Monday, January 12

The tomato lottery

Whoever says tomato growing is easy is either deluded, skilful, lucky or just telling porkies.

We grow tomatoes in two places - a greenhouse on the plot that is usually dedicated to tomato growing and in our garden greenhouse which is home to a mixture of plants.

In 2013 our garden greenhouse crop failed completely due to blossom end rot but the plot greenhouse crop was OK. In 2014 the plants grown in the plot greenhouse struggled and those in the garden greenhouse were fine.

To be honest we were in two minds about abandoning tomato growing completely but can you hold your head up in gardening society if you admit defeat so easily? 

One decision that we did make was to grow less plants in the garden greenhouse and give more space to peppers and aubergines. So we settled for three growbags each containing three plants.
In the plot greenhouse we had five growbags one less than usual which supported 15 plants.

All started well but the plot greenhouse plants began to struggle and many of the tomatoes looked like this.

Attempts to diagnose the problem were inconclusive - poor growing medium, too hot, insufficient ventilation, a combination of some or all of these. A couple of the plants did rally and we achieved a crop of sorts but far more meagre than expected.

Comparing on the basis of yield is difficult as some fruits are naturally bigger.
The table below is an attempt to compare yield per plant but bear in mind that one large tomato may be equivalent in weight to a punnet of small ones.
We have come to the opinion that the most important consideration when choosing tomato varieties is taste. Sungold had a long cropping season, produced a good comparative yield for a small fruit bearing plant and has a good flavour and so has earned an automatic place on next year's list. We have also ordered Gardeners' Delight described as a large cherry type with good flavour.

Amish Gold (our best cropper last year has been a reliable yellow variety which, being a cross between Amish Paste and Sungold, has some of the qualities of Sungold but produces larger fruits.

New to is this year are John Baer which produces medium sized fruits. The blurb states "Renowned for its earliness, enormous crop and the very long season it enjoys. Vigorous red fruit with exceptional flavour". 

Two other new to us varieties that we are ordering are Baby Boomer which is a bush type producing cherry tomatoes said to have been "Bred expressly for its superlative flavour." and Cherry Fountain "Very vigorous variety particularly suited for large baskets and containers. Cherry red fruits crop over a very long harvesting period"

You will have noticed that we are 'into' the small tomatoes this year. Time will tell whether they live up to the catalogue blurb. 

So which varieties has everyone else chosen?



23 comments:

  1. Have you tried Maskotka? I'm a convert. I grew it for the first time last year, and only bought the plants from a local plant sale because of the problems I had with my own seedlings last year, but they're definitely on my list for this year, they really are delicious and they gave a good yield too. I'll also be growing Gardener's Delight but I'm not sure which others yet, possibly just a medium sized one.

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    1. No we haven't tried that one, Jo. I'll beat that name in mind for another time.

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  2. I support Jo in advocating Maskotka. I have grown it for several years now and it has become a firm favourite - especially with the grandchildren. This year I am aiming to reverse the disaster of my 2014 tomato crop (the contaminated compost issue, you'll recall), so I will probably grow many of the same types. Many of those were ones sent to me by Eddy Ceyssens who you probably also know via Facebook. They are big beefsteak ones in a variety of colours. Also trying some of the new varieties offered by Victoriana Nursery Gardens - some of which are allegedly blight-resistant.

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    1. I hope we all avoid compost problems this year, Mark

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  3. I had a pretty good year last year - no blossom end rot and no blight - although the plants seemed pretty slow to start with they caught up in the end. I will be growing the same again this year - Sungold, Ferline, gardeners delight and Cuor di Bue all have the best flavour in my opinion.

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    1. It's interesting that you say Ferline has a good flavour, Elaine as we considered it and read that the taste was in one description it said an interesting flavour which seemed ti be a bit of a negative statement, Maybe it wasn't meant to be.

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  4. I can't imagine you will give up on your tomatoes Sue. They will be the very last vegetable I will stop growing! So much better tasting than bought ones.
    I tend to grow tried and tested modern varieties which are more disease resistant. My choices are very boring!

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    1. Well go on, Roger - tell us what they are.

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  5. Our main will be Shirley with Alicante, Marmande or Costoluto Fiorentino and Legend in the greenhouse, with Roma, and Gardeners Delight outside. We haven't decided which cherry tomato to grow yet.
    Early maincrop Shirley to be sown tomorrow.

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    1. We haven't grown tomatoes outdoors for a few years now Gill as they always were wiped out by blight.

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  6. Tomatoes are quite addictive aren't they. All those tantalising different varieties to try, I always end up with more than I mean too. Like Jo and Mark I'm going to give Maskotka a go this year. I'm intrigued by Amish Gold as well. I wonder if it can be grown outdoors. Is it a salad tomato? Amish Paste never sounds very appetising for eating raw! I find your charts of yield very interesting. Alicante is an old favourite, easily available and fairly reliable, as tomatoes go. I grow Ferline most years as well, for its blight resistance.

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    1. I'm not sure about whether Amish Gold will grow outdoors, CJ - as I commented to Gill we don't grow outdoors any more, Maybe we will have to find a packet if Maskotka

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  7. When I could eat tomatoes, Sungold was always on the list. It is such a wonderful tomato.

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    1. We really like the mini tomatoes at the moment, Daphne, They are our current favourites.

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  8. I choose cherry tomato variety because of it's very hardy and vigorous. This variety is Finnish bred, I grow outdoors in our climate:))

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    1. We like the cherry ones too Nadezda but blight means that we don't grow them outside

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  9. I think you are too hard on yourself Sue. I would guess that much of your tomato problems have to do with the British climate. Your climate is much better than ours to grow most things but I don't think it is ideal for tomatoes. For instance broad beans are just about impossible to grow around here (it gets too hot for them) but tomatoes are the opposite. I only dream I could grow the cauliflowers and broccoli you grow.

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    1. It's only in the mast couple of years that we have had real problems, Alain and I'm suspicious of the compost supplied these days, I don;t think that it encourages a decent root system.

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  10. I agree about the compost Sue, some of it is utterly useless. I had one of the best years for toms last year, I have no idea why though....it does seem to be a bit hit and miss.....the joys of gardening eh....I just love your giant tomato!!!xxx

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  11. Sungold and Gardener's Delight at such great tomatoes, aren't they. I am sticking with the same varieties that I grew last year, except for the trendy purple 'Indigo Rose', which was a complete waste of time and space! I think going for cherry toms is a good idea, they still roast well, but they tend to be prolific croppers, and taste so very good compared to all but the most expensive ones you can buy. As to the growing pains associated with tomatoes, I had a bad year last year too, which I am pretty certain was largely down to the growing medium. Hope we both have better luck - and great crops - this year!!

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    1. I just hope that eventually they will end up producing some compost that is reliably decent, Janet. What with poor quality compost and the influx if ever more pests gardening is becoming even more of a lottery.

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  12. My gardening season starts with the arrival of garden catalogs, and guess what? They're here! Started arriving January 2. The companies always give out fee seeds with orders, and most of the time these are tomatoes -- (varieties that I never end up liking very much.)
    Ray

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    1. Hi Ray, I usually send in out big order just after the new year as I order for a few people on out site, Our freebies this year were a pack of poppy seeds and radishes, We used to get free seeds on magazines but have stopped them, Their free seeds were always tomatoes, radishes or lettuce which we already had plenty of and the trouble was that we always felt that we had to sow them.

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