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Tomato Works

August 6, 2012

Tomatoes seem to catch a gardener’s heart.  Hardly anyone asks if you have eaten the first green bean, but tomatoes – yes, everyone wants a fresh, home-grown tomato.  That is if you like tomatoes.  If you don’t, step away from the blog right now, you might get hurt or at least irritated by all the fuss.

Even though I have my old standby tomatoes, Costoluto Genovese and Bellstar, which make up the bulk of my tomato planting.  I like to try new (to me) varieties.

New Girl (s)

Our paste/salad tomato Bellstar, pinch hits as our early tomato too, although it lacks the flavor you want in the truly first tomato kind of way.  Stupice is not all that flavorful either and no earlier in my location.  So the determinate, no muss habit of Bellstar suits us just fine.  But after reading Eliot Coleman’s rave reviews about New Girl, I decided to give it a try.  Eliot and his “new girl” do not disappoint.  It is early and delicious.  As in so early and delicious that the first red tomatoes just never did make it to the house.

As for tomato pruning, I kind of approach it with a great attitude in May and early June.  But by late June I usually adopt the theory that all the foliage is needed for photosynthesis…right?  So I planted two New Girl plants, and diligently half-arsed trained one plant to one stem, and the other to about four or five.  That’s them, number two and three in the row above.  The only difference is that I have more tomatoes on the one I didn’t hardly prune, they have ripened at the same pace and for me that’s enough reason not to prune too heavily.  Another new tomato this year is Bobcat, a determinate beefsteak type, and it’s good, big and the plant has been so stocky and healthy, it’s worth growing just for that reason.  A friend shared seeds of Japanese Black Trifele too, and it has a heavy fruit set, but no sign of ripening yet.

Greenhouse 1 aka The Jungle
L-R Kales, Ind Tomatoes, Det Tomatoes, Peppers

On the advice of my neighbor who direct markets their hydroponic tomatoes, which are delicious by the way, I top all my indeterminate tomato plants the first week of August.  Any fruit set after that time will never ripen as the days get shorter, so basically what I see now is what I get.  The 80 day tomato takes 80 days from bloom to ripe, so it’s actually futile to hope for those last few tomatoes to ripen with any degree of flavor.  I take it one step further and quit watering my tomatoes this first week of August too, that will signal the plants to get busy and ripen those tomatoes and sweeten them up a little too while they are at it.  For another perspective on why we shouldn’t try to squeak every last fruit from the vine, read this essay by Anthony Boutard, one of my favorite farm writers.


Trying new pepper varieties is fun too, some never live up to their catalog descriptions, while other surpass expectations.  Flavorburst was a replacement for Sunray our go-to yellow bell, and it’s definitely a keeper here.  So productive and reliable, it’s hard to believe.  It does require staking before fruit set though, it sets so many peppers.  Oh Darn!

I don’t use too many hot peppers, but Padron sounded good and it is, what we don’t eat up will make a good addition to salsa.  I wish I had planted more than four plants now.

Have you tried any new varieties this year in your garden?

38 Comments leave one →
  1. Tami permalink
    August 6, 2012 6:12 pm

    Great post, I am neck deep in tomatoes right now that I hope will ripen before the frost. Seeing as how we have been 100 degrees plus for the last 2 months, I am hoping for a late frost…foolish dreamer that I am. I still haven’t mastered a great “caging” techique, your tomatoes look very well supported. I tried all heritage varieties again this year, despite a poor showing last year, an Amish Paste and Fox Cherry were my best last year and they look good so far. Lovely pictures as usual…

    • August 7, 2012 5:09 am

      Tami, I don’t know how you do it with that heat! We have one day of 100F and we’re wilted 😀 I couldn’t keep my tomatoes trained without the purlin in the greenhouse, lots of twine and tomato clips. I have one row of trellised and one row of determinates that don’t require much from me. Much easier to plant the determinates, they just do their thing. Fox cherry sounds good!

  2. TBirdsMomma permalink
    August 6, 2012 6:34 pm

    Thanks for the link to the Anthony Boutard article. Lots of wonderful food for thought.

