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Tomato Harvest Erupts! Plus, Misc. Tomato Info

Okiedawn OK Zone 7
15 years ago

Even though I've been harvesting ripe tomatoes daily for over a month now, the harvest has been "thin and patchy" compared to previous years or, in other words, the "big" harvest is late....but it has arrived!

After an agonizing spring of all the wrong weather at all the wrong times, followed by severe deer attacks on the garden, we've finally begun the real tomato harvest here.

This week I have picked about 400 tomatoes so far, of which about 300 have been cherry, grape, and currant types (small tomatoes) and about 100 of the regular-sized "large" tomatoes, ranging in size from 3 or 4 oz. each to 16 to 20 oz.

Some of the large-fruited varieties I've harvested this week include: True Black Brandywine, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Estler's Mortgage Lifter, Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter, Valena Pink, Brandywine Sudduth's, Aunt Gertie's Gold, Nebraska Wedding, Big Beef, Bucks County, Beefmaster, Burpee's Big Mama, Martino's Roma, Little Brandywine, Jerry's German Giant, Husky Red, and Pruden's Purple.

Some of the small-fruited varieties I've harvested this week include: Fourth of July (dozens just today), Tess' Land Race Currant, SunGold, Dr. Carolyn, Orange Santa, Coyote, Ildi, Husky Red Cherry, Husky Gold Cherry, Black Cherry and Grape.

Fourth of July is interesting. It is not a particularly "special" tomato taste-wise. By that, I do NOT mean it tastes bad because it doesn' just has the flavor of a typical home-grown tomato. What it lacks is the special and unique flavor of heirlooms that I prefer. It IS a most productive tomato. Once it starts ripening, it is not unusual to pick several dozen fruit per plant weekly. They are larger than the largest cherry tomato I've ever grown (Large Red Cherry), but smaller than the smaller mid-sized to large red-fruited varieties that we use for slicing, sandwiches, etc. I grow 4th of July so I always have tons of tomatoes to give away.

Supersonic is one that started slowly, was planted into the soil pretty late (because it was very small for its' age and wimpy and I wasn't sure it was worth planting) and struggled with the late freezes and the hotter and windier weather that hit us in May and lasted several weeks. These plants are now huge monsters--almost 5' tall and about 3' to 4' wide. Lovely, lush, healthy foliage with no disease issues yet. They've been blooming for about 10 days, I guess, and have finally set some fruit. I am really looking forward to seeing how these do as the summer progresses. They should be giving me ripe fruit at the end of July or early in August when the plants that produced earlier harvests are slowing down.

Ramapo F-1 hybrid, brought back onto the market this year by a NJ university and the NJES, is another one that got off to a late start. The seeds arrived late, were slow to sprout, and struggled early on. Partly, their struggle was my fault....I left them in flats with significantly larger plants which shaded them too much and inhbited their growth. I hesitated to even put them in the ground because they just weren't growing, but I finally put 4 or 5 of them in a row I had reserved for cantaloupes. So, they are in a staggered arrangement....tomato, cantaloupe, tomato, cantaloupe, etc. They are ALL in cages, so the tomatoes have grown and spread to fill their cages and the cantaloupes have climbed their cages....and the tomato cages.....and the nearby fence, etc. Ramapo is also very healthy, lush, green, no disease issues, and FINALLY setting fruit. They probably will give us ripe tomatoes at about the same time Supersonic does.

ROSALITA is the only pink grape tomato I grow, having tried others like Rosada, and not being impressed by them. This year, it broke off at the ground when I planted it, but grew back from the roots, only to freeze. It had to regrow from the roots a second time. Consequently, it is still pretty small--not quite 4', but is finally spreading out quite a bit and is blooming. If nothing else, this plant is one very tough survivor.

SWEET MILLION: Because these plants are huge monsters that produce a LOT of fruit per plant, I only planted one this year. is pretty much a dud so far, a first in the many years I've grown it. It was slow to take off...just stalled and sat there and wouldn't grow in those hot, windy days in May although it had grown fine (if slowly) prior to that. Then, the deer ate it back to within a foot or so of the ground and it has been unhappy ever since. It has finally regrown to about 3' or 3.5' and is blooming. No ripe fruit yet and obviously has not reached its' usual 6' to 8' in height. Sometimes even a great variety has a bad year.

BLACK KRIM: Usually one of our favorites and a fairly heavy producer for an heirloom. The first 4 froze and had to be replaced after the first "last freeze", and then struggled to survive the subsequent late freezes that happened about 2 weeks and 4 weeks after that first "last freeze". They haven't grown well, aren't blooming well, haven't set many fruit, and are showing some disease issues. Another example of a "favorite" that is having a rough year.

CHEROKEE PURPLE: These have had a similar struggle to Black Krim's, although they never froze....just sat and sulked. Having CP AND BK producing poorly is disappointing, but lots of others are making up for their sluggishness. Indian Stripe, which is probably related to CP and tastes quite similar to me, is performing much better, and next year I may plant more IS plants and less CPs.

The fall tomatoes are still in their paper cups and growing well, but a little more slowly than usual in this heat. I probably need to move them to dappled shade. I'm not in a huge hurry for them to get larger, as I don't have a lot of room to plant them yet. I think I'll get them into the ground around mid to late July, probably between the 15th and the 22nd. Last year I was able to get fall tomatoes into the ground earlier....some as early as late June, but last year's growing conditions were completely different, for us, from this year's.

That's the basic tomato report from south-central OK. And, no, I am NOT surprised that some of the varieties which perform best for us just aren't doing so this year.....they generally grow best in our "usual" growing conditions, which we have not had this year, so it is not surprising that they would grow poorly in diferent conditions. The wide variability between the performances of different tomato varieties and types are the exact reason I grow a LOT of varieties every year....when some varieties are having a "bad year", others have a "good year" and it all evens out.


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