Friday, May 22, 2009

F2 Sungold Update

Gratuitous flower photo

Oh so many things in the garden to talk about, but I just haven't been feeling like writing. So I'll write about the one that needs to be put permanently into the record - my tomato experiment. But first a description of what I'm doing.

I'm growing out some Sungold F2 seed. Sungold is my favorite tomato. It is a golden cherry that produces well. The plants are vigerous enough to outgrow our multitude of blights and mildews. It is also a hybrid. So that seed that I collected last year shouldn't grow true.

Hybrids are made by fertilizing two different open pollinated plants. Plant one may have genes that are 'AA' while plant two would have genes that are 'aa'. When combined the hybrid will have genes that are 'Aa'. This plant would be an F1 hybrid. The F1 denotes that it is the first generation hybrid. When you save seeds from an F1 hybrid plant and grow it out it is an F2 hybrid, and you really don't know what you will get with such a plant. When 'Aa' and 'Aa' combine the resulting seed will have one gene from one plant and one gene from the other, but it could be either gene so it could be 'Aa', 'AA' or 'aa'. And this of course holds true for all the genes they have. So when I grow the F2 Sungold out I have no clue as to what I will end up with.

If a seed company were trying to stabilize a hybrid, it would grow out many plants to start to get what they are looking for. I honestly am not quite sure what I'm looking for though an open pollinated Sungold would always be nice. I should also grow out a lot to see what different combination I get, but I had room for six. So I'm growing six. Their names are Alice, Betsy, Gabrielle, Debra, Emma, and Zelda because the Greek alphabet is more fun than our American one.

Time line for the tomatoes:

  • April 3rd, 9 soil blocks seeded (2 seeds in each block), used heat mat for germination
  • April 6-7, 17 seedlings germinated, randomly thinned out (didn't pick biggest or smallest, just the one closest to the left)
  • April 24th (three weeks) potted up 7 tomatoes (didn't choose which ones, just did them in order down the row) into newspaper pots
  • April 24th, started hardening off
  • April 30th (four seeks) planted six outside under row cover
  • May 14th row cover removed and cages put on
  • May 20th a mulch of compost with half decomposed leaves was applied
  • May 22 (today) first observational notes

Planting notes: The tomatoes were planted in a bed that was double dug and amended with several inches of compost about 8" down. The bed was also amended with an organic 5-3-3 fertilizer, lime, greensand and Azomite. Below each planting hole the dirt was amended with 1 c bone meal and 1c crushed eggshells. The plants were put 2' apart and slightly deeper than their pots. The bottom leaves were removed. In the back (north side) of the bed, basil and marigolds (Ground Control for nematodes) are alternated 2' apart so they are between but behind the tomatoes. In front of the tomatoes carrots were seeded on May 14th. Peppers are planted in the front (south side) of the bed at the same time the tomatoes were put in.

General Observations: they all seem to be doing at least OK. Flea beetles have started eating the leaves on all of the plants. No plant seems to be getting damaged more than any other plant. All had some black spots on the lower leaves. These leaves where taken off when they were mulched since they were very low.


  • healthy, doing OK
  • 9" tall, shortest of all the tomatoes, narrow
  • no suckers
  • two sprays of flowers already and has two open blossoms, blossoms are small as usual in cherry tomatoes - she may be small, but she is spunky


  • doing OK, some black spots on lower leaves
  • 10" tall, narrow
  • no suckers
  • one spray of flowers, unopened


  • doing well, healthy, thick stem
  • 12" tall, wide plant
  • one spray of flowers, unopened
  • top no longer has one strong stem, sucker at that spot is just as strong (if not stronger) than main stem, so split into two


  • doing well, healthy
  • 13" tall
  • two sprays of flowers, unopened
  • suckers 1"


  • doing the best of all, healthy, thick stem
  • 20" tall, very wide
  • two sprays of flowers, unopened
  • suckers 5"


  • doing well, healthy, thick stem
  • 13" tall, wide plant
  • two sprays of flowers, unopened
  • 3" suckers

Basically Emma is the star at this point. Her growth is so strong. If you look along the line of plants she is obviously the winner in healthy growth, but can she produce? She does have two sprays of flowers. One looks like it will open soon. One of Sungold's best traits is its strong growth. Diseases can try to stop it, but it just grows out of them. Emma seems to have inherited that trait.