    I was just thinking this morning how I’d probably wait a couple weeks before I pinched the tops of my tomato vines (I never really know when to do it), but I’m going out to do it right now! I have lots of fruit but it’s ripening so slowly, in spite of lots of hot sun… Let’s go let’s go let’s go!! I didn’t know “80 days” meant blossom to ripe. Hoo! That changes my perspective. Good to know.

    Thanks as always — and hooray for summer!

    • August 7, 2012 5:02 am

      TBM, you’re welcome!

      We’ve been battling slugs in the tomatoes, and just waiting with bated breath for enough ripe ones to start making sauce – the cupboard is getting bare 🙂

  3. epeavey1 permalink
    August 7, 2012 3:37 am

    We have 60 tomato plants, have so many green ones still hoping they all make it. The pepper is it really hot like a jalapeno? I want to try the Pardon next year, we have too many hot ones this year. The Tabasco is so small have four of them, next year more sweet peppers. My four banana peppers have really produced this year. Ellen from Georgia

    • August 7, 2012 5:00 am

      Ellen, it’s pretty mild, once in a while we have run across a medium hot, but not too hot.

      60 plants! Wow that is a lot of work 🙂 I’ve weaned myself down to about 35 – 40 which seems about right for sauce/salsa making and lots of gorging on fresh ones 🙂

      • epeavey1 permalink
        August 8, 2012 4:08 am

        You bet 60 plants is plenty of work but that is okay I’m retired and the garden is my passion, next year will only have 40 and most will be Roma. I want more corn and squash lost most of these crops to insects and the drought not enough water. Ellen from georgia

        • August 8, 2012 5:11 am

          Ellen, it’s always amazing how many tomatoes it takes to yield a canner of sauce! A friend is starting her journey on canning tomatoes and at this point she is buying them – I have prepared her for the stupendous amount she needs – but I think she’ll be surprised how much it takes to fill a pantry! My corn is iffy, just the opposite, too cold here for much growth 😦

        • epeavey1 permalink
          August 9, 2012 5:04 am

          Your so right it takes so many tomato’s to make 12 quarts. Haven’t picked that many at one time yet, I lay them out on restaurant size sheet pans and try and get two of them full. The most I got one time was 6 quarts, we have all different kinds of tomato’s. Next year going to try just Roma and only 30 plants, we are still getting tomato’s, and so many peppers. Ellen from georgia

        • August 9, 2012 5:23 am

          Ellen, I think I might have enough finally to start making some sauce, it’ll be nice to start putting some jars back on the shelf full for a change! Some of the best tasting sauce I have made is a mix of all the last tomatoes no matter what they are. Probably not something I can duplicate each year, but it all tastes good come winter 🙂

        • epeavey1 permalink
          August 9, 2012 9:10 am

          Your so right it always taste so good during the long winter months. We are going to keep on making more sauce as long as the tomato’s keep producing, we still have plenty of empty jars. I have the peppers to do something with also any suggestions?? Ellen from Georgia

        • August 9, 2012 9:33 am

          Ellen, last year in desperation with a lot peppers about to spoil, I chopped them up, froze them on cookie sheets and put them in zip lock bags in freezer. When I wanted peppers in something I just shook a few out at a time. With the Anaheim, I just took out the seeds, and cut them in half and did the same. I don’t mind the skins and after attempting a few times to roast, peel and then freeze, I quickly disbanded that – too much work for me, to get rid of the peels. More fiber in our diet! Right!

          And speaking of the dark days, the festive bags where I mixed red, yellow and green bells were the most fun to pull out of the freezer and cook with 🙂 Easily amused I am.

        • epeavey1 permalink
          August 9, 2012 11:54 am

          Okay I’m going to try it have to do something, have plenty of bags so will try it.

        • August 9, 2012 1:01 pm


  4. Mich permalink
    August 7, 2012 4:53 am

    I have lots of tomatoes but all still very green so waiting….waiting for the 1st ripe homegrown tom to eat.
    I’m growing Cherokee Purple, Boxcar Willie both new to me and looking good, also my usual Tigerella.
    Thank goodness for glasshouses as tom’s wouldnt stand much chance of ripening here (UK) this summer!

