Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2009 Overview Tomatoes

Market Miracle, Early Ssubakus Aliana, Black Moor, Sungold F2 (gold and red), Chocolate Cherry and Black Cherry

I will eventually do an overview of all my categories from my tally sidebar. Some I will break up. Some I will combine. The overviews will help me remember what the heck happened in 2009 without me having to go back through all the posts. So I will know when I planted and know if it worked or I should do it later or earlier. I'll know what pests were annoying or not.

This ought to have been a very bad year for tomatoes, but it wasn't for me. It was just shortened. In the past I've had trouble growing tomatoes. For big beefsteak tomatoes I might get three from a plant. For smaller slicing tomatoes maybe 7. Some of these might rot before picking due to blossom end rot. Cherries would give me more, but still wouldn't be very prolific.

This year I decided to make changes to help get a real harvest. I made the following changes:

  • Double dug the beds to about 20" deep adding 3" of compost into the bottom layer.
  • Changed my amendments to: 1 c bone meal, 1 c powdered egg shells (the ones that were just crushed didn't work as well), 1 c Azomite, 1 c organic 5-3-3. These were mixed into the bottom of the planting hole and dug deeply in.
  • Planted Ground Control marigolds for nematode control behind every other plant
  • Took one foot of growing space away from the tomatoes and planted carrots (May 14th) in that spot which grew all summer long in the shade of the peppers and tomatoes. Used to have a 2'x3' spot, now each had a 2'x2' spot.

These changes worked amazingly well. The tomatoes were a jungle and not just scraggly plants. They produced well. I only had the Sungold F2s in the ground the others were in pots. Their 5 gallon pails were amended exactly the same. They grew fairly well too, but not as vigorously as the Sungolds.

The plants were put in much earlier than I usually do due to some out of town scheduling issues. This worked well this year because our May weather wasn't any worse than our weird June record cold and damp weather.

  • April 3rd sowed seed in soil blocks - put on heating mat
  • April 23rd potted up into newspaper pots
  • April 24th first hour of sun outside (25th 3 hours, 26th five hours)
  • April 30th planted in the ground with a remay row cover
  • July 14th Alice (Sungold F2) gave the first ripe tomato of the season
  • August 10th first Market Miracle (only large one I have) tomato ripens
  • September 9th last of the tomato plants removed from the garden due to late blight

My note to self says tomatoes only need four weeks inside before they start outgrowing their newspaper pots and need to get outside. I'm a firm believer that letting a plant get a little root bound (even in a newspaper pot) is bad for them. They do best if their growth is never slowed down.

I had a few problems with the tomatoes this year. The foremost one was late blight. It took over the whole NorthEast. I still got plenty of tomatoes, but when the stems were getting infected I had to pull the plants to keep the spores from spreading. The second worst was the cold wet weather. I'm sure the plants were slowed down by our cold June. I had some horn worms. I killed a few myself and the wasps took care of the rest. This year they were hard to find. When there is little foliage on the plant hornworms are easy to spot, but in a jungle it is impossible. Aphids were more prevalent this year, but they didn't get out of control. The lacewings and lady bugs eventually caught up with them. The flea beetles took their toll, but since the plants grew so well the damage wasn't too destructive. Blossom end rot wasn't too bad this year. Black Moor was the worst off. I also lost a couple of Market Miracles and Alianas.

Production for me was pretty good. Tomatoes tend not to like my garden and depending upon where they are planted lack of sun, but this year was my best.

  • Market Miracle 7.5lbs average per plant, beautiful round unblemished tomatoes
  • Sungold F2 6.4lbs average per plant, the best two were saved for next year
  • Black Moor 5.5lbs
  • Black Cherry 4.2lbs
  • Chocolate Cherry 4.0lbs
  • Early Ssubakus Aliana 3.4lbs (very sweet but tasteless)

I love Market Miracle. It was the first beefsteak that did well in my garden, probably due to all the amendments they got and it was in a pot away from my nematodes. I will grow this next year. I've saved seed. In addition I'll grow at least one of the two Sungold F3 seeds I saved this year - Gabrielle (red) and Emma (orange). I saved Chocolate Cherry since I liked it a tad better than Black Cherry, but was wondering if they were exactly the same plant or not. I couldn't tell a difference. I'll probably grow it too.

Next year I'd like to add Moskvich and Cherokee Purple if I can get them without $5 shipping. I should have just bought one Moskvich tomato this summer to save seed, but didn't even think of it.

Things I would like to change next year. I hated keeping the pots watered. My in ground plants can handle a week without me, but the pots need watering everyday. I had a friend give me an old timer, and I poked some holes in an old hose, but that system was just waiting to fail. If I do it again, I need to get some real irrigation equipment.

I should not plant basil behind the tomatoes. They get no sun and die. The basil needs to be on the edges of the bed maybe or somewhere else.


