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."
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.
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.
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