Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Monday, 27 October 2008

Tomato Trials

Windowsill ripened tomatoes - October 2008

We're expecting a frost tonight and an icy blast is forecast from the Arctic for the next few days, so I've been running around the garden today picking the last of my outdoor grown tomatoes and making sure the Dahlias are tucked up nicely for the winter.

I'm a bit surprised by my tomatoes this year. In August I'd written them off as tomato blight had well and truly set in. And yes, 7 plants were so far gone they went straight in the bin. The remaining 6 had a good dose of that treatment of last resort, Bordeaux Mixture. Three plants remained sickly looking and the other three (a good way away from the others and with much healthier foliage) soldiered on regardless. The upshot is I've had a couple of months of moderate tomato production. Enough for our daily salads until now - a much better result to last year when I managed to grow zero fruit. I've erred on the cautious side this time and picked the fruit as soon as they've started to ripen and finished the job off on the windowsill.

Even more surprising is the plants with blight have produced healthy tomatoes, even when others on the same truss have been affected. I'm wondering whether the Bordeaux Mixture has a slight systemic effect. I'd always thought it prevented blight by acting as a surface barrier to the fungus before it took hold. Was my spray timing sufficiently early to keep the plant healthy enough to produce fruit even when the fungus was attacking the plant? I see Pippa Greenwood has observed something similar with the tomatoes she's been trialling this year. The difference is hers are a new variety (Hundreds and Thousands): mine were common as muck Gardeners' Delight, not well known for its blight resistance. Pippa is speculating her new variety has some tolerance to blight, perhaps my Gardeners' Delight's developed some too? Needless to say I'm saving some seed from these battling tomatoes using the excellent guide Daughter of the Soil posted on her blog a while ago (I'm using the Quickie Bodge-Up method BTW) for a further trial of my own next year.

Like Pippa, I've also been trying a couple of varieties this year, though mine have been through the Gardeners' World magazine trial. I thought my return was going to be a null one seeing one of them was destroyed by blight before cropping and I've been picking the other variety before fully ripe. However, I had a reminder to send in my results a couple of days ago and when I re-read the questionnaire, I realised I have quite a lot to tell them after all.

Have you had any unusual results with your tomatoes this year, irrespective of whether you took part in a trial?

13 comments:

  1. If you would call not getting any tomatoes until two days ago and interesting result, then I've got interesting results.

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  2. Hi Deb - I saw your post on your tomatoes earlier today. Is summer crop failure, followed by an autumn second crop the usual thing in Texas?

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  3. I had a pretty good tomato crop this year - until the dreaded blight got my outdoor ones. Last year I had no outdoor ones at all. Then, shock horror, blight arrived in the greenhouse too - aaaaagh!!! I will persevere with outdoor tomatoes, being an optimist I expect a better summer next year.

    I trialed the GW sunflowers. Another story. 100% germination, everything going swimmingly. I move them outside one morning to start the hardening off process and bingo - every single one was eaten by teatime. Nothing else in the area just the trial sunflowers. I think the culprits were the partridge.

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  4. Hi Maggi - you're so lucky to have that magnificent greenhouse. Sadly, I've only got room for coldframes. I've given up growing outdoor tomatoes at the allotment as there's just too much blight up there. Until last year a patio crop was always a good bet. Like you, I'm looking forward to a better summer next year.

    I chose the GW tomato trial as slugs usually get to my sunflowers :(

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  5. I don't grow tomatoes on the allotment any more after two years of losing all to blight.
    I grew 7 up near the house 4 had blight though it was and slow to develop so I got a fair few fruit.
    In the greenhouse I lost 2 out of 13 to blight.
    Nowhere is safe but obviously undercover is best. I would love a hot summer next year just to see what difference (if any) this might make.

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  6. VP, No, in north Texas we usually have two crops. One in mid summer and one in the fall. I put my plants in too late this year for a mid summer yeild. I went into more detail in the comments on my blog. central and south Texas have longer growing seasons and the valley area can grow almost year round. Texas is big like that.