  1. Excellent post Daphne I will keep it among the important stuff. I will keep Market Miracle in mind for next season 2010. It sound far away but it is just a few months.
    :-) Helen (from seed to table) had another good one to day about garlic, have you read it?

  2. Excellent post! I have printed this one out for a reference page. I love to grow tomatoes.

    Where do you get your plants? Seeds is what I mean. Sorry.

  3. Sounds as though you really made wise choices this year. What about the SWCs that EG is always using?

    The powdered eggshells must have given them the slow release calcijm they needed for BER

  4. I started my tomatoes quite early hoping for a head start but I agree 4 weeks is enough, partly because they get rootbound as you pointed out and also because I noticed a few that were started later caught up to the early ones, anyway.

    Great overview. Thx for the useful and informative info.

  5. err.. informative info is a little redundant, make that *post.

  6. Congrats on a banner year despite the cold, wet, and late blight, Daphne! I too have determined never to grow herbs around my tomatoes again, since as you say they just get smothered. My container tomatoes produced fairly well because of all the rain, but in a dry year you're right they'd be doomed. Live and learn, eh?

  7. That's a great overview of your tomato season and has made me think back about how my tomatoes did. One thing that comes to mind is that I also used powdered eggshells in one part of the bed and then ran out. The rest of the bed got bone meal for calcium. The plants in the egg shell ammended part of the bed were far more prone to BER. I wonder if it was because some varieties were more prone to it or the calcium in bone meal is more available to the plants. Or maybe I didn't use enough eggshells? Don't know, but I've got quite a collection of egg shells going now anyway.

    Azomite sounds like an interesting ammendment. Did you use it throughout your garden or just for the tomatoes?

  8. Hi Daphne, I am going to miss your tomato posts! Pots can be a real pain in the watering department. At least you have found a system that sort-of works. Well done on such a bumper crop. I usually have a problem with aphids too, but suddenly, about a month ago, they all totally disappeared! Not complaining, but wierd! Enjoy the Autumn planting.

  9. That was an enjoyable and informative read. I am a huge advocate of double digging - so I am not suprised you ended up with good results from both that action and your good amendment regimen.

  10. Tyra, Market Miracle is a great early tomato. My season is short and cool and if your's is like that it would be a good choice. I'm guessing from where you live it is both.

    janie, well the Sungolds were from saved seed. Sungolds are hybrids so I'm growing out a hybrid. The others were from Wintersown. They gave out free tomato seed (only 10 seeds of each kind) if you took a little quiz. They had all sorts of interesting types. I elected to do a small black tomato trial. I found the cherries better than the plum (Black Moor). They also had Market Miracle though they called it Miracle of the Market. Since it is a Russian translation you can take your pick, but most call it Market Miracle. As to the rest of my seed, most was bought from Pinetree last year. This year I think I'll go with Fedco.

    Stefaneener, I haven't tried them. I thought about it. Granny said she had some and liked the regular pots better. She had to fill up the SWCs more than the regular pots. I haven't a clue as to why.

    Miss M, I suppose if I potted them up again I could have kept them longer, but four inches deep seems deep enough to me for a tomato start.

    our friend Ben, yup. If I can find a cheap irrigation system for tomato pots (that is more robust) I might try it again. I have so little space for tomatoes and really love to make salsa and sauce.

    Michelle, I'm pretty sure some varieties are more prone to it. My Black Moor had a ton of BER, while not one of the Alianas had it. They were treated exactly the same. That being said bone meal could be better than eggshells. It could be more bioavailable. I think I'll stick to using both. Maybe next year you can experiment and do one variety that has just eggshells, just bonemeal and both. So you can tell which works the best. I did use Azomite throughout the garden this year. I've used Greensand in the past (love it) and it does the same thing. It adds lots of micronutrients. The thing I hate about it is that I can't get it at a local store so have to ship it in from Maine. It is heavy so expensive to ship. It was a Bday present so not an issue this year, but I think it may be a while before I buy more. Then again it came in a huge 44 pound bag so it should last a while.

    prue, well I'll post again about them next year. For this year they are done except maybe the discussion about what seed I'll buy (or trade). I always debate about how many to plant and what varieties.

    kitsapFG, double digging is so worth the effort. It isn't like you have to double dig the same bed every year or anything. That initial dig is a lot of work though. I don't think it is really necessary for something like lettuce with a very shallow root system, but tomatoes go down deep if they can. I couldn't believe the root system on them when I pulled them up.

  11. Great looking tomatoes Daphne. And thanks for the growing info. I was planning on doing something similar to the prep that you do. I feel as though tomatoes will be my big challenge next year as my yard only gets partial sun. Oh, well. Some tomatoes are better then none I guess.

  12. Thanks for a very useful post. There's lots in there that I'll take on board for next year.