Being the start of a new year, it is appropriate that I present a report card on the performance of my tomatoes that I have been growing during 2014. Overall I am rather pleased with the results. I am still picking them but I have seen enough results to provide a report.
This year I have split my tomato plantings into three dates. I purchased the first six varieties and planted them on 6 August. At the same time I sowed another seven heirloom varieties into little peat posts in a sunny spot in the laundry and these were ready to transplant into pots three weeks later and eventually made it into the garden on 11 October. The third batch of just two varieties was planted on 14 December for a late crop and are just starting to take off.
The Verdict! Every variety is very different and I have rated their performance according to a series of ‘Meyles’ approved standards. The rating is very scientific (NOT) and is based purely on my preferences. I scored them on taste, ease of growing, resistance to pests and diseases and also harvest amounts.
August planting. All plants were purchased from Bunnings.
Super Roma: An excellent variety. Started picking on 20 November. In true Roma style it did not have too many seeds and had plenty of flesh. It is still going and I will pick for a couple of weeks yet. I would definitely plant it again. A couple of them were attacked by fruit fly but not enough to worry about. Taste is OK fresh, but in my opinion is a real winner if you want to make any type of sauce, chutney or relish. Score 8/10.
Cherry Ripe: A small cherry tomato that really knows how to produce. Started picking 18 November and it is still going with a vengeance. Bright red in colour about the size of a 10c piece and very sweet. Nice fresh in salads or to freeze whole. I have a freezer full and I will eat them throughout winter in soups or pasta sauce. Easy to grow but can split easily if it rains or they are given too much water. Score 9/10. Definitely plant this one again next year.
Cherry Gold: As the name suggests it is a small gold cherry.
It does pack quite a flavour punch and I started picking it 20 November and it is completely finished now. Great to eat fresh or to freeze. I tended to pick them a bit too late because I was not familiar with the changing colours as it ripened. As a result I lost a few to splitting because they were over ripe by the time I got to them. Score 8/10. I would plant it again.
Yellow Sun: This variety was the surprise package of the crop. It was promoted as a variety with less acid and they got it right. Bright yellow in colour and I harvested a good crop. The biggest was a whopping 700g in weight and tasted really great with a bit of salt. Started picking 26 November and it’s almost finished. No issues with fruit fly or splitting, but I did have a couple of caterpillars move in and bore a hole into them. It does have a soft thin skin and once picked needs using quite quickly. Great fresh or cook as relish, chutney or sauce. I will plant this one again next year. Score 8/10.
Apollo Improved: I have grown this variety in the past and had better results than this year. The fruit had a lot of blemishes on it and as a result I cooked 90% of them. I lost about 35% of the crop to fruit fly. The taste of the fruit in comparison to others was disappointing and I would suggest it tasted more like a shop bought one rather than a vine ripened one. Started picking 20 November and there are a couple still to come. Overall disappointing and it only gets a score of 5/10. I will probably not plant it again next year.
Black Russian: Marketed as an heirloom variety. I have grown this before and really liked the taste of a vine ripened tomato. This is a thin skinned variety and is easily damaged. Taste is pretty good but I have tasted better in past years. Started picking 26 November and I reckon I have 4 weeks to go with this one. I enjoyed it fresh with salt, but I ended up cooking most of them because I had to watch out for fruit fly. Lost about 20 percent of the crop to the little buggers. Score of 6/10 because it is a lot of hard work to keep the plant healthy.
Second planting. Sown in to peat pots 3 August, transplanted into pots 20 August and into the veggie patch 11 October 2014. All heirloom varieties that I bought online from Diggers Club and Green Harvest Organic Seed supplies.
Black Russian: Yep, I planted it twice for comparison sake. The seeds produced a tastier tomato but it is prone to fruit fly attacks. About 50 percent lost. The fruit is larger but prone to splitting and deformities. Cooked most of them. Score 6/10.
Thai Pink Egg: Shaped like a small Roma tomato and has a similar texture and is quite fleshy. When ripe it is pink in colour and is sweet eaten fresh. Started picking them 20 December. Not a big producer and is not a vigorous plant growth wise. Not too many growing issues and I would grow it again for taste and colour. Score 7/10.
Oxheart: I have not had a single decent fruit on this one. The fruit fly or caterpillars have eaten the lot so I cannot give you a taste test comment. If I needed a variety to be the sacrificial plant to attract all of the problem pests, I suppose this would be the one. But I am unlikely to want to grow it again. Score 2/10.
Honeybee: Great name for a yellow cherry that is sweet as honey. A cherry that is about the size of a 10c piece and is nice fresh with a bit of salt or in a salad. Good producer that I started to pick 15 December, however has a thin skin and is prone to splitting if there is a bit too much water around. Honeybee is a winner and will be planted again next year. Score 8/10.
Violet Jasper: If you want to grow a tomato purely for interesting looks then grow this one. Beautiful looking fruit in trusses that have 50c piece sized fruit that is perfectly round dark red in colour and has streaks of dark green. Taste is great fresh and it produces very well. A vigorous grower with good yields that I started to pick 20 December and there are loads to come. Fruit fly got a few but there are heaps to go around. I will plant this one again without a second thought. Score 9/10.
Tommy Toe: A vigorous growing red cherry tomato. About the size of a 20c piece and a great producer. Sweet to taste and easy to grow. Started harvesting 20 December and it will be going for weeks yet. Some splitting of the fruit because of excess rain but not an issue. Score of 9/10 and I will not hesitate to grow them again.
Valentine: A heart shaped cherry tomato that is sweet to taste and a decent producer that I started to pick 15 December. No issues with pests. The light red fruit has a thin skin so it needs to be eaten soon after harvesting. It didn’t stand out as the best producer, but it has performed pretty well. Worth another try. Score 6/10.
Third planting. Bought from Masters and planted 14 December 2014. The intent is for these to grow into the cooler months and possibly pick through winter. I have put in Roma and Sweet Bite. The verdict for these two is a long way from being in and I’ll let you know over time.
So, the report is in. I am quite pleased with the crop this year so far. I reckon that I can do better next year and I have a couple of ideas to improve the results. The season has been a hot, humid one and it has affected the vigour of the plants as the season progressed. I have not used any sprays for pests or diseases at all and have let the birds and bugs look after them. I did feed them regularly with slow release fertiliser and occasionally some liquid fertiliser to correct any suspect deficiencies of nutrition.
All plants were trained to have two branches. I only grew them for five trusses on each branch (maximum) then I trimmed off the leader to stop any further growth. I remove all lateral branches that develop as the plant grew so that all energy is focussed on the development of fruit.
The main reason I restrict the growth this way is because the climate that I grow them in has heat and humidity that create a perfect climate for fungal diseases. The older leaves at the bottom of the plant tend to be vulnerable to these attacks as they age. This can spread quickly up the plant and attack the rest of the foliage and before you know it the whole plant is infected. So to avoid having to use buckets of nasty chemicals, I give the tomatoes a short life and plant fresh ones.
If you need to review how I prepared the soil take a look at an earlier blog.
So that is my tomato crop.
How has your crop been this year? I would be interested in finding out about which varieties worked well for you and what you did to make your crop successful.
Give me a score on your tomato crop.