When it comes to tomatoes, the quintessential home garden vegetable, there is always a lot to say. To finish off the month of February, I decided to post my tomato review all in one go, instead of breaking it up into a couple of posts like I normally do...so I suggest you get comfortable ;)
As with a lot of veg I grew this year, we had an ok tomato year, but not phenomenal. This bothered me quite a bit as we had some prime tomato growing weather this past summer & I feel as if I failed to take advantage of it.
Mid-August tomato harvest
The tomatoes in 2015 were behind right from the start. They should have been sown in the 2nd week of April, but that happened to be the week before our vacation. Since I didn’t want to start the seeds & then leave them to fend for themselves while we were away, I decided to delay sowing until we got back. In the end, they were sown over 3 weeks later than in the prior year which made a huge difference:
|Tomatoes mid-July 2015 (seeds started April 29th)|
|Tomato mid-July 2014 (seeds started April 4th)|
The other change this past season was in how I laid out the beds. Last year, I planted a double row of tomatoes down one side of the bed with a double row of peppers along the other side. This time round, I decided to try 3 rows of tomatoes in each bed spaced 24” apart with 16" between rows. This layout didn’t work out very well. Trellising the plants in the middle row was a huge pain and I also think they ended up being too shaded.
And lastly, blight reared it’s ugly head again this year. I started seeing telltale signs on the lower leaves of many plants at the end of June and by August it was spreading throughout the beds. Some varieties were affected more than others, with Costoluto Genovese & Yellow Pear being the worst of the bunch.
I did keep on top of picking blightly leaves and fruit in an effort to extend the harvest, which continued until October 15th. Of course, these late pickings were also due to our incredibly mild fall. Our first frost date is October 3rd and, even though they say this means that there is a 50% chance that we will have a frost by that date, I would peg that number at closer to 80% as we almost always seem to have a hard frost by then.
Varieties grown: Yellow Pear, Sungold, Chadwick Cherry, Aunt Ruby's Yellow Cherry
This is Yellow Pear's third year in the garden & once again it developed Septoria Leaf Spot. My initial suspicion was that the seeds were to blame, so I purchased them from a different supplier this time round. Since the plants were once again infected, I'm now convinced that it's not the seed but the variety - it may simply be particularly susceptible to it.
|Aunt Ruby's Yellow Cherry|
This past year, I reduced the number of cherry tomato plants to 6 and I think that the overall quantity we harvested was just right (even though it was far less than it should have been, what with the late sowing, bad bed layout & inadequate irrigation). We harvested plenty of cherry tomatoes for fresh eating as well as for roasting. If I correct the issues I just mentioned, I should be able to reduce the number of cherry tomato plants even further & still harvest all that we need...in theory, anyhow.
Varieties grown: Bloody Butcher, Mountain Magic, Taxi
This is my 2nd year growing Bloody Butcher and it is here to stay for one very good reason - it's always one of the first to ripen in the garden. Anyone who has grown tomatoes knows how difficult it is to wait for the first ones to ripen. Bloody Butcher shaves a couple of weeks off of that wait without having to struggle with an extra early sowing. This year, it was neck and neck with Sungold, but you can't make a salad from one or two cherry tomatoes now, can you? And yes, it does taste great, in case you were wondering :)
I loved all 3 varieties I grew...each made a distinct & valuable contribution to the tomato patch. I did plan on including one more variety last season - Orange Blossom - but it never made it into the garden as I had germination issues, so I'll be giving that one another go this year.
Varieties grown: Speckled Roman, Amish Paste, Opalka, Juliet
Speckled Roman was the only variety of paste tomato I grew back in 2014. It made a comeback because it is tasty, meaty and the tomatoes themselves are not only large but beautiful with those yellow striations.
|First harvest of Opalka's - Every single tomato had BER|
Harvested just as they are starting to change colour
in order to keep ahead of blight
When it came to BER, I’m fairly certain that lack of adequate irrigation had a lot to do with it. Particularly telling in this respect was that the one variety I also grew in 2014 – Speckled Roman – had no BER whatsoever that year whereas this year, several of the fruits developed it.
I had planned to do tomato specific canning, to see if there was a big difference in taste between the various paste varieties, but that didn’t end up materializing and the majority of them were frozen instead. Hopefully I'll get to do that this coming season.
Varieties: Brandywine, Costoluto Genovese
What can I say about Brandywine - it's one of the best tasting tomatoes in my garden. 'Nuff said.
I ended up replacing one of the missing plants with an extra Brandywine seedling for a total of five plants in this category. I could probably cut this down to 4 and still have enough for our needs, but I view that as both a good and bad thing - good in that it frees up bed space for other types; bad because that limits me in terms of the number of different slicer varieties I can try.
Overall Impressions and Plan for Next Year
Considering the late seeding, inadequate irrigation, blight & bed layout fail, I’m not too disappointed with my tomato harvests this year.
One of my goals is to find the right balance between all of the different types. I’m not there yet, but this year was definitely a step in the right direction compared to last year (when I was inundated with cherry & salad tomatoes, but only had 2 paste tomato plants).
I still had more than enough to put up for the winter, which is my primary concern. Even though I didn’t get around to canning, excess tomatoes were frozen, some whole and some skinned, seeded & chopped in individual bags. In fact, I may just have enough to take us through until the next harvest.
This coming season, I will be going back to what I did in 2014 – sowing seeds in early April (although I will add that extra week & sow in the 2nd instead of the 1st week of the month) & transplanting them in 2 rows down one side of the bed. I’m undecided as to what I will be growing down the other side of the bed, although I do know it won’t be peppers – they didn’t grow that well when paired with the tomatoes. I’m also hoping that with an automated drip system, my issues with blossom end rot will be minimized this coming year.
As for varieties, I’ve decided to get rid of Chadwick Cherry. In my quest to try out different varieties, it’s awkward size is enough of an excuse to drop it in lieu of something new. I'll also set aside the Yellow Pear seeds for now - it would be nice to have a year or two without Septoria Leaf Spot.
I’ll be growing all of the other varieties and adding a few more which will require a bit of juggling in terms of how many of each variety I grow. I think that 24 tomato plants is more than enough for our needs so that will remain the same, but I will be doing some fine tuning when it comes to the proportion of each type. And like peppers, I'll probably limit most varieties to 1 or 2 plants.
This marks the end of my 2015 season reviews. And just because you can never have too many beautiful tomato photos, I’ll leave you with one of my favourites from the past season:
|THAT'S what I call summer goodness!|