Second year tomato plants

pistol(z6okla)February 24, 2014

I planted some tomatoes from seed last year about this time. I grew them in 5 gallon buckets in Miracle Grow
potting soil. The variety was Applause, which I have
had very good luck with here in North West Oklahoma.
Applause is a determinate tomato. They did very well in
our hot South windy summer. I gave them some shade
in the worst heat of summer. By last fall, they looked awful
and had some sort of blight and spider mites. I was going to
toss them but they sent up some new growth from the
base of the plants so I cut off all of the dead stuff and
hosed them off with water and sprayed them with Spinosad and brought them into our sunroom for the winter. The sunroom is un-heated but has a motel type
heater/AC that comes on just enough to keep it from
freezing. It probably gets no colder than 45F. Anyway
I have two buckets with one plant each and they bloomed all winter and have tomatoes the size of golf balls on them and are still blooming like crazy. Some of the blooms are the size of half dollars. We have not had any
get ripe but isn't this pretty unusual especially for a determinate tomato? I plan to move them outside on warm days and see how many years I can keep them alive. Any Thoughts? I have an I phone and if I knew how I would post a picture of them. Really gorgeous tomato plants.

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hahahaha I don't have the answer, but I think that is just awesome. Go maters. Go! I look forward to any updates. :D

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 1:38PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi Pistol,

I think it is great that your plants are doing so well indoors, but it is not surprising.

It is not that unusual for overwintered tomatoes kept indoors in a sunroom or a very sunny window to bloom and have fruit on them all winter long. I've done it before and have had the exact same results---lots of blooms and fruit but the fruit is incredibly slow to ripen and, when it does, it doesn't have quite the same flavor as main-season tomatoes that ripen in more intense sunlight and heat. Usually winter tomatoes also don't size up as large as fruit on the same plants grown in the warm-season either. I think that's likely due to the less intense winter light and heat as well. Lots of people grow winter tomatoes, and some of them merely bring inside some container-grown tomatoes that have been pruned back, while others start new plants from cuttings taken from the plants growing in their gardens or they start new plants from seed at mid-summer for their fall/winter plants. If you go to the Tomato Forum and do a Forum Search on overwintering tomatoes, you probably would get several past threads about people's experiences with overwintered tomatoes. A Google search on the same topic will bring up lots more info from various places on the internet.

I have found it easier to overwinter determinates than indeterminates because the indeterminates just grow and grow and grow and take up ever-increasingly larger amounts of space. The fact that determinates generally reach a certain height and stop getting bigger helps make them more easy to manage in an indoor setting.

It is sort of a misconception that determinate tomatoes are a "once and done" producer. While they do set most of their fruit sort of all at one time initially, if you keep them healthy and happy, many determinates will continue to set new flushes of fruit over the course of the summer and some determinates will do that even in very hot weather, particularly some of the vigorous paste types like Heidi. At some point every summer, I can tomatoes until I cannot can any more, and Heidi keeps making more and more fruit. Eventually, I concede defeat and yank out the Heidi plants and compost them. Otherwise, the canning never stops until the first freeze arrives. Even in the dreadful summer of 2011 when the daytime highs at our house hit 115 degrees several times in August, Heidi merely slowed down fruit set but never stopped. Even tomato plants that seem sort of tired, exhausted and sick by mid-summer in an average year often can be brought back into production for fall merely by pruning them back pretty hard and then keeping them well-watered until cooler temperatures return in late summer or early autumn. Since Applause is a variety that is known to be a particularly vigorous grower and high producer, I'm not surprised to hear it is doing so well for you indoors.

In their land of origin, wild tomatoes are perennials. We tend to grow them as annuals in most of the USA because they are not cold-hardy plants. In some parts of the USA (including parts of Arizona and California) where winter temperatures rarely drop below freezing, some people keep tomato plants going for years and years in the ground just by covering them up and protecting them from the rare cold nights in those areas. Doing that requires special attention to pruning and feeding those plants to keep them growing vigorously during their main productive season. If you ever go to Disney World, check out the tomato plants they have growing there that are quite a few years old. They have allowed them to get quite large and have an elaborate trellis system for them.

If you intend to keep the same tomato plants going for years and years in containers, I'd recommend repotting them every spring, and if the roots are very crowded inside the containers and you don't want to move them up to a larger container, you probably could help them by doing some root pruning. Or, you could clone the plant for an infinite number of years merely by taking cuttings and starting new, fresh plants periodically.

Sometimes container-grown indoor tomato plants will run out of energy and lose vigor in their 2nd or 3rd year. If that happens, you'd likely get better results from fresher plants grown from cuttings.

If you enjoy growing peppers, by the way, potting them up, pruning them back and overwintering them indoors in the same way is a way to keep them going for years and years as well. Overwintered peppers will produce remarkably early crops most years since they are starting out with a much more mature root system than new plants will have.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 8:18AM
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Thanks for posting Dawn. I will try Heidi. I don't make a lot of sauce though. Are they good for eating fresh? I'll try anything to get tomatoes in the heat of summer. I googled them and found several sources. Which one do you buy them from? Any other faves for hot weather? I'll try a few peppers in containers. Boy, seeds sure are getting expensive! I wanted to grow some gold beets this year but the only place that was not sold out wanted $3.50 for 200 seeds and $4.50 to ship them.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 10:01AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I don't much care for Heidi fresh, but it is better than nothing, I suppose, in hot weather. I use them for salsa. I make tons and tons of Annie's Salsa every year because we give jars of salsa as gifts to oodles of people, including our entire VFD and Tim's coworkers.

