Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Spring Plantings and Garden Experiments 4: Tomato Trials

Tomatoes were what got me into gardening. Well those and a free lemon tree and some herbs. Tomatoes gave me a challenge (according to some it was too much of a challenge, little did they know), fun, tastebud sensations, and when I realised they came in multiple varieties and colours and shapes I was hooked. I blogged about them a lot too - I checked back over my statistics and I have 108 posts about tomatoes! I even kept a tomato tally of how many I harvested.

The first year was pretty tame. It started with some early planted cherry tomatoes I saved from certain death in Kmart. Then some heirloom ones, and more heirloom ones, and a san marzano or two. By the end they looked pretty wilted and crispy fried, I blamed the summer and the general degradation of tomato plants at the end of the hot weather.

Season two it was all systems go, seeds in early, seedlings procured to elongate the harvest even further, and so many varieties, carefully chosen over the cold winter. Heck I even grew tomatoes inside over the winter (the Winter tomatoes too developed this incessant wilt, but again I just thought it was due to the wierd conditions they were grown in.) It wasn't until the second season was underway, and the wilt came early and persistently that I knew I had a major problem. Wilt killed all the plants, though I did manage to harvest some. It kind of resembled fusarium wilt, though I am not sure. Ultimately I pulled most plants after half a harvest at most, some didn't even make it past seedling stage.

I had almost given up hope of a harvest this year, with the memories of dashed tomato plants from last year still firmly in my mind. But I decided to give it one last shot. Using a couple of disease resistant varieties coupled with early planting I am hoping to get some sort of a harvest this year. Growing inside I have seedlings, of a VFN San Marzano, and a brandywine, which the nursery lady convinced me was diesease resistant but I am not sure I believe her. I hope she is right, because brandywines taste divine, but I am not holding my breath.

As a backup plan I procured some seedlings, one apollo improved which is supposed to have increased disease resistance, and two tumbler yellows, which have no resistance whatsoever but they work well to form a mixture of heights, and last year I got a bit of a harvest from them due to their cherry size which seemed to manage to just outrun the wilt. They are already flowering which is a good sign.

Will this experiment work? I hope so, though the lustre of growing these love apples is a little lost without the ability to plant my favourite heirlooms. I love green zebras and I never did get to try aunt ruby's german green. The purple cherokees and white cloud tomatoes which I love so dearly cannot get a run. And mortgage lifters, tomato crack, tomato heaven, tomato awesomesness but are now solanum non grata on the balcony since the wilt. I hate san marzanos, but if they grow then it is better than nothing. I love having fresh tomatoes on hand more than I hate san marzanos.

How do you combat tomato diseases and problems? Has it made you give up? Should I one day give up? Who knows but for now my hopes rest with apollo and his red little friends.

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