Tomato varieties for the high tunnel

TomatoesAndThings(7A)January 5, 2014

Getting ready to start some tomatoes for the high tunnel and it seems like their are so many options out there. Johnny's has many varieties they prefer for the high tunnels but the seed price is almost twice as much as their other (field) tomatoes. Has anyone tried these? What are your favorite varieties? Right now I am looking at Primo Red, Red Deuce, Estiva, Mountain Merritt, BHN 585 and Sun Gold (Cherry). Also considering Polbig and Oregon spring because they have early maturity dates. Does anyone have experience with these two varieties?

This post was edited by TomatoesAndThings on Sun, Jan 5, 14 at 21:28

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cole_robbie(6)

Last year was my first year with high tunnel tomatoes and I tried a lot of varieties. Big Beef was my best red. Celebrity is easy to grow but tastes awful. Taxi as a yellow and Orange Blossom from Johnny's were my biggest successes overall. Territorial sells a compact-growing saladette called Northern Delight that produces very heavily and early. They also sell Terrenzo, which is my favorite early cherry; it grows in a bush like a hedge.

I'm sure jrslick will chime in. He told me that the BHN-871 from Johnny's is superior to Orange Blossom, so I am going to try it this year. He has also said he grows Polbig and Cherokee Purple in his high tunnels.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 11:42PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Where are you located? What are your customers wants? What sells best at your markets? I ask these questions as it would influence what I plant.

Of the varieties you have listed I have grown the following Estiva, Sungold and Polbig. I have also grown many of the BHN varieties.

Here are my thoughts:
Estiva: Not a huge variety, but they do crank out lots of perfect tennis ball down to larger than golf ball sized sweet tomatoes. They are the very productive, but if your customers want large slicing tomatoes, this isn't your variety. Early in the season, they are larger, as the season goes along I usually end up putting 4 to 5 in a pint basket. Customers are very happy.

Polbig: This is a very productive, but very short tomato. If you don't want to bend over or crawl on your knees, this isn't for you. They only grow about 3 feet tall. If you want a very productive, large slicing, and tasty tomato, this is your variety.

Here are some we grew.

Sungold: Awesome cherry, grow it you will be happy. They do split if left on the vine too long. Pick them a little early and they will be just fine.

BHN: I am very happy with every BHN variety I have planted. I recommend all of them.

Another variety I would highly recommend is Florida 91. It is a heat set variety. I also have very good luck with Big Beef.

Good Luck.

Jay

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 12:34AM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Cole_Robbie beat me to the punch.

I agree, Cherokee Purple is a good variety (if heirlooms sell for you). They don't produce well in the heat, that is their only problem.

Taxi is a really good variety, but they are small. BHN 871 is great too!

Jay

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 12:40AM
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boulderbelt(5/6)

I find Black from Krim to be a better black/Purple tomato than cherokee, better flavor, better looking fruit, almost no cracking and far better yield. Though for me CP have always been losers. Even last year, a bumper crop year they only did so, so

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 3:39AM
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randy41_1

i've grown oregon spring. i may drop it this year. after growing the bhn varieties everything else seems unproductive. but oregon spring is very flavorful, is pretty big, and sells very well due to its earlyness.
as far as black tomatoes go, i grow cp, bk, and carbon. all of them produce fruit in bunches it seems and the different varieties give me a spread of maturities. at the market i tell customers that they are buying one of those 3 varieties and i can't tell the difference between them.
i'm determined not to grow any tomatoes outside this year. my farm is a late blight magnet.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 5:33AM
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TomatoesAndThings(7A)

Located in Maryland. Last year I put Tomato plants outside on April 10 with one layer of Agribon and they did really well but I still didn't really beat anyone. This year I have a 24x100 high tunnel and plan to fill it with tomatoes. I already have a good customer base and no one else at the market grows in high tunnels. The market is producer only so normally there aren't any tomatoes for sale at the market until the field ones come on around 7/4. Most of the customers prefer the red slicing tomatoes, large or small. I've grown Estiva for a few years and like the consistency but the indeterminate varieties get pretty tall and I'm concerned that may become an issue in the high tunnel unless I prune. Also, I'm leaning towards determinates because I'm thinking they will produce more tomatoes than the indeterminates in those first 3-4 weeks when no one else has tomatoes. But then again there might not be that big of a difference in production during the first few weeks. Where do you get Florida 91 seed? I've heard good things about that variety.

Thanks for all the input it's a big help.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 9:03PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I like your thinking! If you are planning to use your high tunnel in the fall and winter, then go with the determinates. The weird thing about high tunnels and determinates, is that they really don't stop producing! I get a big harvest from late June- July then those same tomatoes produce another big crop in late August-September (if it doesn't get too hot).

I usually aim to plant around the 15 to 20th of March, hopefully start harvesting around June 15th (or before). I plant double rows in black plastic mulch the plants are spaced 2 feet apart in the row and 18 to 24 inches between rows. You get more plants in the same space doing this. It works great!

I plant a variety of maturity dates so I am not slammed with more tomatoes than I can sell. I get my Florida 91 seeds from Tomato growers.

If no one has tomatoes super early, be prepared for questions and how you have them so early. In my early years, people accused me of lying. I invited them to come and look, but no one ever did. Now they know and they love them.

