July analysis: In short, we were expecting more. Our total of 1629 tomatoes is 74% less than last year's numbers for this period.
First, the harvest is simply later this year than last year. All the tomato growers I know are reporting that their harvests are coming in later this year compared to last year.
But that implies we'd get similar harvest numbers later in the year. That just isn't going to happen with our harvest totals this year.
Now mind you, we're still enjoying great tomatoes and have more than we can handle. We're very happy with our harvested tomatoes but the numbers pale in comparison to last year's numbers.
Last year we harvested 11,000 tomatoes among 34 plants. This year I'll estimate we'll harvest about 4600 tomatoes among the 52 plants (3 pulled).
To repeat, why?
I believe it's simply a confluence of events that won't happen again. We just got a bit unlucky this year.
First, I believe the weather in the winter and spring has been more variable this year compared to last year. On the high side, I seem to remember hitting 90 degree temperatures in April, 100 degree temperatures in May and I know we hit 110 in June. July 2008, though, seems more mild than July 2007. That could bode well for some of our August and September tomatoes.
Second, our seed lady moved last year. She was kind enough to start seeds for us this year and she started the seeds at the same time she did before. Turns out that the new place is foggier, more damp and a bit colder than the prior house. In short, the first batch was started too soon.
The plants acquired from Green Thumb/Green Arrow didn't seem to do very well this year.
The Tomatomania event started a couple of weeks later than usual. That alone would shift the harvest to couple of weeks later.
I've been told after the fact that early season windstorms wiped out a lot (more than half!) of the tomato seedlings. I wished I had known that before picking them. Usually, the seedlings I select look healthy but are a little on the smallish side. But this year's smaller seedlings may have been small from damage created by the wind and cold. Note to self: Ask the grower about how they were raised.
If our generous seed lady grows for us again next year and doesn't move, she'll start between the two start dates for this year.
Third, our seed lady completely surprised us with a second batch of seedlings. We gladly took them but they were planted late in the season.
In short – Bouncing temperatures (not good for the plants), seedlings planted too early, late Tomatomania, seedlings planted too late, late season, and the 110 degree temperatures around the summer solstice burned out a lot of blooms.
In no particular order, here's discussion about some of the tomato plants:
Red Currant – Stunning production, great taste. An absolute winner in 2008.
Blue Fruit, Chocolate Stripes – Grown from first batch of seed. First ripe tomatoes showed up about 115 days after planting. We'll get only a dozen or so tomatoes from Chocolate Stripes, more from Blue Fruit.
Polish Pastel, Painted Ukrainian, Evan's Italian Plum, Kellogg's Breakfast, Olga's Round Yellow Chicken – No harvested tomatoes (except Polish Pastel, which started recently), but there are some on the vines. Evan's Italian Plum may have 50 tomatoes on it. The best is yet to come for these tomatoes
Garden Peach, Snow White – The absolute busts of 2008. Last year: Garden Peach (which was really two plants): 1197, Snow White: 1771. This year: Garden Peach: 13, Snow White: 4. Everything off of these plants tastes bad and doesn't look like what the tag says they are. Probably ruined by severe wind damage.
Red Yellow Cap – Impressive beefsteak. I'd grow it again. The yellow-red beefsteak tomatoes tend to get bruised and sun scalded, but not this one so far.
Piccolo, Black Cherry, Husky Cherry Red, Black Plum Paste, Salisaw Cafe, Green Grape, Jaune Flamme, Red Currant – Cherry sized tomatoes whose best days are in the past (exception: Piccolo, which is cresting right now).
Zhezha (front yard), Micro Tom, Red Robin, Prairie Fire, Taxi, Patio – This year's container plants. I've come full circle on this. I moved all the container plants from the back yard to the front yard so our Manchester Terrier couldn't get them. The problem, though, is that the front yard driveway is simply too hot for container plants and the Manchester Terrier simply eats other tomatoes planted in the ground. We'll move them to the back yard next year and give these plants some respite from the intense heat.