    • August 7, 2012 5:00 am

      Mich, I hear you on the glass house thing, we wouldn’t have enough tomatoes to can without one. Tigerella sounds good!

  5. August 7, 2012 5:40 am

    We have a brand new garden this year, filled with mostly old standbys: Snow Crown cauliflower (huge!), Packman broccoli (equally huge!), Red Rhubarb chard, Detroit Dark Red beets (need processed now but will have to wait), Carnival winter squash, zucchini and yellow summer squash. We also planted some new things: Caroline raspberries, Tristar strawberries, and Brussels sprouts. For tomatoes this year, we planted a Sweet 100 cherry and a Brandywine, but the other six were unlabeled, purchased from a local greenhouse that started mixed seeds from a packet. The plants have all done great, but we’ve only had a small handful of ripe cherries so far, and while the other plants have fruit on them, they’re small and very, very green. Given we’re essentially in the same zone as you (Southwest WA), I think they may be a bust. We should have put plastic over like we’d planned, but my hubby worried they’d get too hot. Funny, the guy we lease our summer pasture from grows his tomatoes under makeshift window glass A-frame and has all kinds of ripe tomatoes. 😦 We did overplant for the size of the bed, too (true for all 6 of the 8’x4 beds…we’ll do better next summer. For now, the task is keeping up with what we have (besides the tomatoes) and trying to plan winter crops as the beds empty out.

    • August 7, 2012 7:18 am

      Amy, that sounds wonderful!! Especially for a new spot, you should be proud! A girlfriend swears by her A-frames that she inherited from her dad, they make all the difference in the world. She did build a greenhouse though, 20 x 40 and now uses those A-frames to protect her greens all winter from the rain.

      Here’s hoping for a nice and fairly dry fall!

  6. Kristin permalink
    August 7, 2012 6:11 am

    I’ve got Eva Purple Ball, Cherokee Purple, and Amish Paste. Now that our June drought is past, they seem to be doing a lot better. After reading some of Steve Solomon’s books (thanks, Nita!), I made up my own fertilizer (seed meal, kelp, limestone, and rock phosphate….yes all purchased, I know, I know!!) and my plants are lasting a lot longer than others in the area. We are prone to some blight here in Tennessee that works its way from the bottom up. The homemade fertilizer & compost along with some liquid kelp seem to have kept it at bay this year! My plants are usually half dead by now.

    I prune like you Nita…..lots early on then I sort of give up as I miss so many. My friend with a first garden on new ground doesn’t prune and her plants are LOADED. So I’m thinking pruning is more theory than anything else.

    • August 7, 2012 7:14 am

      Kristin, no worries on the purchased amendments, I bought glacial rock dust, Azomite and lots of lime this year, although some never made it to the gardens… 😦 I think you’re onto something with the fertilizer, I plant my tomatoes into straight bedding from the chicken greenhouse, the plants take right off, especially the peppers! We have peppers out the wazoo this year! I can skip the blight by cheating and planting in the greenhouse – the only way I can get enough tomatoes to can with.

      Eliot Coleman suggested thinning the tomato clusters on New Girl from 5 to 3, and that just did not happen here, I don’t care if the tomatoes are uniform, I just want them red! I’m pretty type A, but apparently not on tomato stuff 😉

      • Kristin permalink
        August 7, 2012 7:56 am

        I figure we need to get this stuff while we can!

        • August 7, 2012 8:44 am

          Kristin, I agree, the rock dust went in the new greenhouse and should last several years. Most people miss that in Solomon’s writings, but it’s true, you never know when the supply chain will lose a link 😦

  7. August 7, 2012 7:42 am

    We put up a small greenhouse this year and I put all the heirloom tomatoes out there – and they all have fusarium wilt. The ones outside are just now setting fruit. It’s been a painful learning year for me. Enjoy your tomatoes!! Maybe next year I’ll have down this gardening in the woods at 400′ up thing. Until then I’ll just continue blog stalking you.

    • August 7, 2012 8:48 am

      Annette, ooh that sucks! Some heirlooms should just be a fond walk down memory lane…I had that problem before, and finally have gotten some varieties at least that are reliable. Maybe not heirlooms but at least OP… My potatoes are sucky this year too, so don’t despair too much, no matter how much you know or how long you have been gardening, there is always a curve ball out there unfortunately 😦

      • August 8, 2012 8:38 pm

        In England a writer who has championed localalisation and has been gardening for 17 years gave up this year due to the bad weather. Like you said Matronofhusbandry gardening can throw a curve ball.

