Weekly Update....Tomato Story #2. Honor Bright

Recent weather:  OK, enough rain, already - especially over night rain, which wets the foliage. This was the week when the calendar and weather predicted a blossoming of tomato disease issues, and that prediction was spot on. Though not impossibly hot (tomato fruit set is going really well), we could do with less rain. The advantage to a container gardener is less watering is needed. However, time not spent watering was used removing blemished leaves.

General garden observations:  The deer decided to test the water scarecrow protection system this week - two areas of nibbling occurred...one on dwarf tomatoes, one on Niki's peppers. No nibbling was fatal, but it is still annoying. As far as the potatoes, volunteer tomatoes, and ornamental shrubs in our side garden, the deer went to town. Oh well - they were here well before us. 

Aside from a few tomato plants that are moving to the critical list due to disease, I am largely happy with where things are. More than ten of my new crosses appear to be successful. Fruit are beginning to ripen, and we are getting nibbles of the earliest maturing cherry tomatoes, meaning that seed saving has begun. Eggplant and peppers are excelling, and we will be picking our first eggplant this week. The main - and anticipated - disappointment is the progression of fungal foliage diseases up the tomato plant - some early blight, some septoria. I've still seen only one case of tomato spotted wilt, and one of fusarium wilt....so far, so good.

I have to keep reminding myself that the driveway garden is not set up for maximum yield - the grow bags for the indeterminate tomatoes are too small - and that a handful of ripe fruit for photography, taste and seed saving is the goal. But you know gardeners....is there ever enough?

 Foliage disease brought about by fungal infections - the focus of regular removal

Foliage disease brought about by fungal infections - the focus of regular removal

Current activities: Weekly feeding, daily (if needed) watering, twice weekly (at least) pruning and tying, and near daily removal of blemished foliage. I need to now add plant topping to my regular routine, as the indeterminate varieties are reaching the tops of the support poles. Harvesting, tasting, photography and seed saving is starting to join the near daily tasks. I also continue to do crosses, as various varieties produce the pollen needed.

 Garden July 4 2016

Garden July 4 2016

Livingston's Honor Bright Tomato

In 1894, growers for the Livingston Seed Company discovered a real oddity in their planting of the variety Stone (a popular medium sized red tomato at the time). One plant showed pale colored, nearly yellow foliage. The fruit passed through a unique color change pallet  - pale green, to white, then pale orange, finally to red. Claiming it was a mutation, it didn't take long for them to release it as Honor Bright in their 1897 seed catalog.

Fortunately, through various mechanisms, the variety seems to have survived so that we can grow this truly weird tomato in our gardens today. The tomato picked up an "aka" name along the way, Lutescent, and is being maintained by the USDA gene bank. Though we don't have authentic Honor Bright seeds (and therefore can't do the comparative DNA anaysis), the characteristics of Lutescent so completely mimic the description of Honor Bright that we can make an assumption that if it isn't the exact same tomato, it is pretty much spot on. Victory Seed Company is always the most reliable supplier of the historic Livingston varieties released between 1870 and the early 1920s. My friendship with company owner Mike Dunton blossomed over our parallel searches for the old Livingstons, and we collaborate often on variety research. 

 Patriotic tomatoes of the future - variegated (soon to turn red), Honor Bright (in its white phase), and Blue P20 (showing the high anthocyanin patches where the sun hits - more on that in a future blog)

Patriotic tomatoes of the future - variegated (soon to turn red), Honor Bright (in its white phase), and Blue P20 (showing the high anthocyanin patches where the sun hits - more on that in a future blog)