I've had too much to write about so I've been putting off writing about my Sungold experiment. It has now been 3 1/2 weeks since my last update and can't put it off anymore. I'm going to put in photos of each plant for the record. Sadly I took them yesterday and the sun was strong with a bit too much glare so they aren't great photos, but it is raining and dark outside now so they will have to do.
The weather for the past week few weeks has mostly been cool, dry and cloudy. The average temperatures have probably been in the 60°Fs with five days in the 50°Fs and two days in the 80°Fs. Cool and cloudy weather is not the best for tomato growing. That being said my tomatoes are doing much better than last year when we had warm abnormally wet weather. I'm guessing this is due to the bed preparation and not the weather. Things that are different than last year:
- grew a vetch cover crop before digging the bed, saved the dried foliage to mulch the plants
- double dug the bed
- dug in three inches of compost in the deeper half while double digging
- did not use black plastic mulch, but used compost as a mulch
- interplanting with basil, marigolds, carrots and peppers, last year only had peppers
- in the planting hole added bonemeal, organic 5-3-3, powdered egg shells, and azomite, last year only had the first two (note that Alice and Betsy got crushed eggshells and not powdered)
- Planted about three weeks earlier
When I say they are doing better I mean the plants look stronger. The foliage is thicker. I don't think the tomatoes will be earlier, but that is still to be seen. But I do think they will produce more. I didn't measure my harvest last year, so this is subjective, but to all appearances they seem happier. The happiest is Emma. The next two strongest are Zelda and Gabrielle. The other three are not quite keeping pace. If there is nothing really to put them up in the standing, they will not be grown out in subsequent years.
There are more flea beetles this year than last year. The plants don't seem overly bothered by them. The issue with them is that they eat little tiny holes in the leaves and I'm thinking it makes it easier for diseases to enter the plants. So far I haven't had much problem with the typical disease my tomatoes always get (disease is unknown, but the oregano is the only other plant in my garden to also get the same spots). A few plants do have it, but it doesn't seem to be spreading much. Last year it showed up in June and was bad enough that I ripped up one of my plants.
More aphids this year than last in the garden as a whole and certainly on the tomatoes. No bad infestations yet.
All the tomatoes have set fruit on one truss, but no more. Alice is ahead of the curve and her tomatoes are bigger than the others at about 1/2" wide. The others are at around 1/4".
Alice is 2'8" tall. Her growth is narrow and she has few stems. She has four trusses that are currently blooming. She does stand out in one respect. She produced her blossoms before any other tomato so her first fruit (which all set even with low temps in the low 40°Fs at times). Her trusses also seem a bit bigger than others. She is healthy.
Betsy is 2' 11" tall. She seems pretty pitiful and is a very narrow plant with few stems. She only has two trusses open. Last update she had some disease spots. I pulled off the lower leaves on most of the plants a while ago. This included the diseased leaves. I couldn't find any spots this time around so she seems to have recovered. Despite her recovery, there is really nothing going for her since she is small and is not making a lot of tomatoes.
Gabrielle is 3' 2" tall. She is a real stand out. I would say she is the third best tomato if you go by growth alone. She is very wide and has many strong thick stems. She has four trusses open and is quite healthy.
Debra is 3' 2" tall. Despite her height, I still consider her a bit of a weakling. She is narrow and has sparse growth. Her stems are thin. She has two trusses of blossoms open. One of the trusses is a double truss so quite large. She has a small bit of disease in her lower branches.
Emma is 4' 2" tall and the star of the show. The cages are 4' tall (yeah I know I need taller ones) so she is now over the top of the cage. She is wide. So wide I have trouble keeping her confined to her cage. Her stems are thick, strong and numerous. She has a whopping 6 trusses open. She is healthy. Her one flaw seems to be small flowers. I'm thinking this will mean small tomatoes too. But if her tomatoes measure up and she stays healthy, she will be the clear winner in the trial.
Zelda is 3' 4" tall. She is much like Emma in growth. She is wide and has a profusion of thick strong stems that are trying to escape the cage. She has four trusses blooming right now. Her foliage is a bit thicker on the bottom than any of the others and in that thick foliage are some disease spots. It isn't on the bottom most leaves, but in the thick growth toward the bottom.