After my last blog post, I know you are chock full of fascination about tomato descriptors. I also know that you are just dying to put your new knowledge to the test, and ask "Laura, what are you planting this year?" Luckily for you, I am just not done blabbing about tomatoes yet, and will be more than happy to share that information in great detail.
In February, I pulled out and arranged by type every tomato seed packet I owned. I decided that some of these seeds MUST be way too old to keep around, and I had just better try to grow them so I can admit they are OK to throw away. My oldest saved seed was from 2004, and those things grew like crazy. Once again, proof for my internal hoarder that nothing should ever be tossed.
Here is the list of tomatoes I decided to grow this year. Pathetically, this is NOT the total amount of tomato seed varieties I own, it's just what I decided to grow. Now, using your new found tomato term knowledge from my last post, let's see if this makes any sense to you. Consider it the reading comprehension review section.
San Marzano - 80-90 days. Indeterminate, Heirloom. Sauce type hailing from Italy with 1-3 oz. fruits.
Polish Linguisa - 73 days. Indeterminate. Heirloom sauce type from the 1800's growing 3-4" and 10-12 oz. sausage shaped fruits. No offense, Italians. We're just talking about tomatoes here.
Sun Gold - 65 days. Indeterminate, Hybrid. Golden/orange cherry tomatoes. Delicious!
Gold Nugget - 60 days. F1, V. Determinate. Cherry. Yet another golden cherry tomato plant. At least I'm consistent.
Sugar Snacker - ? days. Indeterminate. Hybrid or open pollinated? I'm not sure. I would swear when I bought it that it was an open pollinated heirloom, but I've never seen the plant available in the store since then, and have never seen the seed available in a catalog. I've been saving it every year since then, so this may wind up being my very own heirloom. This year, I'm growing the seed saved from the first plant I found in 2004. And guess what it grows? Orange cherry tomatoes, of course!
Balcony Hybrid - Determinate. I don't know much about this guy, because I bought it "The Cook's Garden" a few years ago, and that supplier no longer exists. I'm hoping the name says it all. I have six of these planted in pots and an Earth Box at the moment.
Stupice -60-70 days. Indeterminate,. Heirloom. Dwarf sized for containers. Prolific salad type. This is my first year growing this one, so let's see if the seed catalog lives up to the term "prolific." I also didn't pay attention and accidentally planted it in the garden. Nice.
Ramapo F1- 75-85 days. Semi-Determinate. This is supposed to be known as one of the old hybrid strains of "Jersey tomato" as identified by Rutgers Agricultural Program.
Matina - 60 days. Indeterminate. German Heirloom. 2-4 ounces.
"Large Red" Tomato From Hancock Shaker Village -82 days. Indeterminate. Heirloom. I bought these in MA in 2008 and haven't grown them yet. These are serious business as far as heirlooms go, and date back to the 1800's. They are described as having "extra tomatoey good taste." Can't go wrong there.
Black Krim - 80 days. Heirloom, Indeterminate, Red/Purple coloring, originating from Crimea.
Honey Delight - 87 days. Indeterminate. 4 oz. yellow fruit,
Tigerella - 60 days. Indeterminate, Heirloom. Red with orange stripes. 4-6 oz. fruits.
Big Rainbow - 85 days. Indeterminate, Heirloom. Large yellow fruits with red streaks.
Orange Queen -85 days. Indeterminate. 4-6 oz. fruits. This is another first year plant for me, and I only bought it because I read that orange tomatoes are super healthy. So here we go!
Paul Robeson - 85 days. Indeterminate, Heirloom. Dark red with green shoulders. 8-10 oz. fruits on alleged highly productive vines.
And now, the moment you've aaaaaaaall been waiting for ... (we've been watching a lot of "Little Einsteins" lately) ... the free tomato plant list! These are some gangly mofo's that are overdue for larger pots, but don't be phased. Once you get them into the ground, they'll fill out and get going. The important thing (and this goes for all tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant) is to BURY THEM UP TO THEIR LOWEST SET OF LEAVES WHEN PLANTING. You can even take off the lowest set of leaves and plant them even deeper. Tomatoes will set roots all along the entire stem that goes into the ground, and the establishment of a good root system means more tomatoes later. So here's what I have:
4 Sun Gold
3 Gold Nugget
lots of Sugar Snackers - maybe 20? small seedlings
2 San Marzano
1 Balcony Hybrid
3 Hancock Shaker Village "Large Red"
4 Black Krim
6 Honey Delight
2 Orange Queen
1 Paul Robeson (and one tiny two leaf seedling)
Unknowns - Do you feel lucky? I have 3 of one type and 2 of another. These labels got lost when potting up and I have no idea what they are, but they are something on this list. If you like to live dangerously, plant these and see what happens!
OK locals - leave your plant requests under the comments on this post, or on my facebook page. I'll have them packed up and ready for pick up on my front porch at your leisure. But don't take too long. They need happy homes! Thanks for reading and good luck!
It's time to buy your tomato plants! But what's with all the crazy terminology and what does it mean? The major tomato terms describe growth habit, genetic history, and fruit type. Whether your garden is sprawling, smallish, or in pots, you can find the right tomato for you by understanding these terms.
Open-Pollinated (OP) vs. Hybrid (F1)
These two terms indicate how the tomatoes were bred to begin with, and what you can do with the seeds saved from these plants. Open-pollinated types have been in existence for long enough that the parent plant will have the same characteristics as the child, which takes at least ten generations. The seed is considered "stable" or "true to type." If you save the seeds from this tomato, you can be sure that the plant that grows from this seed will be the same. The term "heirloom" refers to open-pollinated plants that have been handed down from generation to generation, or that pre-date WWII.
