Monday, September 7, 2009

The Tomato Report

Yummy, cherry tomatoes!

My first attempts at growing tomatoes was, in the final analysis, quite successful. I probably harvested about 30lbs of tomatoes, and have been enjoying them for several weeks, both the indeterminate/vining variety and the determinate/bush variety.

Lessons Learned:

Stay away from Bonnie/Walmart seedlings. Not even getting into the whole blight issue, the large vining tomato seedlings I bought produced large, watery, mealy, pretty tasteless tomatoes. From three seedlings, I got lots of them, and they were quite large too, but in the end, just not much better than anything in the grocery store, and good for only sandwiches and hamburgers, not much else, which kind of defeats the purpose of trying to grow them.

Grow tomatoes from seed.
I got my seeds from Pinetree Gardens. I planted about 6 seedlings, and just got tons of beatiful, delicious, cherry tomatoes. I gave away batches to neighbors and family members and got raves. I started the seedling early, on a windowsill in peat pots, probably in mid to late February, got nearly 100% germination, and repotted them into 4-inch pots. I also cut back side shoots pretty religiously. My seedlings were quite large when I planted them around memorial day. I think next year, I will try doing the tomatoes in batches, so that I have an early batch and a later batch, to extend the harvest.

Companion planting works (I think).
Along with my tomatoes, I also planted some very stinky basil, marigold, and nasturtium. The basil supposedly keeps away certain kinds of insects because of their powerful scent, the marigolds deliver some kind of chemical to the soil which keeps away nematodes, and the nasturtium attracts aphids and other bad bugs, keeping them away from the veggies. I can certainly vouch for the aphid attracting power of the nasturium, and the stinkiness of the basil. As for the marigold, it was just nice to have some flowers, interspersed among the tomatoes. Next year, I will definitely be trying more basil (so yummy), and nasturtium (prettier than the marigolds in my opinion).

Pretty, but tasteless.

Not all Tomatoes are Alike.
Last year, I had no idea there were two main kinds of tomato plants, indeterminate, i.e. they keep growing indefinitely, until the cold kills them, and they are usually viney or sprawling, and determinate i.e. they grow to a certain size, flower, and produce one major harvest. I tried both kinds, and found that neither exactly sticks hard and fast to the rules. My determinate or bush variety did continue to flower after its first major flowering period, and the indeterminate definitely slow down quite a bit as they weather grew cooler towards the end of the summer, and since the fruits are larger, they take much longer to ripen than the smaller variety.

Oh, one last thing, determinates tend to grow smaller, more grape or cherry-like tomatoes, and are better for containers. However, I grew them in raised beds and containers, and they definitely performed much better in the raised beds than in the containers. We're talking leaps and bounds, or pounds and pounds better!

Next order of business -- on the to the veggie seed catalogs!

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