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pinksand
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Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

So I’ve got to admit I’m a veggie growing failure… it’s horribly embarrassing! The only thing that has done well for me is cucumbers and squash. I think my biggest issue is not putting in the time, and the second issue is water. I don’t have a good source of water nearby so I walk back and forth with a big watering can from our rainbarrel, which is kind of a pain. The first year I tried tomatoes, I can’t remember what type I tried to grow put I had it in a very large pot with poor drainage and after massive rainfall the poor thing drowned. The next year I planted early girl in the garden instead of a pot and I got a lot of fruit, but it all had bacterial speck. The next year I decided to plant brandywine in a large pot with excellent drainage since I was worried about the bacteria in the soil. The plant did great until I went away on vacation and it never fully recovered so fruit was minimal.

This year I planted black krim in the same pot as last year and so far it has been very happy! I’m not a big tomato fan, but I’m trying to be and am eating them more than in the past so this year I’m determined to have success! I’m also considering planting another variety in the ground to just see how it goes. I really just feel so overwhelmed when picking the variety though so I’d love some help determining which to plant. I mostly like tomatoes on sandwiches and prefer a richer warm flavor… not really sure how else to describe it! I know it really comes down to personal preference, I just really walk through aisles of the plants and feel lost, having so little experience with either eating or growing them at this point, so I’d appreciate some guidance as to what has done well for you and what your favorites have been over the years.

Also, I've been mulching my veggie beds with dried grass clippings, but our new lawn mower does such a good job of mulching it in that I'm not sure if that will be available this year. I have a lot of poke weeds I was considering pulling and laying down as mulch... not sure if it's a good idea so open to suggestions!

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

Re variety: I think it is an unpopular opinion around here, but if you have had tomato disease issues, I would go with one of the modern hybrids that has a lot of disease resistance engineered in. Here's something from Bonnie Plants about their disease resistant varieties: https://bonnieplants.com/product-catego ... -tomatoes/
Here's one from ChilePlants: https://www.chileplants.com/disease-res ... atoes.aspx

Be sure you are not over-watering and not watering the leaves of your plant, both of which contribute to tomato diseases.

Re mulch: I really like using a mixed "brown" - "green" mulch, just as you balance browns and greens in your compost pile. The different textures helps keep things from packing down and when it breaks down it is a more complete soil food. So sure use your pokeweed leaves (I would pull them off the tough stem), but add something carbon heavy like fall leaves, shredded paper, straw etc. I always stockpile fall leaves when they are available. When I run out of fall leaves, I often buy a bale of straw to use in the compost pile and for mulch. You can just layer the materials. If you are really into it, you can mix them in a wheelbarrow or something to keep it fluffy.

imafan26
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

Disease resistance is a plus, but it is hard to find a tomato with good disease resistance and good flavor. Since your tomatoes did well in the pots, it might be good to test the soil. It might need tweaking. If the tomato roots were swollen and had nodules then you may have nematoes so look for a variety that is at least a VFN. Bacterial diseases are usually from rainy weather. Good sanitation is a must. I grow tomatoes in pots and potting soil since I do have nematodes and it is the only way I can get something like Brandywine to grow.

I did have tomato yellow leaf curl virus this year, so I pulled my two tomatoes and I am going to plant zucchini, cucumbers and maybe beets instead. I have to wait until this generation of whiteflies that carry the virus to disappear.
I have tried champion which is resistant to tomato yellow leaf curl virus and it was not the best tasting either.

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pinksand
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

I've seen a lot of the varieties mentioned on the lists you provided RBG at our local nursery. The interesting thing is Early Girl is the one I had the most problems with disease wise... although it's not like the other plants had much of a chance to even get diseased.

As far as watering goes, I think underwatering seems to be my issue. I water in the morning and really just try to drench the soil since I'm using a watering can (no overhead watering). I'd planted nasturtiums around the tomato plant last year and they crisped up and died when I went on vacation in July (though my mom was supposedly coming over to water). In the past, my veggie garden had a hedge of rose of sharon behind them and there were some perennials innermixed. Last fall I finally bit the bullet and took out all the RoS and this spring decided to fully commit to a veggie bed and transplanted the perennials out of there and added a bunch of fresh compost. I'm hoping these changes will help with soil composition and air circulation. Having the RoS out of there will most definitely help and give me much more space to work with sunlight wise! The RoS weren't IN the veggie bed, just behind it and dropping babies all over as well as shading the cucumber bed for part of the day. I don't think nematodes were an issue, just the bacterial spec from my observations of the plants... and lack of water leading to blossoms dying off and leaves crisping up.

