Mid-season report from the Tomato Patch

Below is my report from 5/14/2003 with the mid-season update afterward. ----------------------
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 plant
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.
Lee Hall Middle Tennessee - Zone 6B "He who hesitates is lost, and vice versa."
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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 late blight.
So, here are the winners and losers, so far.
Kentucky Beefsteak - Very rangy plant, moderate production, very late maturing. 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 posting.
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 so far.
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 4.
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 grown.
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 the fruit.
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.
Late additions:
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 orange.
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.
Clones:
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 different tastes.
Lee Hall Zone 6B
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On 20 Jul 2003 11:39:53 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net (Lee Hall) wrote:

OK - northern PA here, Zone 5 theoretically but cooler than Zone 5 generally is - we're in the mountains.
I started seeds beginning March 24 - got the tomatoes planted out beginning May 8 (last frost date here is generally May 31 to mid-June). All tomatoes were planted out with WalloWaters to protect them - the WoWs worked - no frost damage.
We only have six plants outside: two Early Girls, two Sweet Millions, two Better Boys. (We also have Red Robins growing indoors, but they don't count in this.)
May and the first half of June were EXTREMELY wet and cool. We had six weeks of rain every day, and almost no sun. This was followed by two weeks of hot weather, then we've had pleasant weather since (dry - highs in the low 80s or upper 70s). But our nights are very cool - often down to the 40s in mid-summer, sometimes even down to the high 30s.
The tomatoes all sat and sulked through the six weeks of cold rain. I started removing the WalloWaters and caging the tomatoes around mid-June. All were caged by July 1.
All my plants are now lush, thick and taller than I am (5'4"). All have lots of green tomatoes, lots and lots. blossom-end-rot and was tossed.
It's going to be a while before we have any ripe tomatoes.
I have come to the conclusion that our cool nights throughout summer are just not good for growing tomatoes - when we have tomatoes for only about two weeks and then a killing frost, it's just not worth all the effort.
We're building a hoophouse next month and next year my tomatoes will be growing in the hoophouse, where I hope they will do MUCH better. A gardening friend around the corner from us came here from England three years ago, and he just normally grew his tomatoes in a small unheated greenhouse, as he had always done in England.
I don't think he even realized that most Americans grow tomatoes outdoors (not in a greenhouse). He has lots of ripe tomatoes! So it's the hoophouse next year for me.
Pat
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I'm in Alaska. We've been eating fresh tomatoes for 2 months now. "Tumbler" plants, in pots, on my kitchen windowsill. Golf-ball sized 'maters. Good taste, not great. (Sweet 100 is hard to beat for taste.)
Everything else is out in the greenhouse.
Jan
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Laura Stanley said:

I dried a lot of these last year in my dehydrator. Cut them in half first. Nice snack. Superb in a pasta dish with spinach, feta cheese, and garlic.
--
Pat in Plymouth MI

