The tomatoes went into the garden today. Even though it felt nothing like supposedly being on the verge of summer, it never even reached 60ºF (15ºC) today, and the fog barely let the sun almost but not quite shine through for a brief tantalizing moment, it was time to get the tomatoes in the ground.
I'm trying a new method of training the plants. I've set up a 21 foot long, 5 1/2 foot high trellis made of concrete reinforcing mesh (remesh). 22 feet would have been optimal, but the last of the roll that I purchased about 7 years ago turned out to be 21 feet long, so, good enough. I'll train the plants up the trellis instead of growing them inside the big 5 foot tall, 6 foot diameter remesh cages that I've been using for years. I'm going with the trellis this year for a couple of reasons. First, it seems like the plants always get some sort of fungal disease inside the cages, possibly because of the poor air circulation inside of them. I'm hoping that the better air circulation around the trellis will keep the fungal diseases at a minimum and should the plants get infected it will be easier to treat them with something. Trellising the plants will require keeping the plants trimmed back and will require a bit more work to weave the shoots through the mesh or perhaps I'll have to tie the shoots to the mesh. But the advantage to having to prune the plants is that they will be smaller and that allows me to squeeze a few more plants into the same sized space. Last year I had 8 plants, although I gave a few feet of space that would have normally been devoted to tomatoes to some eggplants, and this year I've set out 12 plants. The beds are actually long enough to accomodate 11 of my big cages, but that tight spacing makes for too much of a jungle, difficult to harvest and even more prone to diseases. I don't mind if my total tomato harvest is smaller since I always end up with more tomatoes than I can use or want to preserve. What I really want is more variety.
Before planting I dug in crab meal, sulfate of potash, humic acid, azomite, and pulverized egg shells. I would have added some compost to the mix but I've run out for the moment. Later in the season I'll scatter some compost over the surface of the soil as a light mulch, the worms will do the work of pulling it into the soil. Each plant got a tablespoon of Granular Root Zone sprinkled in the planting hole, that's a mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacteria inoculant. I go back and forth between using Granular Root Zone and Mykos/Azos inoculants, both seem to work quite well.
Here's the lineup for this year. Some of my favorites are returning, but there's quite a few new ones. The photos are of my tomatoes from previous years and the descriptions are from the seed sources. I'm growing my favorite paste tomato for sauces and canning, and added a small plum tomato for sauces or drying. There's two small fruited varieties, one orange and one striped, these should be the first to produce along with the cherry tomatoes. Two cherry varieties, one yellow and one red should provide more than enough for Dave's lunches, my snacks, and for drying. The rest are beefsteak types, a red one, two pink ones, and a dark one that I'm really not sure what color it will end up being. I choose most of the tomatoes that I grow for their ability to perform in cool climates because the coastal fog tends to keep things on the cool side here through the summer (it's getting an early start this year). There's only one tomato in the lineup that may or may not do well in my climate.
New varieties are marked with an *.
(85 days) Ind. Always one of the most popular items in the Seed Savers Exchange. Listed members’ comments tell all: “large red meaty fruit,” “wonderful paste variety,” “great flavor for cooking, canning or fresh eating,” “the standard by which I judge canning tomatoes,” “huge production,” “great for sauces, salsa, canning.” Strong producer of oxheart fruits up to 8 oz with thick bright red flesh. Larger and better than Roma. Flavor has been consistently good even in poor tomato years. Wisconsin heirloom from Amish farmers in the 1870s, first surfaced in the 1987 SSE Yearbook. We have observed some inherent variation, based on how this variety responds to its environment. Needs room and good nutrition to set mostly nippled fruits. Crowding, shading or stress cause reduced fruit size and less nippling. Boarded Slow Food’s Ark of Taste. MOSA-certified.
Caspian Pink* (Swap)
Originally grown in southern Russia between the Caspian and Black Seas. Thought by some to be "Queen of the Pinks," these prolific,1-2 pound, globe-shaped, pleated, pink-red beefsteak tomatoes that rival Brandywine in popularity and flavor. (Some find the taste even better than Brandywine.) One of the best known and best-tasting Russian tomatoes. This tomato is perfect for cooler climates.
Big, beautiful beefsteak with fabulous flavor: a cross of traditional pink Brandywine and an unnamed Italian variety. More tolerant of cool summers; crack-resistant.
(aka Flamme) Beautiful heirloom that originated with Norbert Perreira of Helliner, France. Commercialized by Tomato Growers Supply Company in 1997. Early crops of apricot-colored 4 ounce fruits borne on elongated trusses. Excellent fruity flavor with a perfect blend of sweet and tart. Great for drying or roasting, retains deep orange color. Indeterminate, 70-80 days from transplant.
Mavritanskite* (Adaptive Seeds)
75-80 days. Indet.Big beefsteak fruits colored dark orange- red with some elusive purpleness. Tops are greenish-brown. Striking unique colors & an excellent rich flavor. This is a really great tomato. Latvian heirloom we originally sourced from Madeline McKeever of Brown Envelope Seeds in Ireland.
Pantano* (Seeds From Italy)
Tall beef tomato from Rome.Indeterminate.Vigorous and productive with large, semi-scalloped fruits with few seeds and tasty, thick flesh. Fruits are large, around 12 oz.
Penn State Plum* (Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm)
Small, red plum tomato. Cylindrical, highly uniform fruit with pointed ends. Relatively blemish free fruit. Vigorous plants need plenty of space. Indeterminate growth habit. Standard leaves. Stigmas even with stamens. Fruit born in clusters of up to six. Ripe fruit reach 1.6-2.1" long by 1.2-1.6" wide and weigh 0.7-1.5 ozs. Very subtle flavor. Slightly sweet. Low acid. Average productivity when grown in 2013 at Heritage Farm. Early maturing. Donated to SSE by Milton Reigart who also named this variety. Milton began growing it in 1946 when he married and received the seeds from his father-in-law, Ben Strickler. Ben's brother, Claude Strickler, was a truck farmer in York County, PA and first received the tomato in the early 1930s when it was distributed to local farmers by the Penn State Extension Service. The variety was originally bred by the Penn State Agriculture Experiment Station.
Spike Tomato* (Artisan Seeds)
Spike is a small-fruited, rust colored tomato with green-to-golden stripes. The interior of Spike is purple and green. Spike has been available in the bay area for years (through our farm and a small number of other outlets), and now we are making it available nationally through this website. Spike's flavor is bombastic. It is a loud mix of sweet and tangy, and it has done very well in Bay Area taste tests. Spike is a great tomato for home gardeners. Softening fruits have incredible flavor, and the plants produce large numbers of small fruits, which are a little bit larger than the typical saladette tomato. Spike grows great on patios, and the plants tend to be semi-determinate, and easier to manage compared to viny varieties. The foliage is finely-dissected and horticulturally interesting.Because we bred Spike predominantly in cooler conditions, in the Bay Area, it tends to be resistant to fungal pathogens, although no formal testing on specific pathogens has been completed. Spike is a good variety for small farms to grow in modest amounts, but because Spike softens rather quickly with ripening, it is not recommended when storing and shipping are part of the equation.
Camp Joy Cherry Tomato* (Renee's Garden)
This heirloom cherry offers full, well rounded tomato taste, not just sugar lump sweetness without depth of flavor. Strong growing vines reliably bear heavy clusters of luscious fruit.
|Sweet Gold Cherry|
Glossy, golden yellow sweet cherries, perfect for fresh snacks, salads and stirfries grow effortlessly on sturdy indeterminate vines. Early bearing with heavy clusters of tasty fruits throughout summer.