Oh and Re: mulch! I don't get many leaves from the trees in our yard so I collect them from co-workers and family in the fall. I've used it all in my gardens and didn't think to save any for my veggie bed! I'll have to save a bag next year. Maybe I'll have to buy straw this year then. Do most nurseries carry it? I feel silly asking but I've never looked for it before to know if it's something they'd normally carry :oops:

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Shanghaisky
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

Re straw: Feed stores should have them!

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lakngulf
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

Down our way the Cherokee Purple offers some fantastic flavor to a tomato sandwich. It was the favorite of tomatoes I gave to folks last year. So I have tons of them planted this year. The brandywine is a good sandwich tomato (big) and the Gary O'Sena is a cross of the two, but you probably will not find it in the Bonnie Plant stands. For hybrids I like Better Boy and Fantastic. Good luck. Keep trying with those tomatoes and you will get it. Change soil in the pot every few years.

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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

Big Beef is a variety that has decent disease resistance, and great flavor. Every season I do blind (well, almost - I'm the only one that knows the varieties) tastings of all of the varieties that year, and Big Beef has beaten out many heirlooms, and has come in second or third overall, when not first. Another good thing - it is available as plants in many areas.

I spray Actinovate in the first half or so of the season, and later switch over to spraying KHCO3 solution, adding oil when it's not getting to 90° out there.

imafan26
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

I like Big Beef, it is a good size and while it is not Brandywine, it is more productive and a more maneageable plant. I actually have better luck with cherries like sungold, suncherry, and sweet 100. I did grow black cherry and the flavor was good, it just was not very productive. I grew Cherokee Purple, but mine were bland, I will try different seeds and see if it happens again. It was very productive so that was not the problem. I want to try Pruden's Purple. It says that it has a good flavor and produces better than Brandywine.

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applestar
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

Ha. I looked st imsfan;s post and thought -- wait! Wasn't I going to grow Prudens Purple this year? I had to cast my mind back to my list -- I think I have them all memorized now -- and it's not there. Bah! I'll have to put it on my next year's grow list.

I don't grow hybrids (yeah yeah I really should just so I know what I'm talking about -- maybe squeeze ONE in each year... :> ) but this year, my middle Row of tomatoes in the SFH bed is meant to be the supposedly "productive" heirloom varieties. I will report on their performance later.

I think pepperhead212 is on the right track -- spray them with something that helps to increase their immunity. I think my milk and AACT and Willow leaf/bark regimen serve similar purpose. In fact I should start right away since many of my seedlings are off to a wimpy start.

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pinksand
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

I know that Big Beef and Better Boy are available from our local nursery. I'd wanted to try Cherokee Purple but they only had a 4 pack and I'd just wanted to start with 1 at that point so I went with Black Krim. Has anyone every grown Black Krim? I'll keep an eye out for Prudens Purple too.

I'll try to get over to the nursery this week and see which of the varieties you all have mentioned looks the healthiest and go with that one ;)

Also, the sprays that you're all mentioning... you're speaking a different language I'm afraid lol. What is AACT? I've heard of milk being used to prevent powdery mildew... I'll talk to the nursery and mention Actinovate because that's the easiest to remember.

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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

AACT is activated, aerated compost tea. There's a big long thread on it near the top of the Compost Forum.

I resisted it for years because it sounded difficult and messy, but when I finally made some, I was amazed at how easy it is and how effective!

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pinksand
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

Thanks RBG! It's funny, of course right after I typed my response I came across another thread where it was mentioned and defined :)

I had the same thought... difficult and messy... but maybe I'll give it a try though if you say it's worth it! I'll go read the thread in the compost section. So I would have thought it was poured into the soil, but it sounds like it gets sprayed on the leaves? Applestar, did you mean you mix milk, AACT, and leaves from a willow tree and spray it or are those all separate treatments? lol sorry if I sound like an idiot :oops:

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applestar
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

I use them in rotation -- you could probably spray every week with a different mix, but I'm not so dedicated or regimented, so I just remember to spray with the next one next time. Willow leaf/bark could probably be used in combo with milk or AACT and I do that sometimes, too.

