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Friday, January 17, 2014

Time To Choose New Seeds - My Favorite Tomatoes Ranking

It is January and winter finally came to Sweden, yet I think of spring already. I have analysed qualities of the tomatoes sorts I planted last year and created my own ranking that can help me to take decision what I should plant this year. In general I prefer black tomatoes and they took the most place in my green house last year. They have intensive tomato taste and very delicate skin. Almost all black tomatoes taste great. Therefore most of my tomatoes were black. They are not literally black but dark red to brown (this year I found some sort that looks really black and I want to try it). I have read  that they contain anthocyanins, an antioxidant believed to help fight cancer, diabetes and obesity which only assured me that they are the most valuable sort of tomatoes. I bought also some bi-colored ones and one red type. Two years ago I planted also some orange sorts and they did not taste good. They were just very boring in taste and had very little aroma. I must add that all tomatoes I grow are GMO free even though some of them look strange.

This is my ranking of tomatoes I planted last year. My criteria were: 

1. When the first fruit ripened (the sooner the better).
2. If the plant was productive.
3. How the fruits tasted.
4. Some additional individual features of the tomato that I especially liked or disliked.

And the winner is:

1. Vintage Wine (bi-colored)

My Vintage Wine plants were productive. The fruits were middle size - average weight of a fruit was 161g. The biggest one weighted 441g. and it was the biggest tomato I got in my green house last year. It started to ripen quite early - in the second half of July. Its taste and aroma were just fantastic. It was my second year of growing Vintage Wine and I definitely will buy news seeds this year too. 

2. Paul Robeson (black)

The plant was productive and started to ripen early. The average weight of a fruit was 100 g. It tasted great - it is the best tasting black tomato I have ever tried.

3. Black Sea Man (black)

The plant was productive and started to ripen early (middle July). Fruits weighted between 310g. and 25g. Very good in taste. 

4. Japanese Black Trifele (black)

The plant was very productive. It started to ripen quite late (first half of August). The fruits were middle to small size and very tasty. They had a pear shape.

5. Carbon (black)

It tasted very good but the plant was not very productive. Moreover one of my Carbon plants got sick without any visible reasons (surely there were some but I was not able to diagnose them). The average fruit weight was 212 g.

6. Reise Tomato (red)

This is the most bizarre tomato I have ever seen. It is a whole bunch of small tomatoes grown together creating fantastic shapes. It has a very good, intensive and classic tomato taste with a slight tendency to have a little sour taste. The plant was productive and the average weight of a fruit was 66 g. It started to ripen early. I put it only on the 6th position first of all because this tomato was very impractical - some parts of it got very ripened while the others were still green. I never knew if I should pick it already or wait. The other thing I did not like about this sort was its hard skin which was very difficult to peel off because of the fruit shape. It was not pleasant to chew it (especially the smallest parts). 

7. Black Krim  (black)

The plant was very unproductive. Fruits average weight was 92 g. It began to ripen early. Good in taste.

8. Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye  (bi-colored)

The plant was not very productive. It started getting ripened a little late (beginning of August). The average weight of a fruit was 154 g. It looked very interesting because of the colored skin but it was average in taste. 

9. Russo Sicilian (red)

The plant was very productive (one of the best in my green house regarding this criterion). The average weight of a fruit was 71 g. They started to get ripen at the beginning of August so not too late. I put it on such late position on my list because of its boring taste. I did not like it. Of course it tasted better that tomatoes available in super markets but in my opinion it is not worth growing it on your own. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Late Summer In My Greenhouse

It´s been a long time since my last post. I was very busy not only with my tomatoes but also with other plants that I have in my garden. It is almost the end of summer but it is still very warm and sunny. Nights are cold though and tomatoes do not have perfect conditions to grow and ripen anymore but they still look good;) 

This summer was exceptionally warm and sunny and I needed to water my tomatoes quite often. The conditions were perfect for my plants but not everything turned out so perfect... I used a new fertilizer which was especially dedicated to feed tomatoes. Unfortunately, it was not as good as I expected. Actually much worse... After several weeks of dosing it my tomatoes started having symptoms of lack of various elements or overdosing some of them on their leaves. Luckily fruits did not seem to be affected. It is difficult to guess what is your plant problem. The best solution would be to analyse the soil and add what is missing but that was too complicated for me -after all I am not a professional gardener and I do not have ambition to be one;) I wanted to fix it in some simple way. First, I stopped using the new fertilizer. It helped. After some weeks on a "diet" I gave them the old fertilizer and it turned out to be a good decision because my tomatoes went back to norm and the new leaves looked good. Of course both - the old and the new fertilizer are ecologic. 

