Saturday, May 10, 2008

Best Looking Tomato Plant

Yellow Brandywine – Platfoot Strain. Best looking tomato plant in 2008 so far.

Red Currant Ripening

While watering the tomato plants in the “koi pond”, my wife noticed one of the Red Currant tomatoes was maturing. Sure enough, one of the tomatoes has turned orange! We'll keep an eye on it.

It appears that Stupice has a lot of new growth on it. This plant looks like it's benefiting from the lemon tree pruning.

The feral cat that patrols our front yard keeps rearranging the paper mulch for his own elimination needs. Oh well, it's a very small price to pay.

All the tomato plants are watered and the container plants are fertilized.

Friday, May 9, 2008

All Caught Up

Not much to say...I mentioned to my wife that there's a tomato on both Taxi and Patio that have slightly darkened. She agreed.

I did some minor “training”, but that's all. Everything is caught up.

I'll water tomorrow.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Let's sell some tomatoes!

Does anyone know of a place where Bill and I can sell our tomatoes? We are going to have lots and lots of them and would love to sell some to build up a fund for next year!!!

Visible Tomatoes and Planting Dates

Here's a list of tomato plants with visible tomatoes and their planting dates:

Patio (container) – February 26, 2008
Garden Peach – March 1, 2008
Husky Cherry Red – March 1, 2008
Red Currant – March 1, 2008
Taxi (container) – March 15, 2008
Micro Tom (container) – April 6, 2008
Red Robin (container) – April 6, 2008

Tomatoes planted in March that have no tomatoes:

Big Rainbow – March 15, 2008
Aunt Ruby's German Green – March 22, 2008
Zhezha (container) – March 22, 2008
Salisaw Cafe – March 23, 2008
Zhezha – March 23, 2008
Green Grape – March 27, 2008
Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter – March 29, 2008

Do I have a problem with some of these tomatoes? In my opinion, not at all.

Micro Tom and Red Robin are novelty tomato plants. They are actually so small, they're windowsill plants. So I discount those two plants for the purposes of analysis.

Big Rainbow has a very long time to mature, over three months. Aunt Ruby's German Green, Green Grape and Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter have similar maturity cycles, about 80 days. Two of these are large, beefsteak tomatoes.

That leaves the two Zhezha plants and Salisaw Cafe. These plants were from the first batch from seed. When planted, they were much smaller than the plants bought from nurseries (and if you've been reading, we almost lost the Zhezha in the ground). Their lack of size at planting time probably adds two to three weeks to their normal time to maturity.

In short, it appears that everything is fine. However, I may not see a tomato on a new tomato plant for a while.

Our Grandfather Died

Our grandfather died earlier this morning, age 100.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Gregori's Altai Has No Tomatoes

Gregori's Altai, located in the “corner office” has two tomatoes on it. two round buds that look like tomatoes.

Micro Tom has three tomatoes on it. Garden Peach has more than two and the bottom leaves are yellowing, indicating that it's concentrating on making tomatoes.

I put a cage on Old Ivory Egg and staked it. I made paper mulch and went through the back yard, looking for spots I missed. I used about half the pile and threw the rest away. For now, I'm completely caught up on mulching.

I was going to individually report on the back yard tomatoes since I was back there adding mulch...but, darn it, they all have good color. In terms of the way the plants look, the standouts are White Bush, Yellow Brandywine – Platfoot Strain, Arkansas Traveler and Jeff Davis. Even our problem child has new growth on it and good color again but it's still a very thin and wispy plant.

I gave Cherokee Chocolate some worm castings as it has a lot of blooms on it and the growth has slowed down. I gave some worm castings to Purple Russian yesterday.

The weather in the San Fernando Valley this week has been overcast and cooler than normal. I just want to make note of it for when I look back on this entry 60 days or 90 days from now.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Backyard Zhezha is growing!

I put additional paper mulch on the front yard tomatoes and lightly watered all of them.

The backyard Zhezha is now growing and off of the “endangered species list”. Purple Russian continues to look poor.

Husky Cherry Red and Red Currant have their bottom leaves yellowing a bit, but that's a sign that they're heavily into making tomatoes. It's expected behavior. Except for one tomato plant, they all look good. Lots of blooms and growth, but no tomatoes on plants that haven't already been mentioned.

I'll put additional paper mulch on the backyard tomatoes over the next day or so and then relegate it to a background task.

Our Nicknames

Here's the "Koi Pond"...

And here's "The Corner Office".

Here's "Alongi Row", with our container plants near our garage.

And separately, this is the Taxi tomato plant, in a container with three basil plants.

Paper Mulching Completed

On Monday evening, I had a little over a half an hour between work and our computer user group board meeting. In that time I completed the paper mulching. All the tomato plants have paper mulch around it. I plan to continue to add it to the plants as necessary.

