Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Tale of Two Kimberleys: The Case for Removing Early Fruit

Is it better to buy seedlings with fruit set or smaller plants with only buds or flowers? Is it better to remove fruit and flowers from seedlings that are too small or to plant them as is, thinking they have a head start? And finally, is it better to plant tomatoes as early as possible, or will plants flourish only after the weather really warms up? Let's answer these questions based on the progress of my Kimberley plants.

At the start of the growing season I had extra seedlings that were left on the back porch. These included a few Kimberley seedlings, which I grew because of reviews of Kimberley's great flavor, especially for an extremely early variety. One of the Kimberley seedlings even started setting fruit while it was still in a 2" cell, so I ended up planting more Kimberley seedlings on July 11th, just over a month after I had planted most of my seedlings.

Now, almost seven weeks later, the first Kimberley only grew to about 15" tall. Its first fruit started blushing on August 15th, 35 days after transplant, and the tomato was 0.8 oz. When the plant set 12 fruit, I removed the remaining blossoms and growing tip since the plant was too small to support more fruit. The fruit have been ripening in the last week, but they're smaller (about 0.5 oz.) compared to the typical 0.7-0.9 oz. fruit from another, larger Kimberley plant planted on June 3rd. 

A 15" Kimberley plant with several smaller fruit ripening just five weeks after transplant

 A closeup of the fruit on the stunted Kimberley

The second Kimberley plant was slightly smaller and did not have any fruit when it was transplanted at the same time as the first plant. This second Kimberley plant did not start setting fruit until July 31st, almost three weeks later, but the plant grew much taller. By August 28th, it was 30" tall and loaded with 40 fruit, mostly 1" in diameter or larger.

 The second 30" tall Kimberley with a lot more fruit forming 3 weeks later

 The larger fruit on the second Kimberley are 1.5-2" in diameter

Most of the other fruit on the second Kimberley are at least 1" in diameter

Thus, based on my Kimberley plants, it's better to remove fruit and open flowers from very small seedlings, those in 2" cells or even 4" cells that aren't yet large enough to support fruit formation. While the plants will take longer to set fruit, they will use their energy to develop into larger plants with deeper roots. The larger plant will also produce more fruit and larger tomatoes.

Transplanting later in the season, when the weather is warmer—at least early to mid-July in Seattle—also seems to improve fruit set. The Kimberley plant that was transplanted in mid-July has set about 50% more fruit than the Kimberley planted on June 3rd. Of course, the clear disadvantage is not getting ripe fruit until the end of the season.

Tomatoes Finally Ripening

The Blush and Isis Candy cherry tomatoes and larger varieties like Black and Red Boar and Cherokee Purple finally started ripening this week. When the Blush tomatoes broke color, they turned from green to golden, then finally they developed faint pink highlights, most notably at the blossom tip. It takes about a week from color break to the appearance of the pink splotches. Blush's flavor was light and sweet, but the tropical pineapple flavor was not detected. Perhaps the fruit was not completely ripe, or the flavor becomes more pronounced later in the season.

 A truss of Blush tomatoes break and turn from greenish-yellow to gold with pink highlights

A ripe Blush tomato with pink splotches

The Isis Candy continued to produce larger than expected fruit (1.2-1.5" in diameter and weighing about 1 oz.), and the fruit continued to ripen to a solid red (grocery store color) with no marbling or starburst. I started a discussion called "Red Isis Candy" on the Tomatoville forum to see if plain red Isis Candy fruit was common, but everyone who replied got bicolor Isis Candy fruit with the sunburst shown in most Isis Candy photos. Thus, I grew out either a stray seed or a crossed seed since the Isis Candy seeds I got from WinterSown were open pollinated (OP). 

Isis Candy fruit continue to ripen a plain red 

Black and Red Boar was the first of the larger varieties to break color and ripen. The fruit continued to have a heart shape and ripened to a striking dark red and olive-green color. 

Black and Red Boar ripens to a striking dark red with dark olive-green stripes

The current fruit harvested between August 14th and August 28th were follows: 
  • 40 Sun Golds about 1" in diameter
  • a 1.5" (1.0 oz.) Isis Candy
  • a 1.4 oz.  and a 1.9 oz. Jaune Flammee
  • 9 Kimberleys ranging in weight from 0.5-1.3 oz.
  • a 2.9 oz. Black and Red Boar
  • a 5 oz. Cherokee Purple
This week's harvest includes (clockwise from the top left) two 1.5"-2" Jaune Flammee, two dozen 1" Sun Golds, one red 1.5" Isis Candy, a 5-oz. Cherokee Purple, and 10 red Kimberleys

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blush Blushing and More Tomatoes Finally Breaking Color

The Blush tomatoes finally started blushing on August 21st, 79 days after transplant and about a week longer than Sun Gold. They should take at least another week to ripen.