I usually get my seeds for Heidi from whichever seed company I'm ordering from at the moment. I think the last time it was TomatoFest. I also really like the tomato seeds from Victory Seed. They always have really high germination rates and are great quality seeds.

I have some hot weather faves, but none of them are as good as the regular tomatoes that produce in milder conditions. One heat-setting hybrid that has set fruit for me even when the high temps were over 105 (up to 110-112) in August is Phoenix. I also like Merced, but its seed has been off the market for almost a decade now. Every now and then I can find a Merced plant in Texas at a nursery that either stockpiled a lot of Merced seed before the seed company dropped it, or they are saving seed and have dehybridized it.

Some of the standard varieties that have set fruit well for me in hot weather include Arkansas Traveler, Burgundy Traveler, Traveler 76, Sioux, Super Sioux, Homestead 24, Rutgers, Mortgage Lifter, Carmello, Dona, Chocolate Stripes (I remember it set fruit all summer long without ever slowing down in 2008 and 2009), Orange Minsk, Jaune Flamme', and Black & Brown Boar. I think that I got the seeds for most of those at TomatoFest, Victory Seeds and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. By the way, if you remember Dona and Carmello from decades past, I am not completely convinced the current ones are exactly the same variety those were back then, but they are close. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Early Girl. While we always plant it as an early variety, it often produces all summer long, including setting fruit in August, for me. Sometimes it starts looking kinda tired and "done" and so I'll cut it back by 50% and feed it and sit back and wait for it to cycle back into production.

One note about the effect of heat on tomato fruit set: we all know that high temperatures inhibit fruit set but I think we often do not pay enough attention to the effect of relative humidity. In a hot, dry summer when our relative humidity often bottoms out daily in the teens or lower, the tomato varieties I listed above will set fruit sometimes in July and August even when the temperatures are well over 100 degrees. They do not do the same thing in a hot wet summer when the relative humidities are normal to high. So, I think almost any tomato has the capability to set well when we have a combination of high heat/low RH values. I first began to understand the role that relative humidity played in fruit set at high temperatures in about 2003 when it was ridiculously hot (108-110) in August and the fresh new Big Boy tomato plants I had set out in early July for fall tomatoes started blooming and setting fruit. They set fruit like crazy throughout August, despite high temps over 100, and our relative humidity was bottoming out in the single digits in the afternoons. I had put six Big Boy plants in the ground and I bet every one of them produced at least 50 lbs. of tomatoes. When the first freeze was due to hit, I sent bags and bags of green tomatoes to work with Tim for one of his coworkers who wanted to use them to make and can chow-chow. I later learned that fried green tomatoes he made were the big hit of his extended family's huge family reunion. Anyhow, after that incredible performance by Big Boy, I began to understand why my dad grew it every summer without fail and always had great fruit set. It is likely the relative humidity in north Texas wasn't as low back then because those were wetter years, but it must have been low enough for him to get good fruit set because he always had tomatoes all summer long.

Since we have had so many drought years since then, I have been able to observe and note over and over that I get better fruit set in July and August in periods with low humidity than I get in identical temperatures with higher humidity.

In general I am not a fan of the tomatoes bred specifically for setting fruit in high temperatures. Whatever it is that they do to make them set fruit at high temperatures seems to destroy the flavor genes. That explains why you won't see most of the heat-setting types like Sun Master, Sun Leaper, Heat Wave, Heat Wave II, etc. on my grow lists. Yes, some of them set fruit at really high temperatures, but they are so poorly flavored that I won't waste space growing them. When those types first hit the market, I'd grow every one of them for a year or two after it was released, hoping that maybe they finally had bred a heat-setter that was worth eating. They never did and I quit trying them. Phoenix was the first new heat-setting type I'd tried in a long time, and it has decent flavor and definitely sets in high temperatures.

I agree on the seeds. There are plenty of seed companies that have lost my business because the costs per packet and the shipping costs have increased so much. Have you looked at Wilhite Seed? I don't know what they have in the beet department but I am fairly sure they always have a golden beet variety. Since they are a regional seed company based in Texas, everything I've ever purchased from them has done well for me. The amount of seed they include in each packet is a good way. They ship pretty quickly too. I'll link them below.


Here is a link that might be useful: Willhite Seed

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 11:13AM
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Wow, thanks Dawn. I might get to have gold beets this year after all. I avoided determinate plants of tomatoes most of my life since I wanted a steady supply but I have found that if I start some early I can get a lot of fruit set before it gets hot and with a few in containers I can bring them to a cooler place if need be. I have tried a few heirlooms but have had dismal luck so far either from diseases or no fruit set. I wish I had your knack. I could live on sliced tomatoes. I have never really been able to do a whole lot in the way of soil improvement so that may be part of the problem. I usually plant winter peas in fall and till them in in spring and that's about it. I guess I need to go back and read some posts about various ways of improving soil. Sad to say I don't have a lot of time to do that.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 2:58PM
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