Alice and Betsy are the worst of the plants. Though Alice is trying to stay in the running by blooming the first. Neither has particularly thick stems. I'm a little worred that the two worst plants are over to one side. Did this side not get as much fertilizer or compost? Are there more nementodes here? Or could it be the eggshells? I had powdered eggshells as an ammendment for the other four. When I planted Betsy I was running out so she got half powdered half crushed. Alice got all crushed eggshells. Hmm something to think about for an experiment next year. Maybe putting the eggshells in the food processor is more than just cosmetic for the garden. It would make sense. Will the powdered ones last all season long? I guess time will tell.


  1. I love it! If you end up with some nice OP seeds, be sure to send some my way in years to come!!! I'll be following along to see how these do- very exciting!

  2. Wow! Are you a botanics teacher? I felt like a student reading this post! Now I know what F1 means!Sungold is my favorite, too. Will be very interesting to see the results. Good luck Daphne!

  3. DirtDigger, Well I've been told that it might have been stabilized already. So they might all be the same. If it hasn't been, it takes a while to stabilize the seed (like seven years or so depending on how many genes are involved with what I'm interested in), but the reality is that I'm not growing enough plants to do that in a timely manner anyway. I'd be happy to share seeds of the F3 seed that I end up with. I'm just not promising that it will grow true yet.

    Tatyana, Nope I'm not, but I love learning new things and plant breeding is an interesting subject.

  4. You should see what I have in my bag of additives for my last four plants, which have yet to be added to the garden! I began with powdered egg shells (coffee bean grinder works great). Then I thought, why not some oyster shell calcium as well? I had some old calcium tablets that went into the grinder...two for each plant. So what if there is a shortage of other minerals? I plopped in two vitamin/mineral tablets per plant! Maybe I'll grow four super plants. Or maybe I'll kill 'em.

  5. I keep hearing about these sungold and keep thinking I am out of the loop. Are these a special tomato?

    Your plants are looking wonderful by the way. I am planting out the rest of mine tomorrow.

  6. Annie's Granny, lol Well that is what my Azomite is. It is a wide spectrum mineral supplement. The greensand is similar too. I have to make sure they get all those micronutrients. The Azomite is actually a birthday gift from my MIL. I used her birthday money to try it. Of course I should have just tried it on half of my garden to see if it actually makes the plants grow better. Now I'll never know.

    Dan, Gasp! Yes Sungold is a special tomato. It is a very sweet, low acid cherry golden cherry. If you have never tasted it, you must plant it in your garden. Many people (me included) consider it the best tasting cherry in existence. In addition it is usually the first tomato to produce in the summer and the last one to quit in the fall. It is a pretty cold hardy plant. I planted mine last year on May 17th and had my first tomato on July 10th. If I count right that is 54 days. It produced well into October for me.

  7. Here I thought I was being original ;-) I think I'll leave the "super food" out of one container, and compare the growth to the other three tomato plants. OK, so I need to try the Sungold, too! I've never been fond of low acid yellow tomatoes, but I've only heard raves about this one.

  8. hmm, maybe I should order some seed asap. They say to plant in odd numbers, I have 16 tomatoes so maybe I should make it 17.

  9. I kind of like the idea of naming your plants. Italk to mine, but I never actually named them. They get to be called Sweetheart, Sugar, Honey, Baby, Big Girl, Fella.

    Last year, I had outdated vitamis that I crushed and added water and used to water the plant. I don't know if it was wishful thinking or what, but the plants looked better to me.

  10. Annie's Granny, Sungold has a different taste than most tomatoes. Not everyone loves it, but most do. I wish I had put Azomite on just half of the Three Sister's Garden. That would have been a good trial for it. But nope it went everywhere.

    Dan, well if you don't get one this year and my seed turns out to be true to the Sungold, then I'll send you some seed so you can plant it next year.

    Cheryl, if I started talking to mine, my neighbors would call me the crazy plant lady. I already spend way too much time in the garden. Sometimes just looking at it. Recently anytime I'm in the garden the workmen are across the street. They are always looking over at what I'm up to. I wonder if plants can use vitamins or not. Certainly they can use the minerals.