 Truss of fruit on Blush on August 23rd

 A close-up of the fruit blushing on Blush

A snake-like appendage on the Blush fruit that I've named Medusa

Isis Candy started breaking color on August 18th, 76 days after transplant. I was expecting the fruit to be an orange bicolor, like the fruit shown on Tomato Growers Supply Co. page; however, the fruit on my Isis Candy ripens to a bright red color. 

 Fruit starting to blush on Isis Candy on August 23rd

Fruit on my Isis Candy ripens to a bright red color

In addition, the larger tomatoes also started breaking color this week. Black and Red Boar was the first medium-size tomato; it started blushing on August 20th, 78 days after transplant and 36 days after setting fruit. Cherokee Purple was the first beefsteak, and it started blushing on August 22nd, 80 days after transplant and 35 days after setting fruit. 

 The second Black and Red Boar fruit breaking color on August 23rd

The first fruit on Cherokee Purple breaks color on August 22nd

Monday, August 13, 2012

Almost 700 tomatoes by Mid-August

By August 13th 27 out of 29 plants had set a total of 691 tomatoes, with 402 cherry tomatoes and 287 larger tomatoes. Blush, Isis Candy, and the larger tomatoes seemed to have slowed down or stopped setting fruit altogether, but Sun Gold continued to set like crazy, producing just under 50% more fruit than it had the week before.

More tomatoes on Kimberley and Sun Gold started blushing on August 13th. The first tomato on Kimberley was dark red-orange and about 2" in diameter. The plant also had 24 tomatoes larger than 1 cm. The first Sun Gold plant had 107 tomatoes, and the second Sun Gold plant had 71 tomatoes.

Three tomatoes blushing on Kimberley on August 13th

Three tomatoes on Sun Gold blushing on August 13th

Isis Candy produced larger cherry tomatoes, about 1.5" in diameter, but with only 56 tomatoes by August 13th, it was not as early or as prolific as Sun Gold. The productivity issue could have been because in my garden Isis Candy gets about 1-2 hours less sun than the Sun Golds. 

The largest tomatoes are 1.5" in diameter on Isis Candy

More cherry tomatoes on Isis Candy

Jaune Flammée demonstrated similar productivity as Kimberley, having formed 22 tomatoes, the largest about 2" in diameter, by August 13th. 

Jaune Flammée with 2" tomatoes by August 13th

Indian Stripe continued to be more productive than Cherokee Purple, with 18 versus 13 tomatoes larger than 1 cm while by August 13th. The largest on both plants was about 4" in diameter.

The largest tomatoes on Cherokee Purple are 4" in diameter by August 13th

Indian Stripe with 50% more tomatoes than Cherokee Purple

Spudakee also proved to be more prolific than Cherokee Purple, producing 23 tomatoes larger than 1 cm in diameter by August 13th. The largest of the tomatoes was 3.5" in diameter by August 13th, and the plant continued to set fruit although more slowly, with four new fruit set in the last week.

The largest tomatoes on Spudakee are 3.5" in diameter by August 13th

Spudakee proves more prolific than Cherokee Purple

Like Cherokee Purple Gary'O Sena produced 13 tomatoes by August 13th, and the largest was 3.5" in diameter, slightly smaller than Cherokee Purple.

The largest tomatoes on Gary'O Sena are 3.5" in diameter by August 13th

 Gary'O Sena tomatoes continue to grow about 1/2" per week

Gary'O Sena continues to set fruit

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My False Heart

So according to Tania's Tomatobase, Black and Red Boar tomatoes are supposed to be round, but most of my BRB fruit are heart-shaped. I thought it might be because of the cooler conditions when the fruit first formed, but even the smaller, newer fruit that formed during the warmer July weather have a heart shape.

 Heart-shaped fruit on Black and Red Boar 

 More heart-shaped fruit on Black and Red Boar

Even the newer fruit are heart-shaped

It's not just in my garden, though, since there's a whole discussion on the Tomatoville forum on "Pointy tomatoes that shouldn't be pointy!?!

First Tomato to Break in 2012: Kimberley!

Kimberley also wins the prize for the first tomato to break color. It beat Sun Gold by two days. The tomato turned a light yellow-green color on August 9th, 67 days after transplant. By the next day the tomato was a golden color with a hint of orange, and two days after that it had turned red-orange.

Kimberley had the first tomato blushing on August 9th, 67 days after transplant

By August 11th the tomato was red-orange

The first Sun Gold plant had fruit blushing by August 11th, 69 days after transplant, about the same as last year when it took 68 days.

