July 4 Garden Update - part 1. Indeterminate Tomatoes

Yes, I know - we are beyond July 4. But, that is the day that I took my trusty hand held audio recorder, braved the hot, humid conditions and got the scoop on everything in my garden, up close and personal. I will do this in parts - indeterminate tomatoes, released dwarf tomatoes, dwarf project works in progress, and peppers and eggplants.

In general, my indeterminate tomatoes, despite providing them with lots of room, soil, and attention, are mixed - certainly not as successful (at this point) as the dwarf plants.  Some of the struggling plants are in straw bales, which makes me suspicious of the possibility of residual herbicides in a few of them. The indeterminate tomatoes are also in the rear of the driveway and direct sun exposure gets less and less each  year. The jury is certainly still out, but aside from my mysterious and widespread bacterial spot issue on most peppers, the indeterminate tomatoes will be the main source of garden performance disappointment for summer 2017.

Let's go plant by plant.

Mexico Midget - 7 feet tall and waving in the breeze, loaded with fruit - we are harvesting daily, intensely flavored pea sized delicious red micro mini cherry tomatoes. Lower disease gets spotted and blemished, which I remove every few days, and the plant just keeps growing upward (and would be outward, but I tie it to the two stakes every 6-12 inches). Grade is an A-, nicked only for the lower early blight and/or septoria issue. Growing in a 10 gallon container.

Amethyst Cream - 5 feet tall or more - in a straw bale, so there is a 2 foot handicap - very vigorous, dense, branching and finally setting fruit; I anticipate clusters of cherry tomatoes that are ivory with the characteristic anthocyanin shoulders. I feel it is a few weeks from first ripening. It has an issue - parts of the plant wilt in the afternoon heat. I've actually chopped off the most serious offenders. Yet, watering and overnight brings it back. Based on that, it grades out as a B, with the jury out.

Not Vintage Wine - 5 feet also and sharing the bale with Amethyst Cream - this one has never wilted. A friend, Ralph, brought me a nice purple oblate fruit with green stripes that was clearly not Vintage Wine (which it was labeled). It was delicious - so I saved some seed, all of which came up regular leaf. The plant is 5 feet tall, setting lots of fruit (flower size is large). A total mystery, who knows what will result. So far, this is an A.

Egg Yolk - Another one of my hot afternoon wilting mysteries, and growing in a bale. The plant is 5 feet tall and loaded with fruit - it is a large tasty, meaty yellow cherry tomato, one of our new favorites. But that wilting plant - which way will it go? Grading out as a B- with a close watch. Is it the bale? on the cusp of Bacterial or Verticillium wilt? We shall see.

Violet Jasper - Alas, one of the first plants to just give up the ghost - though I managed to root what seemed to be a healthy cutting, which is growing in a 5 gallon container.  Seemed bedeviled with bacterial wilt early on - I picked the first set fruit, a 2 ounce round purple with green stripes. I rated the flavor as average, the texture a bit mealy.  The plant was replaced with a dwarf volunteer growing in a pot of a flower called Torenia on our deck; it was planted in mix from the dumping of last year's containers - it could be anything! It is also a good test of the quality of the straw bale, since it is sharing with the challenged Egg Yolk (see above)

Walt Swokla heart shaped family heirloom - growing in a 10 gallon pot quite happily at 7 feet tall and loaded with heart shaped tomatoes that are a few weeks away from ripening. The plant has been odd - one stem had symptoms of Fusarium wilt and was removed, and lower yellowed or spotted foliage is regularly removed, but otherwise things look good - giving it a B+ and should yield quite well.

Green Giant - this is one of the mysteries.  Growing in a 10 gallon container the plant got off to a good start, set fruit early - but blossom end rot hit hard. Some growing tips look like early signs of tomato spotted wilt. Though the 7 foot tall plant lives on, it is unclear what sort of yield, if any, I will get from it....grading as a C+ right now. It tends to be in one of the shadier areas, so this is not exactly set up for success.

Sun Gold (X2) - my main conundrum. Both plants (they share a bale) are tall, loaded with fruit, and wilting badly in the heat of the day despite adequate watering. They recover for the most part over night. The foliage is still green. Is it signs of a disease, or a bale issue?  I can't believe that I may end up failing with Sun Gold. I did root a healthy sucker and planted it into a 10 gallon pot elsewhere, so there is hope. Right now, both plants get a shaky C.

