Which heirloom tomatoes grow best in East TX?

greenthumbnick(8b)November 2, 2008

hey guys,

Which heirloom tomatoes grow best in east TX (Longview, TX)? Im thinking of growing some next year.

And can you give me some advantages and disadvantages of heirlooms vs. hybrid tomatoes.

Do heirlooms taste better and/or produce better than hybrids?

Any info on heirlooms would be appreciated.



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suze9(z8b Bastrop Co., TX)

Which heirloom tomatoes grow best in east TX (Longview, TX)? Im thinking of growing some next year.

Timely planting is generally the most important factor in success with tomatoes here, moreso than variety selection. Planting too late is by far the most common mistake new TX tomato gardeners tend to make. In a Texas 8b, this means that you'll want to have good sized transplants (8-12 inches tall, not tiny ones from box store six packs) planted out no later than the first or second week of March.

You may have to protect a couple of times, but the consequences of waiting until late March or April is that many years fruit set might be poor because it gets hot so fast. Heat denatures (destroys) pollen, meaning day temps in the 90's and night temps in the 70's will usually severely inhibit fruit set.

Are you willing to start from seed to get the varieties you want? Otherwise, you'll be fairly limited in selection unless you happen to have a great nursery in your area. A good seed starting time for a TX 8b is early Jan. I start inside under shop lights (40 watt floro tubes kept very close to the plants). On the tomato growing forum, there is a seed starting FAQ that you might find helpful.

General variety recommendations might include:

Any cherry type - Sungold, Sweet 100, Black Cherry, etc. Cherry and small fruited types tend to set better in the heat, and are more forgiving of less than optimal growing conditions.
Indian Stripe - similar to Cherokee Purple, but seems to be more productive for me.
Brandy Boy - hybrid, nice pink slicer.
Big Beef - med red hybrid, easy to grow, productive, good taste.
Arkansas Traveler - good tasting pink, med size.
Break O'Day - a nice med red, plants on the compact side.
Jaune Flammee (aka Flamme) - orange saladette type, great flavor.
JD's Special C-Tex - dark that does well, tastes great - seeds can be hard to find, though.
Aker's West Virginia - red slicer.
Moskvich, Bloody Butcher (or Kimberly, similar)- early reds. BB is smaller, Moskvich is med size.

Just a few that come to mind. Many people when starting out will tend to try a mix of hybrids and heirlooms (I prefer the term open-pollinated/OP), and that is generally a good plan.

And can you give me some advantages and disadvantages of heirlooms vs. hybrid tomatoes. Do heirlooms taste better and/or produce better than hybrids?

The vast majority of what I grow is OP, but nothing wrong with hybrids. There are some good tasting hybrids, too. Same with production - there are both hybrids and OP that produce well.

An advantage of OP is that you can save your own seeds. A slight advantage of some hybrids might be if you happen to have nematodes or systemic disease problems in your soil (fusarium, verticillium wilts) or tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) in your area. Then, it might be worthwhile to try out some varieties that are listed as having those particular tolerances to the diseases you've personally encountered problems with.

For the most part, I think you'll find your main problems in Texas are going to be foliar (not systemic) fungal or bacterial disease, which growing hybrids isn't going to help with. Mostly early blight, maybe some septoria, or bacterial spot/speck. Root knot nematodes and TSWV are also possibilities in Texas for some, but usually not the systemic wilts.

Again, try a mix and see what works best for you.

You'll probably need to give some thought to soil amendment too, as many soils in TX are less than optimal for growing tomatoes - usually either too sandy (nutrient poor) or clay (heavy, doesn't drain well). Fall is a good time here to prep your growing area with some addition of organic matter for the following year - manure, compost, shredded leaves, etc. so whatever you add will have a chance to break down and improve the soil. Although not necessary, raised beds are great, if you have the time and interest in making and filling them.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 7:50PM
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blessedfrog(7 DFW)

that is a lot of useful info



    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 9:50PM
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Wow, that really is a lot of great information!
We bought a bunch of heirlooms last fall at the tent place in Houston, they have them for $1.24 now as a matter of fact. We put them in the flower beds, just for something green. AND we have TOMATOES!! Picked 2 yesterday and there are a bunch of tiny ones. Of course the tags are lost and we planted them in bunches as we didn't think they would make it through winter. We are both impressed with how huge they are, the amount of blooms and the fact that we actually have tomatoes. They have not been fertilized, rarely watered (we're low on rainfall too), no pest control. I was so impressed I went and bought some more to put in the community garden.

Try several, see what works best for you and your soil. I've tried a lot of tomatoes over the years with mediocre results but the heirlooms have performed beyond my wildest expectations.
Tally HO!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 8:49PM
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Well I didnt get a chance to grow my own transplants and I dont think any nursery here in Longview sells heirloom transplants. Does anyone know a good nursery that I can order from this late?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 1:09AM
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If you are planning to head west to the Metroplex in the next week or two, Calloways has a pretty nice selection of transplants, including multiple types of heirlooms...the closest one to you being in Mesquite. Redentas also is said to have a good variety, but I've not made it there as neither location is close to me.

I think it's a little cooler in Longview and cools off more at night than it does in the Metroplex, but the window to get any tomato in the ground is right now and for another two weeks max, imo. After that, the numbers of fruit set fall off dramatically, regardless of the variety. Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 11:06AM
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