arne97December 27, 2009

I live in Meadows of Dan which is in S/W Virginia, on the Blue Ridge. The elevation is 3000' and temps are about 10 degrees below those who live "under the mountain" or at the base, in Stuart which is 1345'.

Even though I am near the top of the Blue Ridge, my garden soil is a very rich alluvial because of the small year round stream on the property. There have been frosts in early May.

I want to plant as many tomato and sweet peppers as possible and would like recommendations for varieties. The soil is a very rich mix of fine gravel and organic and never needs watering as the water table is 18" below.

Previous plantings of roma and Better Boy tomatoes and sweet bell peppers have been very successful.

Suggestions appreciated.

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shamrockva(Virginia [z7A])

Hi Arne,
Nothing's any better than home grown tomatoes. We no longer start our own seed, but use a local nursery and purchase small plants to transplant into our garden. BETTER BOY variety is always in our garden. In recent years we've added BRANDYWINE (red) tomatoes, about the best tasting tomatoes we've found anywhere. They are heritage/heirloom in nature, so they don't have a lot of resistance to problems, so we just plant a few extra. They ain't pretty...not nice and round like Better Boy are, but they taste great on a sandwich....we try to plant enough to share with friends and family members, and they love 'em too. There are some Brandywine articles in this and other garden forums in case you want to read up on what other people say about 'em. Hope y'all got through the blizzard okay...we're near Richmond and got almost 15 inches of snow.......unheard of for this early in the season (it was the last day of autumn when it dumped on us).
Good luck with your tomato patch! Glad to see you're planning things out early. Good cabin fever activity this time of year!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 8:50PM
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Thanks for the suggestions:)

I had been thinking about starting the plants inside but I think I will leave it to the experts and buy seedlings.

I have had good luck with black plastic and will probably go with it again this year.

The blizzard was a mess and an ice storm followed. Power is back on so I am looking out at a snow covered garden and using my imagination.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 6:07PM
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vaplantman(8a - Newport News)

I love tomatoes. Been growing heirlooms in VA for 5 years. I just moved from Williamsburg to Newport News, but can tell you what worked well for me. The last 2 years I had great success with German Johnson, an heirloom that is apparently from Va and NC. I also grew Black from Tula, a dark tomato with a great flavor. Both were extremely productive up until frost. In addition, I grew a few Costoluto Genovese, Arkansas Traveler, and Better Boy. Without a doubt, my best were the German Johnson and Black from Tula. Try them!!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 9:04PM
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arne97 ; That area has great soil and is perfect for tomatoes. Actually for most vegetables. There is probably not a tomato available that will not work for you there. I spent 28 years in Pulaski county (Radford Area) and had the best tomatoes I ever grew anywhere, but I always envied the vegetable patches on the eastern slope. Two I really loved, I can't grow here, Mortgage Lifter and Trip-L- Crop. I really like the big pink beefsteaks.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 6:46PM
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vaplantman(8a - Newport News)

I also tried Mortgage Lifter a few years ago in Williamsburg and was a bit disappointed. I think, with hindsight, its poor production was more my fault than the plant's fault. I was still "building" my soil (newer garden plot at that time) and it began blooming at the hottest part of the summer resulting in poor fruit set. But I know people in the area who swear by it, so it must be a good tomato!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 10:23PM
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Don't get me started on tomatoes. Last year I lost every single one to blight - I had focused on specialty varieties that I started inside. I plan on trying again this year, and once again using "blue mulch" which is blue plastic. I got a few peppers and one cucumber. Dang blight. I am going to get the transplants out earlier and use fabric to cover them as that is one thing I should have done differently. The late frosts made me think I couldn't get the plants out but not this coming year!

Side note- anybody have any raw milk for sale/exchange?

    Bookmark   December 30, 2009 at 2:26PM
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arne97---anything you plant should do well. We have a small, family-owned commercial greenhouse business close to you in Bland County.

As for hybrid tomatoes, our best sellers are better boy, german johnson [low acid], big beef, roma [few seeds and juice but a lot of 'meat'] golden jubilee [yellow] and sweet 100's [salad type].

Heirloom tomato[we normally have 20-30 kinds] good sellers are hillbilly, old german, any of the brandywines, orange oxheart, reisenstrabue [sp? a grape size], pineapple, mortagage lifter.

Peppers---any type of bell [green is our biggest seller], anaheim chili, pimento, cubanelle [all 3 great flavor and our favorites], hot and sweet banana, jalapeno, etc.

If you're interested I'll give you directions if you'll email me at and put something in the subject line so I don't junk it. We also have hanging baskets, herbs, periennials, bedding plants, ferns, all type of vegetable plants, etc.

Please excuse the spelling :-)



    Bookmark   December 30, 2009 at 4:23PM
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rwk_nova(7, Northern VA)

IÂm in Northern Virginia with a lot of clay but still get good production from a lot of varieties.

Hybrids that have produced well and tasted good for me include Better Boy, Big Beef (think these are a little more blemish-free for me than Better Boy), Carmello, and Sugary (grape type).

Heirloom/Heritage types that have grown well in my garden include the various Brandywines (Sudduth Strain & OTV), Caspian Pink, Abraham Lincoln, Mule Team, Pineapple, Opalka (paste type), Ramapo, Rutgers, Bradley, Cherokee Purple, and Isis Candy (cherry bi-color).