I noticed that the Patio plant has been in the ground for 70 days. The estimated maturity is also 70 days. The tomatoes on the plant are still green and are not near maturity. But the 70 days is just a guideline, and we planted this tomato very early in the season (February 26). Also, the plant was clearly stressed in the April heat waves.

Taxi has an estimated maturity in 65 – 70 days. This was planted on March 1, and so is now 52 days old this morning. I thought I saw a slight darkening of one of the tomatoes last week – perhaps it's maturing.

Prairie Fire looks quite good.

Monday, May 5, 2008

52 Tomato Plants

How did we arrive at so many tomato plants this year?

Last year we grew 34 tomato plants and my wife thought that was a bit much. She didn't want to plant along “Alongi Row” (a patch of dirt between us and our former neighbor to our north) anymore and was shooting for about 25 tomato plants this year.

Last year I dug up the area of land in the front yard (When dug out resembled a koi pond, thus the nickname), hauled it to the back to make a raised flower bed, added mulch, compost and planting mix, then brought back as much of the dirt necessary to fill it back to the normal level. This year I simply turned the soil and added nutrients.

This year I concentrated on the back yard planting area on the north side of the property. Digging with a shovel was proving to be too cumbersome to be ready for planting season so we bought a Rototiller. We quickly Rototilled the north side of the back yard and added compost in advance of a coming storm.

By this time we had planted some tomatoes in the front yard and had acquired some seedlings from seed as well. However, the batch of seedlings grown from seed was mostly wiped out. We lost a couple more due to broken stems just after planting.

Both my wife and I acquired a flat of tomatoes for volunteering at Tomatomania. A flat consists of 16 tomato plants. Originally, we planned to draw from our “stash” to give about 10 plants to my mother in law. But a friend who also volunteered told us it was okay to draw from his plants, as he wasn't planting any this year.

So we kept our 32 tomatoes and earlier this month I we began to plant them. By the time we found room for most all of them, our seed grower came back with a second batch of seedlings! We were unprepared for a second batch and had already emotionally committed to planting the rest of our Tomatomania seedlings.

And that's how we've ended up with 52 tomato plants.

Training Tomato Plants

My mechanism for training tomato plants is rather basic compared to what others do, but is important nonetheless. What I do is what I feel to be appropriate for the climate I'm in (very hot and dry in the summer).

I don't pinch sucker growth, I use metal cages, and I keep “tucking” the tomato branches within the cage, if possible.

Here's a few links for background:

Pruning Tomatoes --

Planting a Seedling --

Tomatoes (PDF) --

I don't feel it appropriate to pinch sucker growth. Making larger or stronger vines or tomatoes isn't a concern of mine at all. There's enough wind and heat to keep the tomatoes and the leaves dry. I want as much leaves as possible to protect the first crop of tomatoes.

I'll use cages because I don't plant tomatoes in a single row. If your situation lends itself to planting in a row, other strategies are available for you.

As the tomato grows, I'll take the branches an lay them over the first bar. For the second bar and above, I may have to “tuck in” wayward branches. Why tuck them in? The plant frequently gets so large that the main branch can be inhibited and even stressed if tucking doesn't occur. Place a pen in the webbing between your index finger and thumb and you'll see what I mean.

During late May through early July this “tucking” can be quite a chore, taking about 45 minutes or so a day. The branches can grow an inch or more a day – there's a lot of branches and a lot of tomato plants! When this occurs, I'll wear thin disposable latex gloves (which will last about two or three sessions), use the back of my left hand to gently push in the rest of the caged plant, use my right hand to tuck in the offending branch, pull my right hand out of the way as I gently let go with my left hand.

On occasion I'll inadvertently break the branch. Oh well, things happen.

Before the tomato plants reach the top of the cage they tend to look like an Italian Cypress tree.

After the tomato plant reaches the top and comes up and over the last bar, I'll use tomato tape and tie it to additional stakes or use tomato tape to tie branches going in opposite directions. If the plant continues to grow at some point I just let it go. But by that time it's at least six feet tall, the first set of tomatoes have been harvested and it sprawls everywhere.

Toward the end of July and beyond, the plants are turning brown and do not look as good as they did a month or two ago. There's nothing wrong with that as that's part of the tomato plant's natural cycle. Besides, our main goal is great tasting tomatoes, not how the plant looks or how many we pick, in spite of what may be inferred in other posts.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Not Much Happening...

Not much happened today so far.

I watered the recent plantings and the container plants, leaving the “veterans” unwatered. I'll expand the time between waterings.

No new tomatoes noted on plants not already mentioned.

I paper mulched a couple of tomatoes and pulled some of the paper mulch away from stems...but that's all. Lots of other chores to do today.