Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tomato update

Here are updated photos of my tomatoes.

Cherokee Purple with several tomatoes, the largest on the right is 2" in diameter, on July 23rd

The tomatoes on Cherokee Purple from a different angle

The lower two trusses on the first Sun Gold, which has three trusses full of fruit and more flowers on two more trusses, on July 23rd

The lower truss on the second Sun Gold, which only has two trusses since I accidentally pruned off the growing tip

The largest tomatoes on Black Prince, with the largest about 3" in diameter, on July 23rd

I removed three more flowers on the end of this truss when I saw four fruits had set in early July. I don't know if that contributed to the tomatoes getting larger faster or if Black Prince just produces fruit faster than Cherokee Purple and Black Krim.

Most of the Web images of Black Prince show round fruit, so I was surprised to see the flattened (oblate?) shape. Half of the newer, smaller fruit (≤1" in diameter) are also flattened, but the other half are rounder. Almost all the leaves are rolled up on this plant, probably because it's shaded by a 40' tall holly tree until late morning. It's also been a pretty cool, wet summer, so it may just be that it's too cool for tomatoes. WSU has a "Physiological Leaf Roll of Tomato" fact sheet. 

The first Black Krim plant has several tomatoes on July 23rd

The megabloom on this first Black Krim has become a long fused fruit.

I'm waiting to see how distorted this fused fruit becomes. If it's really weird, I may just snip it off to minimize the amount of energy the plant puts into it.

The second Black Krim has even more fruit on July 23rd

The main stem on one of the Sun Gold plants got bent, probably by a cat in the neighborhood, so assuming it would decline, I got a Jaune Flammé Mighty 'Mato grafted plant in a 1 gal container from Sky Nursery to replace it. On July 10th I transplanted the Jaune Flammé, which already had a few flowers that turned into fruit a few weeks later.

A few tomatoes on the Jaune Flammé on July 23rd

More tomatoes on the Jaune Flammé

On July 26th there were over 200 tomatoes combined on all nine plants. (The trampled Sun Gold survived, and while it's definitely a runt compared to the other three, it now has two small trusses of tiny fruit and continues to flower.) There are about 30 cherry tomatoes that are about 1" in diameter on the four Sun Gold plants, a 3" tomato on a Black Prince, and a 2.5" tomato on a Cherokee Purple. These two largest tomatoes seem to be growing about an inch per week. I also have about 30 tomatoes that are 1-2" in diameter on the Black Prince, Cherokee Purple, Jaune Flammé, and two Black Krims. Even given our cooler, wetter weather this past week, almost all of the tomatoes seem to grow 1/2" to an inch per week.

Tomato plants are finally setting fruit

This probably wasn't the best year to start growing tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest, especially given our unusually cold and wet spring. Still, I started growing several Sun Gold (hybrid) and Black Krim (heirloom) plants from seed at the end of March, and I ended up with about 40 plants in 2" starter cells, most of which I gave away to friends. On May 21st, I transplanted an 18" tall Cherokee Purple (from a 4" start), two 9-12" tall Sun Gold plants, and a 7-8" tall Black Krim in a raised bed under plastic-covered PVC hoops. I removed all but the topmost 2-3 sets of leaves on all the plants and buried them as deep as I could. Three days later, I transplanted an 18" tall Black Prince (also from a 4" start), two more 9-12" tall Sun Gold plants, and one more 7-8" tall Black Krim under a second set of hoops. The Cherokee Purple and Black Prince were too tall to plant completely upright, so I buried their root balls and stem along a deep trench. Their stems coming out of the ground were tilted at a 45° angle when I first planted them, so I trained them to grow up using lily stakes. I added a handful of Dr. Earth Tomato, Vegetable, and Herb fertilizer into each planting hole, soaked the rootballs and planting hole with water, filled with soil, topdressed each plant with another handful of Dr. Earth, then did a final soaking with at least 1 gal of water. The raised beds are each 8' long by 4' wide and about 1.5-2' deep with Sky Nursery planting mix, then there's glacial till below. The plants are staggered at least 2' away from one another, so they're basically in full sun (when we have sun) from mid- to late morning until the end of the day. 

Because I didn't want the plants to stay too wet, I left a 1-2' opening on each end of the hoop tunnels for air circulation, and I placed a capped 2 L bottle full of water a few inches away from each plant to add some heat. It stayed pretty warm under the tunnels, because I always found tons of flies, as well as a neighborhood cat or two, under the plastic when I'd water the tomatoes every week. I removed the plastic on the few sunny days (maybe 3-4 total) between the end of May and the end of June when temperatures were in the mid-60s or higher, but I put the plastic back up each night. I removed the plastic for good on July 1st, when the weather finally started warming up and one of the Sun Gold plants grew tall enough to touch the plastic cover. The tomatoes finally started setting fruit in late June/early July

Here are photos of the tomato plants in early July.

Cherokee Purple heirloom full of flowers on July 1st

A closeup of the flowers on the Cherokee Purple on July 1st

The first Sun Gold with three tomatoes on July 1st

The same plant with nine tomatoes a week later on July 8th

A second Sun Gold plant with six tomatoes on July 8th

A Black Prince with four tomatoes, the largest about 1.5" in diameter, on July 8th

One Black Krim with several flowers on July 1st, including a megabloom in the middle

 A closeup of the megabloom

Another closeup of the megabloom from a different angle