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Bill, your mileage may vary according to climate and the strain of Mortgage Lifter you plant. Last year, I planted a Mortgage Lifter from seeds acquired from Rachel's. It was the best producer I had, weightwise. The first cluster of fruit weighed over 10 pounds and almost pulled my trellis down. They were relatively late, though, coming in about July 20 after being planted on April 4. Just as I have problems making Brandywine produce this far south, you may have the same problem making Mortgage Lifter produce that far north. BTW, the plant produced fruits averaging about 24 ounces with the biggest being 34. Due to our very hot summers it is hard to grow anything much over 2 pounds. The only tomatoes I have grown that were even in the ballpark with these were the Delicious variety. You might want to have a look at: http://www.heirloomtomatoes.net/Varieties.htm I have heard that the Estler's strain of Mortgage Lifter is the most productive and it is the variety I will probably use next year.
Lee Hall Zone 6B - Tennessee
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Hi There. Zone 6B. West Virginia Eastern Panhandle. First year gardener.
Like many places on the east coast we had an extremely wet late spring/early summer. Much like poor Pat we had nearly 6 full weeks of rain with little or no sun. Then all at once the rain broke, and aside from today, we've had little or no rain to speak of since June 20th or so. The ground was so wet for so long my lawn had become a haven for mushrooms and toadstools of various kinds. Frogs were thriving, and many turtles were appearing along side the roads...
I had purchaced young transplants for Burpees. I got 3 Sugar Snack Hybrids, 3 Brandy Boy Hybrids, 1 Health Kick, 1 Big Mama, 1 Burpee's Burger, and 1 Forth of July. All were put in the ground on May 8th. It's a relatively small garden, a total of 294 sq. feet. WV has some rather heavy clay soil, and this plot had never been used for gardening. I hadn't prepared the bed the previous fall, so I spent most of the early spring using a cheap garden-claw knock off to tear up the sod. I then hand pulled every chunk of sod I could locate, shook off the lose soil, and hand picked every grub and cutworm I could find. Then tilled the soil up again, more picking of weeds and bugs. And then again lol. After all this I amended the soil with peat moss and dried composted manure, only 1 bag of each. Once I recieved the plants I laid down some of that red plastic mulch where I intended to plant the tomatoes. The Health Kick and one of the Brandy Boys were not at all healthy and suffered not long after I got them in the ground (which I must admit Burpee's was very nice about giving me a refund for those plants). I laid out black plastic mulch between the row spaces of the tomatoes, and each plant was given a bamboo stake. I did my best to prepare a psuedo-raised bed for the tomatoes by mounding the dirt in the wide row. Once in the ground, the plants, though wet from all the rain we were still getting decent growth and seemed to be doing well. I hadn't yet gotten my fence up around the garden...
About 2 weeks after planting, I went outside one morning to discover 5 of my plants eaten down to almost a nub. RABBITSSES!! Well...hmmm. 2 of the Sweet Treats, the Big Mama, 1 of the Brandy Boys, and the Health Kick had been damaged severely. The health kick and brandy boy did not recover. I got the fence up, at least around the tomatoes, that day...
So now it's mid July, almost August. My plants, all of them, even the ones eaten by rabbits are HUGE. The one Sweet Treat that was not eaten is now 6 and half foot tall. They are laden with unripe fruit, and I am SOOOO happy with the Brandy Boy and Burpee's Burger. The fruits are just huge...so much so that the plants have broken thier stakes and begun to tip over hehe. The big Sweet Treat has had 5 or 6 ripe cherries so far (they are tasty too :)) with many more ripening now quickly. My first ripe full tomato finally appeared on the Forth of July, which is sopposed to be a very early variety. It was the first to set fruit. There is another ripening on it now. While small, and not very flavorful, it was my first ripe tomato and I was pleased. I look forward to many more. The plants are thriving, and I am pleased. My only real problem is that they are too heavy for the measly stakes I bought. I did discover one fat bug on one of my plants the other day, but I yanked him off and smooshed him. I felt bad afterward. But my plants are important to me...
The basil I have planted near the tomatoes is also doing very well. I tend the plants daily, check for bugs, water as often as I think they need it now that the weather is so warm and dry. The mulch helps keep the soil moist, and the liquid fertilizer I use every 10-14 days (per directions). The plants seem to love it, and the soil under the mulch is easy to keep weeded. I started a compost pile in a bin I built a few weeks ago, and its nice and hot thanks to all the grass clippings and bio-garbage I've tossed in there...
Next year I'd like to try some Aker's West Virginia, and Mountain Pride, which are sopposed to be good varieties for the area. If the Brandy Boy fruit and Burpee's Burger turn out to taste well, I will definately use them next year...

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Something I noticed about my Brandy Boys (these are Burpee's hybrid of the Brandywine and the Better Boy) is that several of the flower nodes turn yellow and drop off before they set fruit. Both of the plants are doing this and are the only plants doing it. I think perhaps this is something particular to the Brandywines since I've read that while prized for flavor they tend to be unruly in growth structure, and not particularly productive. This might be the reason for them not being productive, or it could be some problem with just my plants, or potato leafed types...

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Just curious, what was your source for this? I have been trying to find Hawaiian tomato seeds.
Craig
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I got the seed from Tomato Growers' Supply Co.:http://www.tomatogrowers.com /
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