Oskimo
Newly Registered
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 8:46 pm

Heirloom ideas

So I've come to the conclusion that living with early blight/septoria are an inevitable part of the organic tomato process in my garden with all the heat and humidity. Some plants seem to be doing better than others regardless of caging and pruning bottom leaves. I like to leave some sprawling and unpruned just to see what results I get. I've noticed that the volunteer bastard children of my last years' Tennessee greens and Yellow mortgage lifters sprouting up in some of the beds are small, but doing quite nicely despite all the rain.

This leads me to question: instead of planting "resistant" heirloom varieties and hoping for the best, would it be a good idea to allow these varieties to revert to a more wild landrace strain in my garden for a few seasons, and then cross breed the most prolific specimens with that of a tastier variety in order to develop an heirloom that is well suited for my growing conditions?

Has anyone tried this themselves? any input is appreciated.

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11261
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Heirloom ideas

Tomatoes breeding has been going on for years. Heirlooms are good because they come true from seed provided they are properly isolated. While you can get an improved hybrid, it is still a hybrid and when hybrids are planted or bred, they are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you will get.

Where you live, your soil type, micro climate, day length, and the prevalent pest and diseases in your area need to be taken into account when choosing your variety.

I can grow good Brandywines in Hawaii but they won't be as big because I have a short day and I have to grow them in pots off the ground because I don't know if they are nematode resistant. I also have to fungicide them preventively because they definitely do not have fungal resistance. But they do taste good.

I can grow a disease resistant tomato that is pretty and round and even nematode and heat resistant, but they don't necessarily taste good. I grew bush champion because I had TYLC virus resistance and it grew well and was prolific with fruit but even the birds did not like it.

Apple grows some good ones that may work for you. I can't grow most of the ones she has because they do not have the disease, nematode and heat resistance I need for those tomatoes to grow well for me.

I am still looking for the perfect tomato to grow.
So far the best heirloom was Brandywine even though it required special handling.
The best hybrid cherry was sungold and sunsugar. They were both very good and the plants held up against disease and heat and the birds agreed they tasted good.
I am still looking for the best slicing tomato. I have tried a lot of varieties but haven't found the perfect one yet. I still have quite a few hundred to try yet. If anyone in the south has found the perfect tomato, please clue me in. It does need to be minimum VFNT to survive in the ground. Hybrids are o.k. if they taste good. Heirlooms are ok if they have heat resistance, I just prefer to minimize the spraying. All I have discovered so far is that the best tomatoes are not pretty round and red. More likely they are lobed, green shouldered with a large blossom scar and not always red.

The birds usually tell me if they taste good or not.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11261
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Heirloom ideas

I currently have a tomato that was labeled 'beefsteak', but I think it is a Better Boy. The taste is o.k. It is meaty and disease resistant and the birds are ok with it, they take them as soon as they start to color, but not when they are green. It is productive for a larger tomato but mine are quite small maybe around 6-8 oz.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

Oskimo
Newly Registered
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 8:46 pm

Re: Heirloom ideas

That makes sense about the hybrids, since the seed genetics aren't exactly true to the parent. What I'm really looking for is a way to obtain the best variety for my conditions, through my conditions, rather than running the gauntlet trying to find the most suited "resistant" type.

I guess the best course of action would be to just pick the one variety I think tastes the best, and through selective breeding turn it into a garden heirloom. It would be cool to eventually hybridize that strain and eventually stabilize the genetics.

Anyone have experience with this?

CharlieBear
Green Thumb
Posts: 590
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:19 pm
Location: Pacific NW

Re: Heirloom ideas

yes, my father was an avid amateur breeder and I spent most of my formative years helping. Most of his friends were also breeders. It takes a very good eye, lots of time, determination and the willingness to fail. There are multiple hundreds of tomato varieties already and still we haven't licked the early blight problem (that tastes very well). First I would ask around and see if people around you or the extension have a list of the best tomato varieties for your area. Try all of them and see if they work for you. My aunt has had good success in the midwest rigging up thin plastic "roofs" over her tomato plants, but they have to be determinants or they may get too tall for the roof. Note, she grows many rows for family, friends, elderly and the farmer's market, so she had to get around the problem. Her answer would be space the plants right, prune them right, keep them off the ground, make sure they have enough calcium etc in the ground and be sure to water from below.

Oskimo
Newly Registered
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 8:46 pm

Re: Heirloom ideas

Thanks Charlie,

I've found a decent list from the University of Missouri extension website that I'm going to give a try next year. I'm not too concerned with failure as I'm growing mainly for myself and for the experience alone, so I'm willing to give breeding a shot.

As for the conventional wisdom of pruning and keeping the leaves off the ground, I've found that in my own garden it makes little difference. Of the 6 Romas I have planted, the one I purposely left unstaked and unpruned and let sprawl in the corner behind the rest of the tomatoes has been the least affected by disease. Even the leaves laying on the mulch are green and healthy. It has the least tomatoes on it, but that may well be because it's easiest for the squirrels to get to.

Is it possible that caging and staking takes away from the vigor of the plant by not allowing new root sites to form? Pruning wounds openly invite infection? Perhaps staking stresses the plant and increases susceptibility to disease?

I know proponents of "natural farming" would argue that the natural form is the perfect form, but we have strayed far from that path through planting inbred varieties to begin with.

Has anyone here tried growing tomatoes with the "do nothing" mentality?

CharlieBear
Green Thumb
Posts: 590
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:19 pm
Location: Pacific NW

Re: Heirloom ideas

romas are generally determinate tomatoes and many people don't cage or stake them. Some of the roma varieties are quite upright and compact, so you wouldn't see any real difference. Other, determinants wider and "druppier" and are caged to keep the arms from snapping off and to make watering easier. Since many Romas do not sucker and often have branches higher off the ground at the bottom than many other tomato varieties, your observations are quite reasonable. As for the roots, the best way to get a good root structure is to remove the bottom 2 leaves and plant it in the ground at that level. That is the part of the stem that will form additional roots. As for stressing the plants by staking or caging, caging no you put them on when you plant, staking if you hit the roots maybe, or jostle the plant around to much, then maybe. Staking is often done for air flow and that tends to make plants healthier, it is also done so the pollinators have easy access to the blossoms, less access, less tomatoes. It could be that the sprawling tomato was the most protected from the rains by the other plants, or was just a healthier plant to begin with. Note there are many plum tomatoes that have already been bred, as well as several good heirloom varieties. If you are only interested in plum (Roma) tomatoes try the ones that are already out there. It could also be that you don't have enough "food" for the plants or calcium that is helping to create the problem. I know several U-pick farms that have tried the natural method, but they are growing 50 acres of the same variety. They all say the yield is lower, some rot and they have to stay with disease resistant varieties, but it is the only way to handle that many tomatoes. I have done it myself many times over the years, with mixed results. I cage determinants to make it less likely I will step on a tomato, break a branch or that they will rot on the ground and still every year there are a few tomatoes that touch the ground and rot. I also noted you are using mulch, that changes everything. I also mulch to help keep disease down. Another thing to consider, early blight can sweep through an entire area hopping from field to field on some years. So, check around I could unfortunately be one of those years. Some people believe that grafted tomatoes bear better and are more disease resistant. Unless you have the skills to do it, that is simply a project for the rich. If you are serious about attempting breeding, start reading you have a lot more to learn than you might think. Good luck

Return to “Organic Gardening Forum”