The sweet peppers that are my mainstays are Carmen and Fat-N-Sassy which are both hybrids.

IÂve included a link below for a Virginia based seed company and IÂve also had good luck with Tomato Growers Supply Company, Sand Hill Preservation Center, Tatiana's TOMATObase, and Totally Tomatoes.

Here is a link that might be useful: Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 1:12PM
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vaplantman : Mortgage Lifter is a mountain tomato, it does not like heat at all, one of the reasons I can't grow it in Georgia. I am a William and Mary graduate so I know that Williamsburg in the summer is pretty warm.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 3:14PM
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vaplantman(8a - Newport News)

Thanks, farmerdilla. I heard it was from the hills/mountains of WV somewhere. Guess that's why it sputtered for me in Williamsburg.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 11:19PM
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Naomi Miller

I too am in the Richmond area and have a great deal of luck with Brandywines and Better Boys... as for peppers, I do great with any hot style pepper but have yet to find a good sweet green pepper for general use....they grow, produce but always small.... I have tried every kind of 'mulch' for tomatoes and just last year tried red plastic....and the difference was amazing.... I will never again plant a tomatoe without it, lol.... good luck to all of you for the upcoming Sring.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 12:23AM
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coffeehaus(7a Central VA)

Arne97...what's your USDA zone?
Maybe some of the "Mountain" series of tomatoes would be well-suited to your area. They were developed at NCSU.
Many of the varieties mentioned in other posts are excellent, but unless you plan to grow from seeds, they will be hard to find.
I vote for the following which may be available at your local garden supply:
Big Beef tomato...terrific disease resistance, productive, and good all purpose slicer.
Supersonic tomato...ditto the above.
Super San Marzano tomato for a paste/canning variety.
Sungold cherry tomato...early, extremely productive, outstanding flavor.
Gypsy All-American Selection winner. Early, productive, reliable and pretty with medium sized peppers that turn from green, to pale yellow to red. Not a bell pepper in the strictest sense, but a good sweet pepper choice. I grow it every year and it is always the first pepper to produce, and continues until the first frost with fruit production that sometimes breaks the branches of the plant.
For reference, I would look at Johnny's Selected Seeds website which offers a plethora of information about vegetables. They are based in Maine, so they offer many varieties that are well-suited to colder climes.
And, you might reconsider growing from seed. It's not hard and you have so many more choices. Check out the website for easy instructions.

Here is a link that might be useful: WinterSown

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 6:41PM
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Do some research before you buy "mountain" tomatoes; some, like Mountain Pride are "shipping" or "storage" tomatoes--they don't have the best flavor and are designed more with the large producer in mind.

As for varieties, yes, there is a HUGE selection of seeds and they're relative inexpensive. Totally Tomatoes is a good place to look. Ditto Heirloom Seeds.

We have not tried many heirloom peppers because they don't seem to sell well.



    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 9:01AM
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I am in Zone 7.

Another question, as long as I have your attention . (This wicked cold Winter weather seems to have drawn a lot of folks to the gardening pages)

Last year my garden was 100% fallow due to a VERY strange accident. A tractor trailer crashed onto my gardening shed, crushing my rototiller along with all gardening things. I spent the growing season removing the debris and by the time it was finished the season was gone.

So this year I will be tilling for the first time in 2 years.

It is a large veggie garden, comprising two plots of roughly 30'X80' each. For the last years I gardened , I used ordinary black plastic to keep the weeds down. I do not have to water as the water table is about 2' down in the beautiful loose loam due to the year round trout stream that runs along one side.

I have 6 bags of commercially processed chicken manure
which I can spread. I have not yet tested the soil this year but it usually tests a bit acid.

I am undecided whether to use ordinary black plastic or newspaper for mulch. I would guess that the newspaper would be nice because at the end of the season I could just till it in .

Because the garden was fallow for a year there will be LOTS of weed seeds ready to do their worst and those two choices of mulch are really the only ones I have considered.

What would you suggest I use this year?

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 9:05AM
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I'm not sure one would be better than the other but it would take a lot of paper to go over plots that size and you'd need 5-6 layers to really do any good. The plastic would be more convenient for me.

If you're not planting anything REAL early everywhere, I'd spray Roundup first when a lot of the weed appear and then plant and put down the mulch of choice; the Roundup would really help w/ the weeds. We do it all the time.

If you go the spray route do not get that watered-down crap they sell at Lowe's or Walmart. Go to a farm supply store and get the full strength stuff.



    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 7:31AM
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Roundup. How long does it take to break down?

    Bookmark   January 20, 2010 at 12:11PM
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Roundup does NOT stay in the soil at all. It enters the plant itself--think systemic, if you will. We spray and "have" tilled/planted after a couple of hours but it probably would be better to wait 24 hours for it to be totally absorbed into the plant. It is one of the best, most safe chemicals out there IMHO and it has been around for a long time. It IS non-selective, meaning it will pretty much kill everything it touches except woody-stemmed plants like trees.

Its main active ingredient is glyphosate and there are generic brands out there. The name brand stuff is made by Monsanto and they have come up with some new formulations we have not tried. Find some that are full strength [around 45%]--it is much cheaper in the long run.

Read all the labels!!!!!

And, it is not restricted so anyone can buy it.



    Bookmark   January 20, 2010 at 4:17PM
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