  8. August 7, 2012 8:19 am

    Everything is beautiful and your green thumb is shining through!

  9. August 7, 2012 1:50 pm

    Thanks for the shout-out for Anthony’s essays on GoodStuffNW, matron! I (obviously) love his writing, too, having been publishing his essays for several years now. Don’t know if you heard, but his book on corn, called Beautiful Corn, is coming out this September from New Society. Exciting!

  10. August 8, 2012 8:39 pm

    I let my tomatoes carry on producing until the last but that is because life wouldn’t be right without green tomato chutney and I am definitely running low and someone would like to have jars of the stuff too.

  11. August 9, 2012 7:37 am

    I planted a Roughwood Golden Plum in my often neglected lower garden. I put some rabbit fence at the base when it was small to protect it. That was the last thing I ever did for that plant and it has outshone the pruned,staked, and irrigated plants by leaps and bounds. I pull 6-8 ripe tomatoes a day from it. They are pretty tasty, I can’t complain. I think next year I’ll double my plants and do half the traditional way and half the new “neglectful” way just to see what happens.

  12. August 10, 2012 11:11 am

    Well, as far as tomatoes go this is my first season growing many of the varieties. The favorites so far are Stupice (for the set of ripening early fruit), Italian heirloom (for the size and earliness), Sakura (for a productive, but expensive, greenhouse cherry), and am eating my first Brandywine as we speak, which is excellent as usual for flavor and appearance! I pruned my tomatoes to one vine this year since they are all in the greenhouses, they all look terrible from Leaf roll (except for the expensive hybrid), which isn’t supposed to effect their productivity but looks horrible. I think i’ll prune to 2 vines next year which may help with leaf roll and hopefully i’ll get a bit more fruit. My ‘Peacevine’ plants are huge and healthy looking (already hitting the top of the 8′ greenhouse) but are not setting much fruit, so those get a thumbs down for next year.

    • August 10, 2012 2:38 pm

      Ben, I saw your new pics – they look great! I liked Peacevine but they always split and then molded too fast. Jealous of your Brandywine 😦

      • August 10, 2012 6:25 pm

        Maybe i’m not letting it ripen enough; the flavor has been underwhelming. Where did you get your peacevine seed? Mine is from high mowing. their seed has been a bit hit and miss for me this year. Two varieties of pumpkins look good but the two kinds of butternut are awful, and my bell peppers were a bit lame too. Do you get much from them?

        • August 10, 2012 7:53 pm

          Ben, I got mine from Fedco, it was delicious but most of them rotted. I’m feeling the same about Isis Candy, I read such rave reviews and it is weak, barely setting fruit, and the ripe ones are just kind of blah. I haven’t ever bought much from High Mowing just hit or miss, but not enough to tell if they are really a good supplier. It’s been an odd year, though, my potato harvest will be a bust, all my certified seed is bad, while the home grown potatoes are thriving. And I had more of my own to plant and didn’t 😦 Live and learn, maybe 😦

  13. August 14, 2012 3:08 pm

    Too bad about your potatoes, I planted my saved alongside some bought, the plants look similar, we’ll see about yields. My tomatoes have had problems with the bottoms becoming mushy before the shoulders ripen. Just read in ‘Growing for Market’ that overheating can cause that problem, especially in heirlooms. So yesterday I mudded my greenhouses in hopes that it’ll help this week with the expected hot temps! Supposed to hit 100 on friday again. Yikes.

    • August 15, 2012 9:48 am

      Ben, oh well, you win some and you lose some. It looks like the yield will be smaller, and I will be on the lookout for a different seed source. I’ve got one weird tomato that I have no idea who it is…but it is a pretty “black” thing that just loves to sunburn! It tastes OK so it will go in the saucepot, but I’m off to water in the greenhouse and then maybe stack wood where it is cool!

      Stay cool – two days of 100+ forecast – hard on Oregonians!

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