Now I don't remember exactly and may have this wrong but vaguely remembered reasoning is -- Willow bark strips off branches easily and is kind of like aspirin. There was some scientific study that said it helps support plant immune function. Willow branch-tip leaves encourage growth -- some kind of plant growth hormones.

:oops: I admit I can't remember which is which most of the time, so I just use both :oops: thinking they can't hurt.

AACT as spray need to be finely strained and then diluted to as weakly as 10%.

When using foliage spray, fine/micro mist is supposed to be easier for the plants to take up as nutrient, but my purpose is mostly to cover the outer surface so I sometimes just use the hose-end mix-n-spray for trees and shrubs using the fan spray nozzle. I think my single-function sprayer dilutes to 1:8.

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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

Regarding the question as to which varieties of tomatoes might be preferred, I've been growing tomatoes for about 50 years, 25 of those years on the same back yard 40 by 40 ft square plot which is the only space available to me for vegetable gardening. I have enhanced the soil with composted manure and organic matter to the point where there are numerous earthworms and the soil quality is excellent. Sadly, I have never had any success with any variety of heirloom tomato. I've tried numerous times and pay particular attention to maintain adequate moisture (at least one inch per week during the entire growing season) and have used various commercial sprays that claim to help prevent diseases that attack tomato plants. I've done everything the various agricultural research services recommend for tomato disease prevention and none of them have worked for me. Ultimately I've chosen to plant only highly disease-resistant hybrid varieties. Celebrity and Big Beef varieties have proven to be the most successful tomatoes in my garden. Celebrity is a bush-type semi-vine determinate tomato that can be grown in a tomato cage and Big Beef is an Indeterminate or climbing/vine type and must be staked or trellised. Celebrity produces mid-sized 8 oz fruits over a period of about 6 weeks and the Big Beef produces large 12 oz or larger fruit over a longer yield season. Admittedly the flavor of these hybrid tomatoes is not as striking as many of the heirloom plants but they do live and produce for the entire season which is a big plus. All of my efforts at growing heirlooms has ended with the plant withering and dying before reaching full production. Wishing you all the best of success with your tomatoes this year.

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pinksand
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

Dandre, you make me feel so much less incompetent.

I think what frustrates me the most is that I've watched a lot of my friends with absolutely no gardening experience have their tomatoes absolutely take off like crazy, while mine wither away for this reason or that. I've asked them what varieties they've had success with and they didn't even know what they'd bought :(

I probably have the space for another indeterminate but also have a large square tomato cage my mom gave me so maybe I'll give Celebrity a try.

I appreciate your stories and feedback!

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pinksand
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

I just wanted to update you all that I ended up with Big Beef because the variety at my local nursery was pretty picked over by that point and that's the only one recommended above that was available... so far I'm soooooo glad I went with this one!

Black krim has had 2 huge green tomatoes on it for probably about a month now and I'm still waiting on them to show any sign of ripenning. There were a lot more blossoms on the plant but so far no visible fruit besides the 2... which has been disappointing.

Big Beef on the other hand has one nearly ripe tomato, a couple green ones, and tons of healthy looking babies coming! The plant itself looks healthier and there are more blooms forming. I'm so glad I purchased a second plant. So far so good so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

I wonder if I've mostly gone wrong by just selecting finicky heirloom varieties (with the exception of Early Girl)?

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applestar
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

Yeah, there are MANY heirloom varieties, but the popular/widely known ones -- and ones that are readily available as plants at big box stores and regular nurseries ... especially the larger fruited ones -- are often later maturing and stingy with production. They like longer growing season of warmth with steady, really warm nights thrown in to develop their rich flavors -- the kind that we don't get very often around here (thank goodness).

I've been down that road before, too, and now have identified some favorites that I would grow for the fabulous fruits even if the plants only give up a handful of preciousness. But I'm also finding some powerhouses that pump out quality fruits.

First step is determining the kind of tomato flavors you and your family like, then research and try growing different ones that have those flavors. It's tough because ones that perform well in one area may not do as well in another, but you do need to exercise patience and don't give up on a variety from its performance in just one season. Save seeds and try again.

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pinksand
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

My Big Beef is still producing! Is that normal with the nights being as cold as they are now? Will the flavor not be able to develop fully? I brought in a few that were nearly ripe the other day because they were anticipating frost over night. They've ripened up nicely inside but I haven't eaten them yet.

I have to say, I'm completely renewed by this year's tomato experience! Besides some nasty stinkbugs eating my heirloom variety, it's been a good year. I think next year I'll do the same thing, one heirloom and a big beef, but maybe go with cherokee purple instead of black krim.