Martino's Roma - This is actually a determinate, but planted in the edge area in a Gardener Supply planter (more on that in a future blog) that I am testing (and loving). It got a late start, but is 3 feet tall and loaded with fruit that are a few weeks away from ripening.  Clear A.

Taxi - is not; it is another Martino's Roma. Mice got into my seed tray and seem to have moved Martino's seeds into the Taxi cell - this is the second plant in the planter....so we will have a LOT of Roma tomatoes to can or sauce.  A

Cherokee Chocolate (X2) - Sharing a bale and loving it. Both plants are 5 feet plus tall and setting fruit very well - plants are entirely healthy, no blossom end rot. The Cherokees just simply love to grow in my yard.  A and A

Cherokee Purple (X2) - just a repeat of everything I wrote above for Cherokee Chocolate.  Also sharing a bale - A and A

Caitlin's Lucky Stripe - the weirdest plant in the driveway, planted in a bale. I went back to 2008 for seed to try to find the original fruit type - medium oblate yellow with pink stripes. One seed germinated (and it was the last - seed is now gone). The plant exhibits the lethal mutation often seen in the Lucky Cross/Little Lucky line - the potato leaf foliage that looks normal early on ends up becoming thready. It is flowering like crazy, but probably won't set fruit. A- for health

Little Lucky - sharing a bale with Caitlin's Lucky Stripe, but also showing the troubling mid day wilt, so questioning the bale quality. Otherwise, it looks good, is setting fruit well.   B for the wilt issue

Cherokee Green - Growing in a 10 gallon pot and doing just as well as Cherokee Purple and Cherokee Chocolate - 6 feet tall, setting fruit fine, no disease issue or blossom end rot - A

Uncle Joe - Growing in a 10 gallon container. This is a family heirloom, seed of which was given to me at a presentation at an event in Leesburg, VA.  What a bizarre plant - the most wilted looking I've grown. It had a bit of a struggle with Fusarium (impacted branch removed), but is setting fruit well - they look to be a long fruited Roma type. Last year I tried this and it was crossed; I got small red hearts. Hopefully this will be the real deal - grading a B for the foliage issues.

Mama's Huge Orange - Growing in a 10 gallon container. From seed given to me by a gardening friend, this is proving to be a real struggle.  The last two years the plants died from disease without producing a tomato. This year it got off to a great start, but seems to have a serious issue - tomato spotted wilt perhaps - one early blossom end rot fruit prematurely ripened, but it was red, not orange - so I don't know what to think. There are more tomatoes on the plant, but it doesn't look healthy at all - C-

Lucky  Cross - Growing in a 10 gallon container. I am pleased with the health and fruit set on this, one of my favorite tomatoes. After some early blossom end rot, we seem to be in good shape now - a few weeks away from the first taste. A-

Anna's Kentucky Heirloom - Growing in a 10 gallon container. This is a nice large tasty pink given to me as a family heirloom by Ann Gaydos. Sad to say, it is struggling - fruit set has been an issue, then blossom end rot, now some disease issues.  Jury is out, but not a great year, I am afraid, with any harvest uncertain - C.

Lillian's Yellow Heirloom - Growing in a 10 gallon container. I've never had a struggle with this variety until this year, and I suspect a disease issue. It flowered very well early on, but dropped them all and now seems hesitant to blossom.  Another jury's out plant - C+...I really hope to get some fruit, as this is one spectacular tomato.

Abraham Brown - Growing in a 10 gallon container. This is an heirloom given to me by someone at the Pennsylvania Mother Earth News some years ago. Last year it contracted tomato spotted wilt virus early on; this year it looks great, with fine fruit set...in a few weeks I should get to taste it. A-

Brandywine - Growing in a 10 gallon container. After early blossom end rot issues, all now looks well. Since this is one of the best tomatoes I've ever eaten, fingers crossed that it continues on. So far, so good - A-

If I look at the above, 13 tomato plants rate an A or A-, 5 in the Bs, 6 get a C and one died early on. That's really better than I expected (as you can see from my somewhat pessimistic opening paragraphs). It also really speaks to how any garden disappointments at all can overwhelm the good things that are happening...we tomato growers really take things to heart.

 A view of the two main indeterminate plant areas of the driveway garden.

A view of the two main indeterminate plant areas of the driveway garden.