Thursday, February 3, 2011
The Heirlooms Are Coming!
So ... this is a weird season all around. After everything getting off to that slow start, in the last few weeks, my tomatoes have turned a serious corner. Remember how I couldn't get the Brandywine to set fruit to save my life? All of a sudden, it set about a dozen tomatoes, and they're growing fast. The first one (the top picture) is nearing harvest and looking like a monster. You can't tell from the picture, but that's a 1.5 lb. tomato. The same goes for the Cherokee purple. In general, this plant is more vigorous than the Brandywines have been, and it's just loaded with fruit. Pretty soon, I'm going to start picking daily, and they all look like the one pictured below (in a word, lovely). The Cherokee purple, btw, is a excellent, excellent tomato. You should grow them. Really. They are thin-skinned and won't save at all—you pretty much pick 'em and eat 'em. But it's so worth it. They taste just exactly like a tomato should taste. Finally, even the yellow pear is setting fruit heavily now, and my second planting is doing exceptionally well. The new Brandywines are already three feet tall and growing fast. No fruit yet ...
Obviously, the key this season has been effective spraying, and for about the past six weeks I've been following a program that rotates between chlorothalinol (Daconil), maneb and copper fungicide spray, supplemented with a micronutrient foliar spray (Key-Plex). I've been a little surprised how well the plants have responded. Nevertheless, I'm not in love with all the chemicals, so next season--having proved that spraying works--I'm going to see if I can do a preventive spray program based on organic chemicals, including sulfur- and copper-based fungicides and stay away from the chlorothalinol and maneb. It's a work in progress.
Oh yeah, the Victoria Supreme paste tomatoes have also been bearing heavily. I made a fresh tomato sauce this week with Italian sausage and fresh basil that was seriously amazing.
So all in all ... I'm a little afraid that I proved my wife right yet again: that I'm reactionary and maybe a little hyper. It seems that every year I freak out early on, then end up with a decent harvest anyway. But I swear, I was really worried this season was going to fall flat—I even worried I might be skunked for a while there. And while I'm not going to complain that things seem to have turned around for the moment, let's just say I'm feeling rather ... chastened.
But enough about that, because you know what else is going on? I'm starting to get seed catalogs already and staring to think about next season. I know, I know. But there are a zillion varieties out there I think I need to try, and some I can recommend with confidence. Before I write that post, however, I'd love to hear from anybody else out there: what varieties of tomatoes have done well for you down here in Zone 10?