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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

PinkSand, I appreciate your updates - like reposting the pictures of your mailbox planting :wink: .

I've grown Big Beef since the '90's. I notice no real difference between vine-ripened and those picked just as the color breaks. If they have that whitish look, that tomatoes usually have just before they turn red, they will be okay at the table in a week or so.

Thessaloniki is my longest keeper. It doesn't have a very strong flavor if it comes straight from the vine but any tomato comes up a little short if they are picked too green. Any that can last week after week won't taste much like a tomato even if they look okay after all that time off the plant.

Some people hang the entire plant with its green fruit upside down, somewhere it won't freeze. I'm curious if that helps with the flavor. They do lose flavor on the vine in the garden once temperatures drop near freezing and won't warm much during the day.

Steve

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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

Pinksand, I had written the following before I found page 2 of the thread and understood that you had followed up on your May posts. I'll just put this up anyway before reading page 2 - hate to delete :)

How did your tomatoes fare this year? You disappeared from the thread in May. You were trying Black Krim? We grew it one year; liked the (low acid?) flavour fine but many of them were cat-faced and ugly which we didn't like.

We grow in ~16" high raised beds and the only serious troubles we've had were deer once, before we fenced, and blight once, before we put a poly roof over the bed to keep the foliage dry; and only water at ground level. By the way our tomats were in the same bed for at least 10 years and it never seemed to matter. To-matter, is that a pun?

Summer 2017 was hot and extremely dry. Most of our tomatoes suffered unusual amounts of cracking and leaf curl; and most ripened to a less-red, more pink color than normally. Flavour & yield seemed unaffected.

We lean towards sweet or low-acid types although my wife quite likes tangy ones. (But I'm the grower :)) Varieties we've grown include - all heirloom or open pollinated (we save seed), & all better tasting than anything at the grocer's:

Two determinate "cage" tomatoes (the rest are all vines)
- Latah. Determinate, early. First tomatoes every year. Smallish, taste good.
- Silvery Fir Tree. A low bush novelty with feathery foliage. Midsize fruit with good taste.

And the vines. All grow 5 feet tall and beyond:
- Ailsa Craig. Mid size, very tasty.
- Longkeeper. Larger mid size, good flavour. Stored indoors we can still be eating these in January.
- Sweetie. Small cherry, v. sweet. Prolific.
- Camp Joy, AKA CHadwick's Cherry. Golfball+ size sweet cherry.
- Principe Borghese. Paste tomato for sauce etc.

New to us this year: Both tended to crack, maybe due to the weather.
- Cherokee Purple. Large fruits, good flavor.
- Feuerwerk (Not Firework, a different variety?) Large fruits, striped appearance, good flavor.

Some we've tried but won't repeat:
- Indigo Rose. Extremely slow to mature/ripen.
- Paul Robeson. Prone to ugly shapes & cat-facing
- Black Krim. As above but more so. (We did like the taste of both these dark tomatoes)
- Gray's sweet cherry. Nice fruit but an uncontrollable, sprawling multi-armed thug! Needs a bed all to itself.

OH, and our single hybrid
- Sungold. Bright yellow small cherry; exceptionally sweet.

Brandywine is much touted but we tried it once and got big pink insipid fruit. Maybe we got mislabelled seed, or maybe it doesn't like conditions here.

How did your tomato year go?

imafan26
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

Brandywine has many cultivars while pink brandywine has better flavor it is not a great producer. Brandywine OTV (red) gave more fruit and the flavor was almost as good. I have noticed that when the tomatoes get larger the fruit numbers decline. It is doubly annoying since the birds like them too and got most of my early tomatoes even through netting and bagging.

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pinksand
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Re: Tomato Failure - THIS IS MY YEAR!

Thanks for all your responses! Vanisle_BC, that was exactly my experience with the Black Krim this year... the fruit were very ugly in shape. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in that experience. I noticed I have about 4 more Krim's coming but one of them has already been dug into my some bug, most likely the stink bugs again but I couldn't find the culprit.

My neighbors grew Cherokee purples this year and I got to help myself while they were out of town. The flavor was exactly what I'm looking for so I'm definitely hoping to have good luck with them myself next year! I really like the flavor of the Big Beef, but it's just not quite as delicious.

I measured my Big Beef this weekend and the plant has branches reaching 10' long/tall. It's out of control, but I love it!!!



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