Blushing tomatoes on Sun Gold on August 11th, 69 days after transplant

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summer Finally Heats Up

After our heat wave last weekend, the tomatoes have really started taking off. Between July 31st and August 7th, my tomato count went up from 411 to 611. Here's a view of the garden on August 7th.
The two tomato beds each have 8 plants, and the tallest is about 5' tall on August 7th

Four black tomatoes planted at the corner on June 17th are about 4' tall on August 7th

The two New Big Dwarf plants are about 3' tall and beautifully compact on August 7th

Kimberley, a compact plant that produces small red fruit, was one of the earliest to set fruit in my garden. It tied with Sun Gold and set fruit in 37 days. By August 7th the largest fruit on it was about 2.5" in diameter, so in about a month it grew from just over 1 cm to about 2.5".

Kimberley plant on July 10th 

The same tomato on the Kimberly plant grew to be 2.5" by August 7th

The Blush tomatoes continue to produce 1/3-1/2 as many fruit as Sun Gold, but by August 10th, the largest fruit are just over 1.5" long. Also, the foliage on Blush is rather wispy compared to other regular leaf tomato plants.

Flowers and small Blush fruit on August 2nd

Many of the flowers have become small fruit by August 7th

The same truss on Blush by August 10th

By August 10th the fruit on Blush are just over 1.5" long

Wispy foliage on Blush tomato plants

New Big Dwarf (NBD), which produces pink beefsteaks, is an heirloom tomato that was included in the 1915 Isbell Seed Company catalog, which included a description of its origin as a cross between Dwarf Champion and Ponderosa, the best known dwarf and the largest fruited variety at the time. NBD's origin helped spark the Dwarf Tomato Project, a cross-hemisphere endeavor to breed great-tasting tomatoes on compact plants perfect for containers and small spaces. NBD plants are wonderfully compact with dense foliage and a thick stem, but they still requires staking. NBD was the latest to set fruit in my garden taking over 46 days. (I don't have the exact time because I was out of town when it finally set fruit.)

I planted my two NBD plants on June 10th, a week after most of my plants. By August 7th one NBD had 14 tomatoes larger than 1 cm, and the other plant only had 7. The largest tomatoes on each plant were about 2" in diameter, but the rest were only about an inch or smaller in diameter. So far it's definitely later and not as prolific as the black tomatoes. I also noticed really strange catfacing and fused fruit on my NBD plants.

 The largest fruit on New Big Dwarf was about 2" in diameter on August 7th

The largest fruit on the other New Big Dwarf has a strange appendage

A closeup of the funky looking fruit on New Big Dwarf

Spudakee is a potato leafed version of Cherokee Purple (C.P). In my garden both C.P. and Spudakee took 45 days to set fruit, but Spudakee is proving to be slightly more prolific. I planted the Spudakee about a week after the C.P., and by August 7th the Spudakee had 18 tomatoes bigger than 1 cm whereas C.P. only had 13. However, it does appear to produce a lot more catfacing and really strange fused fruit.

The largest fruit on one of my Spudakee plants was about 2" in diameter on August 7th 

The cooler weather resulted in a lot of fused fruit and catfacing on Spudakee 

The largest tomatoes on the second Spudakee were about 3" in diameter on August 7th

Here's another strange tomato that looks like four tomatoes fused together

An even odder looking tomato has two fused fruit with separate blossom ends

Vorlon, named after an alien race on Babylon 5, is a "stabilized accidental cross between Cherokee Purple and Pruden's Purple". In my garden Vorlon was among the latest plants to set fruit, taking 46 days. Its productivity is between Spudakee and C.P., having produced 15 tomatoes larger than 1 cm by August 7th.

The largest tomato on Vorlon is about 3" in diameter by August 7th 

 Even more small tomatoes have formed on Vorlon by August 7th

Last year my favorite tomato from the farmers' market was Paul Robeson because of its rich, complex flavor. I saved the seed from one tomato and grew one plant to see if I could reproduce that great flavor. So far Paul Robeson is the least productive of the black tomatoes I planted, with only 8 tomatoes larger than 1 cm by August 7th.

The largest tomatoes on Paul Robeson are about 1.5-2" in diameter by August 7th

White Queen produces large white beefsteaks. In my garden White Queen has produced 13 tomatoes larger than 1 cm by August 7th.

The largest tomato on White Queen is about 2" in diameter by August 7th

Porkchop produces flattened yellow beefsteaks. In my garden Porkchop has been the least productive plant, producing only 5 tomatoes by August 7th. 

The largest tomato on Porkchop is about 2" in diameter by August 7th