Jay

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 10:39PM
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randy41_1

i find that even with growing tomatoes in a tunnel the temperatures in May have a lot of control over when the tomatoes are ripe. 2013 we had a cold may and i didn't have tomatoes until the end of june. 2012 was a warm may and i had them a couple of weeks earlier. early tomatoes not only bring better prices and sell easily but they also establish a customer base that looks for your tomatoes even when everyone has them.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 5:46AM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Randy,

Our first tomatoes in 2013 were the latest we have ever had them, we still had frost/freezing weather as late as May 15th! The year prior, I could have plant tomatoes outside in mid March and not had a problem. I actually harvested cherry tomatoes at the end of May in 2012.

In a cold spring, I try to keep the temperature up in the high tunnel by minimally venting.

All early produce helps build your customer base. Then it helps keep your customers all summer. This has helped me build my business.

Jay

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 10:12PM
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TomatoesAndThings(7A)

Jay, How is the quality of the Polbigs? They definitely seem like an interesting variety. Do you find they produce ten days earlier than the 70 day varieties or are they pretty close? A ten day difference is pretty big. How wide is the width of your black plastic?

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 10:36PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

The Polbigs are very nice. There is one problem with them, that sometimes if it is a very cold spring, they tend to come to a point on the blossom end. This is a physiological issue. The tomatoes taste just fine. Now here is the kicker, last spring it was very cool/cold and I had very little of this. The year prior I had more. Now if you are selling at Farmers Markets, this isn't a big deal. Actually, customers asked for the "pointed" tomatoes later in the summer. However, I know a producer who wholesales and retails and didn't like this because they were harder to pack out.

I don't have any hard data on DTM, but they are the earliest in my tunnel every year I have planted them.

I put down 3 foot wide plastic mulch, in the tunnels I lay it by hand. Outside I have built my own mulch layer.

Jay

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 8:59AM
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kelise_m

I've only had the high tunnel for one season, but Cherokee Purple is by far the best all around seller for me. And it is my personal favorite! It had twice the marketable tomatoes for me in the tunnel versus outside (cool summers here) It is important to consider the seed source for a heritage variety like CP. You are definitely getting different land races from different seed companies. It's silly that I don't save my own seed...gotta get on that!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 2:46PM
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TomatoesAndThings(7A)

Thanks for the great info. I'm definitely going to try Polbig. Still not sure about the Cherokee Purple. I tried five plants last year and they were just okay but I could have done a much better job growing them. I was putting more effort into the reds. I'm sure Cherokee Purple would sell really well.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 7:52PM
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Matt139

My boss grows the Trust, Geronimo and Mountain magic in his greenhouses and they perform like champs, they seem to do pretty well if you are looking for some ind. types. He likes trust the best for flavor, and Geronimo for disease resistance as far as slicers go.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 7:05PM
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barrie2m_

Most of you are throwing out names of mixed det. and Indt. varieties like they go well together. The one thing I'd suggest is to stick to one type or the other. I use stringline support and prefer only Indt varieties inside my tunnels. I plant oner 200 mixed Indt varieties; most plants are hybrids, most number of different varieties are heirlooms.
I like Big Beef as my wookhorse variety and wish I had not bought so many expensive Trust seeds 7 years ago. I like Geronimo and this year Caimen stood out with even larger fruit than many others. You might also try First Prize, Country Taste, Tough Boy and Rebelski as well as a number of better pink beafsteaks like Brandy Boy or BrandyMaster. This year my biggest moneymakers were my cherry/grape types. Mixem-up and you can't go wrong. I've picked them non-stop from mid-May thru the end of Nov.-thus the recommendation to stay with Indeterminate varieties in a tunnel.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:08PM
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barrie2m_

If you did want to plant Det. varieties I did want to relate that I preferred BHN-964 to BHN-589 this year for size and productivity. But I also like many of the Florida series: 47, 91, 7514 are exceptional. Rocky Top is a consistant yielder as is Mt Glory. I wasn't overly impressed with Mt Merit this year (1st time). I prefer Defiant as a LB resistant type so far. Surprisingly, Celebrity plants did very well this year for me.
You can't worry too much faith into DTM values as often later DTM plants often are producing very soon after the mid DTM rated varieties. If you really want to see a difference you just need to utilize the greenhouse.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 11:21AM
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randy41_1

i attended a webinar on late blight recently and mountain merit was the best performer in the studies they did as far as late blight is concerned. i wasn't going to grow any tomatoes outside because of persistent late blight here but i'm going to try 100 mountain merits this year.
the reason i plant both determinate and non-determinate varieties is for exactly that reason...variety.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 2:31PM
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barrie2m_

Could be that Mt Merit has better LB resistance but there are many varieties available now with 2 gene expression of LB resistance, usually PH2 & PH3. I ddn't even have issues with Plum Regal this year even though it only has 1 gene expression but I did notice leaf disease issues on the Mt Merit that I believed to be Early Blight. Defiant and Mt Magic didn't show any leaf problems and I suspect that the reason is that the later ones have some EB resistance that Mt Merit lacks.

But Mt Merit isn't really that large a tomato( my reality guess is 6-8 oz) and flavor is marginal. In a market where larger tomatoes can command a higher price I still am looking for the ideal variety- resistant to everything with a consistant 12 oz fruit. Also wouldn't hurt if they had a good flavor.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 11:28AM
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boulderbelt(5/6)

I found with my outdoor maters that OxyDate knocked back blights quite well. We had a wet year and very little blight issues, a first for us as usually our maters are dead by late September

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 5:33AM
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TomatoesAndThings(7A)

I have some experience with mt merit and the plants hold up exceptionally well and have good resistance to late blight. The fruit is not huge but is still a good size and very very consistent. They fit nicely in quart containers.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 4:32PM
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