Now I just wait till the end of season. I pick ripened tomatoes and get rid of old plants.

I weight every fruit from every plant and keep a record of this information. I also note which ones are tasty. After picking the last tomato of this season I will compare them to see which sorts were most productive and tasted the best. This should help me to plan which sorts to pick for the next year. I will describe them in this blog before the next year.

And here are some pictures from this season:

mixed sorts of my tomatoes

A peculiar tomato sort called "reise tomato"

The greenhouse in July

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Tomatoes Are Starting To Fruit

My tomatoes had grown so high that I had to tie some of them to the construction of my greenhouse roof. One of them fell down and was laying on the pot because its fruits had become so heavy. Now it is back in a vertical position tied and hanging like the rest.

Fruits on one of my tomato plants started getting ready to be picked. I picked the biggest and the most soft one of them. It looks ripened but has green skin at the stalk area. I remember from the last year that black tomatoes look like this even when they are very ripened. Yet I will wait a little while before eating it to check if the green area disappears. I want to make sure that I do not eat a green tomato. Now it is laying on the kitchen windowsill teasing me;) 

Most of my tomatoes are still very green

The most ripened tomatoes - Black Sea Man

Black Sea Man - weight 310 g. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Everyday Care

My tomatoes are growing very fast and are quite high now. All of them started blooming some time ago and some already have little fruits. It does not mean I can relax now and wait until they are ready to be eaten. I have to take care of them almost every day.

So far they are my biggest tomatoes

The most important thing is watering. Tomatoes need regular watering. It does not mean one has to water them every day but it can be 2 - 3 times a week depends on the weather. Water should be poured directly to pots, not on leaves because they should not get wet. 

Another important thing is to help tomatoes pollinate. I do this by hand: I just shake a little the plants that have flowers and to make sure I touch every flower.

Tomatoes flowers fade some time after blooming and usually stay in this stage on growing fruits. Sometimes they fall down and land on the leaves. This can be dangerous because rotting flowers can affect the plants and that can lead to diseases. Therefore I pick the fading flowers and throw them away. I also pick yellow or damaged leaves.

Old flower

The other parts of my tomatoes I pick are suckers which grow between the stem and leaves. One theory says that they just take energy from the plant and do not give anything back. Another one says that one should leave them alone because they are OK. I do not want to have bushy tomatoes because it will be too dark in the green house at the end. Tomatoes need lots of sun so I pick the suckers and some big leaves when I see that it is getting too dark inside.

A sucker

I also give my tomatoes a natural fertilizer for tomatoes that supplies them with all mineral elements they need.

My greenhouse before I cut bushy leaves

My greenhouse now
Leaves removed from the plants

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Moving Tomatoes To the Greenhouse

I transplanted my tomatoes to big pots and moved them to the greenhouse over a week ago. I did  not have time to write because it was much more to do in the garden and home than just taking care of the tomatoes and writing about them;).

First, I will write about the evil spider mites that attacked my plants. Before I received the spider mites removal I had washed affected leaves with water with soap using a sponge (they advice to do that when you find these creatures on your plants). That was definitely a mistake. Leaves did not survive this treatment. Probably they suffered more from this than from the spider mites;) I think it work with most plants but not all. I did it before with paprika and bananas plants and they were OK after that. Two days later I sprayed them with a special anti spider mites liquid and it helped. 

