Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tomatoes for 2015

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 *.

Amish Paste
Amish Paste (Fedco)
(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.

Chianti Rose
Chianti Rose (Renee's Garden)
Big, beautiful beefsteak with fabulous flavor: a cross of traditional pink Brandywine and an unnamed Italian variety. More tolerant of cool summers; crack-resistant.

Jaune Flamme
Jaune Flamme (Seed Savers Exchange)
(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
Sweet Gold Cherry Tomato (Renee's Garden)
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.


  1. No black tomatoes? They were always some of my favorites when I could eat them.

    1. I was just realizing that today as I went through the descriptions. Blacks are always some of the best and I can't believe that I let that get by me this year. The Mavritanskite is as close as I'm going to get, I sure hope it's a good one.

  2. Ha! There must be hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, yes? Cuz I am growing seven kinds and not one the same as yours. What criteria did you use to select these? Oh, of course, I need to read more carefully: ability to do well in a cool climate. Big laugh. I searched for tomatoes that produce fruit in hot and dry or hot and humid climates. Guess what? Not available in starts. CalPoly Pomona Farm Store sells 83 different kinds, not one breed for heat tolerance. Guess I'll have to buy seeds for next year. I have normal stuff like Celebrity, Ace, Momotaro (Tough Boy), Stupice, Hawaiian Pineapple, Persimmon and Sungold. All but the two fruity ones which are larger have produced already. I am experimenting with cuttings for second and third crops of Celebrity. First cutting for second crop started today. The lovely cool weather has really slowed them down. The cool weather is lovely for people here; we've had too many heat waves already this year!

  3. Love those Artisan series tomatoes. I'm trying Blush this year, and growing Green Tiger again for the second year. Spike sure sounds like a good fit for your climate.

  4. I have 20 tomato plants growing now, of 18 different varieties. I am not into quantity production of anything, I just want variety. As you know, mine are grown in containers, with single canes to support them, so it will be interesting to see how our methods compare. I actually find the tying-in and side-shooting of tomato plants very therapeutic, so it is not a task I avoid. As for the weather, it sounds similar! (Grey, cold, windy, only a little rain, only a little sun.)

  5. You have so many new and interesting sounding varieties that I've never heard of happening this year. I suppose that's no surprise when it comes to tomatoes - I could probably grow new varieties every year and still never try all of them.

    I must try a black tomato after hearing what everyone says about them - they weren't on the list this year, but will definitely get on it next year. Your comment on your lack of a black tomato sounds like me and my lack of red cherries last year - I didn't even realize that I didn't have any until I started harvesting them and every cherry tomato was yellow!

  6. Amish Paste are my absolute favourite for making sauce so I have a few this year. But I've never heard of the others!

  7. Trialing three introductions from Univ of Florida, aka 'heirloom hybrids' that are intended to increase production using modern parents and heirloom crosses. Supposed to be stars in Florida. They are Garden Treasure, Garden Gem and 'New' Hybrid, all resistant to several diseases. We'll see how they do in San Jose dry heat.

    Also comparing home compost with the Mykos packets application on two beds that are mirrors of each other. I'm curious if there will be a difference. I agree about the cages being a pain to maintain with larger plants. Need that air flow to keep them clean.

    1. Let me know how your trials go, they sound interesting.

  8. How strange that we set our tomatoes out about the same time, and you live in such a benign climate! Love the varieties you are growing, and your trellis system.

    1. That's one of the peculiarities of living near the coast here, at this time of year it gets too cool for good blossom set in tomatoes, the plants grow but the blossoms fall off. So I set my tomato plants out late and they get to be a good size, not too large, when the weather finally gets warm enough to allow proper pollination.

  9. The mesh strategy should work well for you. I train mine up a cord suspended from an overhead trellis. I have to prune them to a single leader but in your case you could probably use a twin leader. Twisting the leader around the support does work and will support the vine, even if loaded with fruit. And you won't have my occasional problem of the cord rotting in the sun and dropping the vine on the ground. Interesting list of tomatoes. Only thing in common is Jaune Flamme, which I am trying one more time. Didn't do well for me last year., but the transplants are looking good this year.


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