Tomato Varieties Experience 2012
In 2011 we had a lot of tomato disease and a lot of variation in development of plants in a community garden that I participate in. It was disappointing and discouraging so I set out to see what could be done. It generally went well but I would appreciate suggestions on some things I will mention that need improvement.
Raised beds shaped up but no side support, with plastic mulch. Beds 30" wide, 4 ft on center with 18" path.
Drip tape irrigation 2 tapes per row supplied from a well point driven in a nearby swampy stream bed that dries up in summer. The water table stayed above the top of the point at 7 ft below surface.
Fungicide program using limited application of the NC State publication on Foliar Diseases in Tomatoes: Kocide 3000 + mancozeb before harvest, and Kocide 3000 + chlorothalonil (Daconil) at and after harvest; weekly from planting.
Selected varieties for disease resistance.
Jetsetter, Big Beef, First Prize, Super Marzano, Sweet Million, and Sweet Quartz from Tomato Growers; and a gift pkt of Park's Whopper.
Started seed in mid-March and set out from about 10 May to 25 May. Some got pretty leggy and will start plants later next year.
Planted 275 on 20" spacing and used a variation of Florida Weave to support them. Used plastic baler twine which worked well, and some sisal which didn't work well because it stretched.
First harvest around 21 July. The early spring and the heat from the plastic mulch made them at least 3 weeks earlier than 2011 Early Girl harvest.
Fertilized near maximum recommended for good crop and supplemented with Calcium Nitrate and KCl in mid-season through the drip irrigation system.
I pruned everything below the first branch below the first fruit cluster, but not above that.
The plants and fruit were largely free of disease. I removed any leaf cluster that had a diseased leaf and that seemed to keep things in control. When I missed one for a week or so they would get disease on several adjacent leaf clusters. As of this date they are still largely free of disease though I stopped spraying around 1 September.
Things that Didn't Work so Well:
The Super Marzano had significant blossom end rot even though they had the same lime and calcium nitrate fertilizer as the others. Not a problem on any of the others.
The Sweet Quartz (cherry tomatoes) seem particularly susceptible to splits in wet weather even though the bed is covered with plastic. Lost about 90% of those ripening during a rainy period. Fruit was larger than the Sweet Million.
The First Prize seemed to have more sun scald and splits around the stem compared to the Big Beef planted in adjacent rows.
The Park's Whoppers didn't mature any earlier than the others and were not noticeably larger than the other two large varieties, even though they were among the first transplanted and were in the southernmost bed.
The trellises need to have more frequent stakes and be more tightly strung next year. I may have used too much nitrogen.
I started a few plants in December to get some experience and rooted suckers from the Sweet Million along with those started from seed. The sucker-source plants were as strong as the others and were the the first to set fruit and ripen.
I used high density (20" in 4' rows) to get maximum yield. None seemed to be starved but I wonder if it would have been better to prune more or use greater spacing.
The silly little filter that they sell for use with drip tape plugged up so fast that I thought there was a kink in the supply line. I built a filter that uses 2 cartridges, each 40" long, that has lasted all summer. That is way overkill but I had the cartridges and parts from another project.
Next step is to collect the green ones before frost and see how they ripen.
Looking forward to next year. Need to make improvements to the greenhouse that now decorates the southern side of my house and make two more 4x8 ft tables. Maybe more on the greenhouse in the winter.