Tomatoes in the greenhouse

Before I moved the tomatoes to the greenhouse I let them stay outside during the day and inside at night for three days. It was supposed to harden them off. This is a very important step when you move tomatoes from a warm cozy place to much colder and harder conditions. Leaving them outside without hardening off can be a shock to them and it is not good at all. I kept my plants on the terrace where usually it is not too windy. The weather was not too sunny either which was also good. Unfortunately, it was more windy than I thought and two of my 24 plants broke just above the roots. Actually, three of them broke but I decided to keep the third one and transplant it anyway to check if it can regenerate. There was just a little bit of its skin connecting the stem and the root. One day after planting it it looked like it was dying. I wanted to throw it out at once so it would not start rotting and spreading diseases in the greenhouse but I was too lazy and I left it for the next day. When I came to the greenhouse on the next day it was alive! It looks healthier with every day. I guess it has developed new roots and everything is ok:)

Still alive and getting better:)

Last but not least - there is one little tomato growing on one of my plants:)

My first visible tomato:)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Alarm! Spider Mites Attack!

My tomatoes grow very fast and some of them have already cute little flower buds (!). The tomatoes are almost too high to maintain. Wooden sticks that are supposed to support them are much too short and they do not help much. Luckily the plants support each other now and only the ones that grow outside the crowd fall down a little. Soon I am moving them to the greenhouse where they will get real support. 

My tomatoes yesterday

flower buds

Unfortunately, there is a bigger problem than unstable plants... - my tomatoes have been attacked by spider mites. Spider mites are little evil creatures (less then 1 mm in size micro-spiders) that eat plants and build spider nets on them. I have noticed the first signs of their presence but I know they multiply extremely fast when they have good conditions so I have to stop them as soon as possible if I want to eat my own tomatoes this year. Last year they attacked my paprika plants. I had 5 or 6 paprika bushes and none of them survived because I did not use anything professional to fight the parasites. Spider mites spread over paprika plants very fast because they have smooth surface. Tomatoes have more hairy stems so these little creatures have problem with moving fast on them so they do not attack the whole plant at once. Spider mites prefer high temperature and drought so my tomato plantation is a real paradise for them. There is over 25 °C degrees (77 F) and dry air there because there are the best conditions for tomatoes too. Tomatoes should not grow in humid air because when their leaves stay wet they can develop various fungal diseases. Therefore I avoid pouring water on them while watering. 

attacked leaf

attacked leaf
spider mite on one of my tomatoes leaves

There is very little time to act. I have ordered a special organic anti spider mites product that is supposed to kill them without affecting the health of the other house residents. I ordered it on line so it will take some days for the parcel to come. So far I can only wash the plants with soap water. This should slow down multiplying of these awful creatures. I have to conduct this procedure in the morning so the tomatoes leaves can dry fast in the sun. I will write how everything worked after I see some results. I hope it works.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Supporting Tomatoes

Tomatoes grow fast and quite quickly become tall. When they grow indoors by a window they tend to turn to the sunlight which can cause that they bend and fall down because they are too heavy to keep standing in this uncomfortable position. It happened to a few of my plants. I used to turn them around to keep them in the straight position but it did not work in all cases and some of them collapsed anyway. This is an example of my laying tomato:

The longer time a tomato plant lays down on the ground, the more difficult is to lift it up again. I have read that one can actually replant a tomato in this position but the plant should be planted deeper then usually so the whole laying part stays around 10 cm underground. That helps to develop a stronger plant. I used to have such curvy tomatoes in the previous years but never replanted them this way. I must try this trick when I transplant my tomatoes to big pots.  We will see if they get stronger than the other plants. 

The part under the red line is going to be planted underground

I will write about it more when I transplant them in May. 

I decided to prevent my plants from further collapse. I used shishkebab sticks to support every plant. I pushed sticks in every pot and tied tomatoes to them with yarn. The tomatoes actually lean on their sticks so the yarn is only additional help in case the plants change position and form. 

Tomatoes with sticks

I´m glad that my tomatoes started growing fast after planting them in the pots filled with soil because it means they are healthy. On the other hand they are not going to be too tall by the middle of May ("thanks" to keeping them too long in the propagation cubes) when I move them to the greenhouse. It is not too easy to replant a big but still very fragile plant.