Tomato Envy? Not Me!

October 3, 2014 | By | More

growing tomatoes

The stuff of my dreams!

In life, your circumstances are often dictated by what you think about, dream about, obsess about, and bring about. For me, one such thing was an abundant tomato crop. After my first lackluster garden didn’t produce even enough tomatoes to make a decent caprese salad, I started reading and learning about growing tomatoes. This year, I reaped the benefits of all I had learned and grew a (whopping!) total of 248 pounds and 4 ounces and counting.

 

I thought it would be fun to start an annual contest to get you guys in on the action. The lucky winner for 2014 is Kristin Carnahan, a Tomato Envy reader in Nevada! She was really, really close with a guess of 246 pounds! Her prize will be a beautiful, hand-dyed canvas utility apron and one of my favorite gardening and cookbooks, Grow Cook Eat, by Willi Galloway.

growing tomatoes

It became challenging to keep up with all of them!

Here’s a recap of my season with 14 plants representing 8 different indeterminate varieties.

  • Green Vernissage – a green-when-ripe small tomato
  • Black Cherry – a rich-tasting, burgundy colored cherry tomato
  • Paul Robeson – a full-sized heirloom tomato known for its luscious flavor
  • Blueberry – a purplish late cherry tomato from Wild Boar Farm
  • Fox Cherry – a vibrant red heirloom tomato
  • Blush – a smallish, teardrop shaped yellow tomato with pink streaks and an exceptionally sweet flavor
  • Amish Paste – a Roma-type heirloom tomato perfect for canning and preserving
  • Blue Beauty – a lovely pink tomato with dramatic blue streaks from Wild Boar Farm
growing tomatoes

I literally had to “suit up” to even harvest from these plants

I had read a lot about the importance of soil temperature and I knew planting my tomato seedlings out too soon would doom them to a life of unrealized potential. So, in mid-April, I stretched black plastic out over my raised beds to warm the soil. I also installed hoop houses covered with vented Gro-Therm clear plastic to form a mini-greenhouse environment for my tomatoes.

The first week in May, I planted out all 14 plants, even though some of them didn’t look very healthy. Within just one week, each and every one of the little seedlings perked up considerably and were putting out new growth. And they just kept right on growing.

growing tomatoes

With Mr. P’s homemade dough and this sauce, we’ll have great pizza all winter!

By late July, it become clear that not only had I planted too many tomatoes in the 34 total square feet, but that I should have engaged in some judicious pruning. The plants were already topping out at more than 7 feet tall, were loaded with unripe fruit, and I couldn’t tell where one plant ended and one began. I had a tomato jungle!

Needless to say, I hit pay dirt with this year’s harvest. It seems that tomato envy is not for me! Mr. President and I ate fresh tomatoes nearly every day this summer, and I’ve put away plenty for winter in the form of canned tomatoes, pizza sauce, salsa and tomato jam. I also made soup and marinara sauce for the freezer and dried the cherry tomatoes.

Although I realized my dream of growing a significant portion of our food in my raised bed garden, there’s always room for improvement. So, next year I will:

  • Plant no more than 10 plants
  • Allow more space between plants
  • Plant more full-sized tomatoes and less cherry tomatoes
  • Try some different varieties
  • Prune!
growing tomatoes

Some of the Blue Beauties were just this lovely pink color

I suspect that even though I will plant less tomatoes next year and give them more space, I will get just as many – if not more – tomatoes. The plants are now overcome with powdery mildew and they will need to be pulled out and composted soon. If I have healthier plants, I may get a better harvest over a longer period of time.

And the award goes to…

Best looking tomato – Blue Beauty

Favorite flavor – Paul Robeson (although we got painfully few of these)

Most productive plants – tie between Amish Paste and Fox Cherry

Most versatile tomato – Amish Paste (perfect for canning, salsa, sauce, and jam)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Category: General, Home and Garden, Kitchen Garden

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