try to grow early, middle and late season
varieties and my personal preference is for the tangier fruits with
less sugar but I do grow tomatoes for friends and family with