Friday, August 1, 2008

The Growing Guide for the Little Pink House 2008, pt 1

So I wanted to make some notes on what worked this year and what had problems. As we cruise into August I don't have super high hopes for everything. I think the okra and squash will stay strong and the tomatoes will probably limp through but we'll see. We'll all do the best we can in 106ยบ heat...

Opalka, Paul Robeson, Golden Queen started from seed under lights in March
Green Zebra, Amish Paste, Ananas, Mexican Midget, large red cherries bought as plants

Opalka - Large, horn-shaped paste tomato; giant plants, very late to set fruit, have harvested two tomatoes to date! Disappointing. They tasted good, but not great. It was exceptionally meaty and there were very few seeds, as to be expected from a paste tomato. Also the Opalkas are showing the most heat and time damage - I think! - with the bottom 1/4 yellowed and drying. I'm seeing a resurgence of Blossom End Rot on these, unfortunately, and I guess it's due to the dry, dry weather. I think it's the climate here - maybe it was too hot too fast or too rainy. Did not live up to the rave reviews I read online. (Pinetree)

Paul Robeson - black-brick tomato; big plants, good fruit set with heavy, large fruit. I was surprised at how big the fruit is, actually. Baker Creek said 7-10 oz but mine have averaged on the large size with several 2 lbs+. Serious problems with cat facing and cracking but awesome taste. I planted 6 from seed and 1 of the 6 has turned out to be more pinkish-purple than the rest and resistant to cracking and cat-face. Guess which one I'm saving seeds from? I labeled them Pink Paul, which I like! These tomatoes have tasted great, just wish I had more of them. They have ceased setting fruit over the last few weeks and one looks as though it may have some form of wilt.

Golden Queen - 3-4" orangish-yellow tomatoes; big plants, great fruit set - having a bumper crop of these, actually. Mine are smaller than 3-4", more like large cherries at 2-3". They taste great and are pretty, one complaint being a rather thick skin. Not much loss of acid like you sometimes get with yellow tomatoes. Still setting fruit despite the temps! Definitely a keeper! (Also from Pinetree.)

Green Zebra - 4"-5" ripens to yellow with green zaggy stripes, green on the inside. I LOVE this tomato! So flavorful and psychedelic. They had some early troubles with BER but have gotten over it and are now doing great. Very prolific and still setting fruit even in the heat. I will definitely keep this one around. (Bought plant.)

Amish Paste - giant paste tomatoes that grow so thick they're almost heart shaped. I've pulled several of these and they're good, but not great. Not prolific for me and the plant is drying up around the base due to heat stress. No new fruit in several weeks. Not sure what the problem is this year but haven't had good luck with either of the paste varieties I tried. (Bought as plants.)

Ananas - Large, yellow striped tomatoes with a red core, up to 2 pounds...Boo. I was prepared to be delighted with these beautiful fruit and they were beautiful...but I couldn't get them up to a ripe harvest before they had cracked and became infested or rotted. So I tried a couple that weren't ripened to perfection and they weren't that good. Very thick, so would probably make good salsa roughage, but not that tasty. Again, this is probably due to my/Oklahoma's error as I hear it's a fabulous tomato. Maybe a bit delicate for our climate or needs stronger/more pesticidal attention (we're all organic chez nous). (Bought as plant.)

Mexican Midget - tiny little gum-ball tomatoes. SOOOO freaking good!!! Producing like crazy, even now. The plant has spred enormously and every day I get at least a handful or two of these guys. Very reliable and delicious - the skin isn't too thick, either. Definitely a keeper! (Bought as plant.)

Large Red Cherry - 1 oz+ cherry tomatoes labelled generically as large red cherries. They are producing well now, despite the heat, and the heat seems to have improved their flavor. At first I was not at all impressed but they've gotten better over the last few weeks. I don't have science to support me on this, but I'll bet it's something chemical. In any case, I won't devote too much early garden space to these but might consider adding some in June or very early July. (Bought as plants.)

Here are some of the troubles I've experienced with my tomatoes this year - septoria leaf spot, aphids, spider mites (though not bad, the beans have had it much worse), stinkbugs (eww), BER, and blossom drop. I'd say the single most impactful thing has been the blossom drop, which as I wrote about here, is due to environmental conditions usually. Therefore I've started researching tomato varieties that like heat (and aren't hybrids, as I like to save seeds). I'll have that out fairly soon. I'll update with the rest of the garden roll call soon, as well. The sad fact now is that the heat is taking its toll - stuff's starting to get ugly and there's not much I can do about it except write! (And make sure everything's watered, of course!)

Here's a question for all of you garden pros out there - how do you distinguish between normal heat-related dying, yellowing, drying, and browning of the bottom foliage of your tomato plants with wilts and blights? Enquiring minds want to know!


Tricia said...

Can't wait to find out the answer to your question on tomato leaf foliage. I was just wondering the same thing!

Oh, and I just joined Blog Oklahoma; didn't know it existed til I visited your site. So, thanks!

Mick said...

I'd recommend Old Virginia from Heirloom Seeds. It's grown well, survived the floods/heat/winds that are the norm around here in NE Oklahoma.
The fruit has been plentiful, good medium size (around 6 to 8oz) and has shown no sign of Blossom End Rot or splitting. Nice flavour too.

I'll be growing that one again next season for sure.

Hausfrau said...

So are you selling transplants yet?

Lewru said...

Tricia - I KNOW! I'm confused. My parents live on Grand Lake and their tomatoes look good still. They also use regular sprays/fertilizers, though, and I'm sure they used hybrids, so maybe that helps the prettiness factor.

Mick - Thank you! I read somewhere else that someone was using Old Virginia and liked it's heat tolerance. I'll look it up for next year.

Hausfrau - yeah right. But not a bad idea. Maybe soon... :)

Tara said...

For your tireless quest for knowledge and correct use of polysyllabic words, I hereby present you with this award:

Meryl said...

I did Mexican midgets for a few years and really liked them also.