    Deb.

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  7. Glad you posed the question. I saved some seed from an F1 Sungold tomato, I knew they might revert to something different but I thought I would save some money. The tomatoes this year will not ripen. From about June/July these plum shaped cherry tomatoes have been tinged with green, and even now in late October they are still inedible. hmmm

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  8. I despaired of my tomatoes when I heard they had blight but I'm wondering now whether there's a different kind of blight this year - or something that looks like it but isn't.

    Mine weren't treated with anything. Two had to be destroyed but the others soldiered on, producing bits and bobs of fruit - with some being alright and some not, on the same plant, like yours.

    I wish I had thought of doing as you did and had them picked when they began to turn red, rather than waiting. I'll probably copy that next year. (Though the best thing about home grown tomotoes - almost the only point in growing them - is to eat them straight from the sunshine.)

    My remaining Gardeners Delight is still producing tomatoes - ripening happily on the plant - though they are coming on in ones and twos and threes so I'm just picking them off and eating them like sweets when I see they are ready! (First frost in the garden last night and the leaves hang limp but the remaining fruit look happy.)

    We are now picking the last of the Money Makers at Ming's allotment - quite a lot of them but very little flavour. (Not enough sun.)

    Very few of the Tomato Il Pantano Romanescos survived but the ones that did were absolutely wonderful; brilliant flavour, succulent, fleshy and large. I'll be trying them again next year and hope for more. I'd definitely recommend them.

    Verdict - not as good as I had hoped when I planted the seeds . . . better than I anticipated by mid-season, given what they looked like then . . . flavour down on the 'ordinary' varieties, rather a small crop but my one and only experiment has introduced me to a variety I now especially like - so, in that sense, it was a success.

    Esther

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  9. The frost must be rapidly enveloping the Northern Hemisphere, VP--we had our first frost this morning, too.

    My tomatoes all succumbed to blight this summer, too, but I haven't had more than one or two fresh ones since early September. Reading about your experiences, I'm beginning to wonder if I gave up on them too soon?
    I do have a couple volunteer tomatoes, though, just beginning to bloom...don't think I'll be getting any fruit from them:)

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  10. Mine were leggy and never really produced like usual. But I didn't have blight.

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  11. Apparently I'm such a novice that I didn't even know there was such a thing as tomato blight! (Maybe we don't get it in California??) My tomatoes produced all summer long, but not like last year when in constant abundance. (We think the fires affected tomatoes this year--so say all.) I have quite a goodly number on the vines, still, but mostly green. As soon as I think I can get away with it, I bring them in to ripen in the windowsill in the kitchen. I will probably have them for another two weeks tops. Grateful for every one!

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  12. Frost killed off my tomatoes in the barnyard last week (those were the ones that had already been decimated by the rain in July!), but the Riesentraube ones that I planted (very late on) next to the house are still going strong. They're talking about snow here tonight, though, so maybe not for much longer...

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  13. EG - I'm hoping for a hot summer next year too. Otherwise I might have to think about putting up some sort of cover for them to stop the fungus getting in

    Deb - well I've learnt something today! Two crops/year. Oh if only - we eat so many salads and would love to have home grown for as long as possible.

    Matron - if I remember my plant genetics, F1 offspring can be extremely variable. But then I see you read Rebsie's site too, so you probably know that already. Good to see you over here again.

    Esther - that's a very good point about it maybe being a different kind of blight. From the blight's viewpoint that would be pretty beneficial - don't kill your host, so you're more likely to survive until next time...

    Rose - I'm glad I didn't give up. I was ready to bin the entire crop, but then would have missed out on 2 months worth of tomatoes.

    Kim - it looks like tomatoes have had a bad year on both sides of the pond.

    Kathryn - I suspect California rarely gets the blight climate - it has to be both warm and humid for more than 24 hours. Though maybe the area around San Francisco could - in view of their fogs?

    Amanda - get those tomatoes in right now!

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