Hybrid plants often have the label "F1" following the name, which is short for "first filial generation." Hybrids are an intentional cross between two types of parent tomato plants so that the resulting child has characteristics of each. They are often bred this way for disease resistance, smaller sizing, thicker skins, or other features desirable for mass production. Flavor is not often a goal when hybridizing tomatoes, which is why some people feel that open-pollinated plants are superior.
UNRELATED BUT IMPORTANT TO KNOW: "Hybrid" does not equal "GMO." Hybrid plants could happen in nature on their own via regular pollen transference, although they are happening with human intervention and intention. GMO plants (and there are no GMO tomato seeds on the market in the U.S. at this point) are made by scientifically activating/deactivating/splicing genes in an existing plant to produce seeds with those genetic changes. The changes made could not randomly happen on their own via the regular processes of nature. So don't run away screaming from a plant labeled "hybrid," unless that plant is also trying to eat your leg, or wants to engage in a heated discussion of the 2016 presidential election.
Determinate vs. Indeterminate
Growth habit is described by these two terms, and your choice in this department can make a big difference when placed in the garden. Determinate plants only grow to a certain height, and their fruits generally ripen around the same time. They don't need any pruning and don't need a lot of staking or caging to stay upright. They are the perfect option for a small gardens, container gardening, or for gardeners that want a large crop harvested at once for canning or processing.
Indeterminate plants, on the other hand, will continue to grow and produce fruit until the cold weather sets in. The up to ten foot (yikes!) vines need to be well trellised to stay off the ground and they should be pruned to have only three main growing stems. Most heirloom types are indeterminate, so buying a dozen heirloom tomato plants for a 3' x 3' plot isn't the best plan.
Slicer, Beefstead, Sauce, Salad, Cherry, Grape, Blah Blah Blah....
There are lots of fun descriptions for tomato shape and size, and they are mostly intuitive.
Slicers and beefsteaks are the medium to large juicy tomatoes that are great for sandwich toppings and platters. Cherry, grape, and saladette tomatoes are the small guys good for popping into your mouth, or making bruschetta and salad toppings. And sauce tomatoes have less liquid and meatier flesh that makes them good options for canning or cooking. It's nice to have some of each type, if you have the space, but let's face it - a fresh home grown tomato is delicious and can be used in whatever way you choose.
Great, so now what do I buy?
First, consider the size of your garden and/or containers. If you are working with a smaller space and plan on planting tomatoes in the same soil every year, you might consider working mostly with hybrid determinate plants. They will be bred for resistance to common tomato diseases, like Fusarium and Verticillium wilts, which will be indicated by an "F" or "W" on the plant tag. Those diseases tend to stick around in the soil once they appear. They also won't get too large and overtake your small plot. If gardening in containers, be aware that indeterminate types will need a 10 gallon pot, while determinate types can grow in 5 gallon containers. Look for varieties referred to as "dwarf," "patio," or "balcony" for even smaller space use.
But don't let a small space stop you from growing one big mother tomato plant. It's fun, it's a talking point when you tour your friends through your garden, and you'll figure out very quickly whether or not you are the resourceful trellis builder type. I suck at that, and invariably walk out in my yard in August to find that an earthquake has struck just my tomato plot. Whatever, I just keep trying and maybe I will get better at it someday. (No, I will not.)
And now, I know you're dying to ask "Laura, what are you planting this year?" Good thing I have a blog and can answer that question in great detail in my next post!
As always, thanks for reading. You're a real peach. Or a real tomato!
It's TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME! Well, that is, depending on what you're planting, where you are, and your average nighttime temperatures. But still, it's OK to get excited. May 15th is the general planting out date here in zone 6, and my garden is a chaos of half-done projects. May's to-do list looks like this: Do Everything!
Loose-leaf lettuces can be harvested in a few ways. You can take the outside mature leaves and let the growing center continue to do its thing, or you can cut the whole plant back an inch or two above the soil line and let the plant grow again. Either way, you shouldn't pull lettuce out by the root this early in the game because it still has time to produce. If you sprinkled seeds like radishes and spinach over a prepared bed, the plants might be growing too closely to reach a proper mature size. In that case, remove the small plants and use for salad, allowing evenly spaced plants to reach a larger size before harvesting.
Maybe you are not a seed starter or a seed planter. No problem! Most everything you need is already growing and available for purchase. I'm both a seed starter AND a seed planter and I STILL left our local greenhouse with a minivan full of fun. How do you decide what and how much to buy?
First, know how much space you have to work with by measuring the length and width of your planting areas. You can stop there and just head to the store, or you can take some time to draw a design on paper or using garden design software. The software option is nice as it calculates the space requirements for various plants and indicates how many you can fit. Reading your plant tags will tell you what you need to know about spacing as well.
Second, make your veggie shopping list based on what you eat! There's no point in planting those brain-explosion hot peppers if no one is going to get near them. Also, consider the size of your garden space and the output of the veggies. You might love fresh corn on the cob, but corn grows best in 4' by 4' plots for cross pollination, and still only produces a few ears per plant. In a small garden, stick to smaller and higher production summer veggies, like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. If you let your cucumber and squash vines trail over the sides of your raised beds, you can get even more bang for your buck, and can harvest all summer long. Speaking of summer veggies....
Considering the to-do list, the overzealous shopping trip, and the bizarre impulse to start seeds for 15 different types of tomatoes, I gotta go. See you in June!
I am Laura; lover of plants, fan of words, drinker of wine, practitioner of yoga, planner of schemes, and conductor of the family crazy train, Check here for gardening fun, harvest recipes, yoga philosophy, and whatever else I love to write about.