A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 87 – Tomato

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“Hanging at the Community Garden” – Summer 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA – I don’t know the variety… But this was the only tomato in the whole place that wasn’t showing the final stages of late blight…

A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

3 Days to Go

Allow me to start this off by saying I am working on a series of posts dedicated to tomatoes… It was originally intended to be just a single post but has blossomed into so much information I have no choice but to break it up… Consider this post a teaser…

Tomatoes are the most popular garden plant grown today… In fact… I think it is safe to assume that if you have ever grown a vegetable garden… You have grown… Or attempted to grow tomatoes… Currently “heirloom” and “grafted” varieties are trending… Heirloom varieties in particular were at one time only available from specific seed catalogs and specialty nurseries… Now I regularly see them at the big box stores… Furthermore… I find them in the discount box stores… And I have to admit… They are relatively decent plants given the fact that they are ALWAYS cared for by inexperienced people who don’t give a damn about the plant…

Which brings me to my first two points… Heirloom or Conventional?.. And the much more recent option… Own-root or grafted?..

To answer the first question there are a few misconceptions I must answer… Heirloom varieties are touted for being available in cool colors and sizes… And they come in many variations of texture and flavor… And personally I will admit… As anyone with experience in heirloom tomatoes will tell you… The flavor of a vine ripened heirloom tomato like “Cherokee Purple”… Or my absolute favorite “Brandywine” is unequalled by any of the “standard” variety tomatoes available today…

Heirloom variety seeds were often handed down through generations until they were at some point discovered by horticulturists… These seeds were collected and studied until they eventually became available to the public… Some varieties have skipped the science step and have gone from grandmas cupboard to the seed catalogs rather hastily…

There is just one little problem with many of these varieties… The most common issue you will run into is many heirloom varieties are not heavy producers… I am currently thinking of the variety “Cherokee Purple”… Although this variety grows some of the most incredible tasting tomatoes you will ever eat… It only grows a few tomatoes in a season… Albeit they are very high-quality tomatoes…

This brings me to my next question and point… Own-root or grafted?.. For this I am going to again reference my “Cherokee Purple”… The purpose of the rootstock is to make the plant more vigorous… And Honestly… This is a “non-problem”… I don’t know about you… But I don’t have a problem with my tomato plants not growing fast enough… Or vigorous enough… In my own experience the grafted varieties grow really fast… But they are often attached to heirloom varieties that do not produce a ton of fruit… So what you often end up with is an extremely green and large plant… But it will still only grow as many fruit as the same variety on its original root… Grafted varieties tend to get unruly faster than own-root plants…

So to sum that up… I am anti-grafted tomato plants… I believe they are trendy… That’s all they are now and that is all they will be… Don’t waste your money… Heirloom varieties on the other hand I am all for… I will say this… Do some research… Do not go to the nursery without an idea of what you want… It is easy to get lost when you are surrounded in varieties…

The nursery at the end of my street sells over 100 varieties of heirloom tomatoes… If you don’t know a thing about the specific nuances of a variety you will end up buying plants you don’t want… Make a list and go prepared… Otherwise… You may end up with the plants that aren’t selling well… And trust me… Out of the hundred varieties available up the street… I would say only 10 are true stars among the crowd… If that…

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“Night of the Living Tomato – Late Blight” – Summer 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA – The ugly face of late blight…

Another very serious issue associated with heirloom variety tomatoes is the lack of blight resistance in many varieties… Blight has become increasingly common in my neck of the woods… So much so in fact that last year we experienced a mortality rate of nearly 100%… Not to say we didn’t get our hands on a few here and there… But by the end of the summer almost every tomato plant I saw looked like the plant in the photograph above…

I predicted this would happen a few years ago… The problem being caused by the nursery up the street… Now… It’s important to mention that I am not saying they caused the blight… What I am saying is the availability of tomato plants in my neighborhood has meant that everyone has at least a few… A side product of the love of organic gardening is the love of composting… Again… Not really an issue… But when an inexperienced gardeners plants die of blight they often have no clue what it is… Or how to deal with the dead plant… They very often throw it in the compost heap where the disease festers for the winter… The next year the disease is already present in the yard… And as a result late blight is a guarantee…

Plants that have late blight should be pulled immediately… Once you see signs it is too late… The plants should be disposed of as opposed to composted… This should be done in bright sunlight because apparently the spores are killed by UV light… Never handle blight infected plants in the rain… Again… Bright-sunshine only…

I have so much more information… And I owe much of it to the fact that over 100 varieties are available right up the street… For those interested… The name of the place is – Garden Dreams Urban Farm and Nursery – If you happen to go please tell them I sent you…

This post has gotten out of hand… Sorry… I will start releasing my larger series closer to tomato season…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

If you want some science – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomato

These “Plant a Day Till Spring” posts are simply intended to kill time until spring when I start writing more… My source (where applicable) is Wikipedia.org… The photography is all my own… And I am adding my own information…

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… You can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com

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