2017 Tomato Report

Better late than never, right?

In 2017, I planted ten tomato varieties.  Five were varieties I had planted before, and five were new to me.  Seven were planted in my usual raised beds, and three were dwarf varieties that I planted in five gallon containers.  This year was the first time I tried growing vegetables in containers.

Before I continue, here are some previous posts that contain related information:

  • 2016 Tomato Report (includes ‘nectar’, ‘garden gem’, ‘garden treasure’, ‘Corleone’, and ‘Polish linguisa’ as well as varieties that I didn’t plant in 2017)
  • Two New (to me) Tomato Varieties (about ‘Anna Russian’ and ‘Cherokee green’)
  • More Tomatoes (about ‘garden gem’, ‘Corleone’, ‘garden treasure’, ‘Anna Russian’, and ‘Cherokee green’)
  • Container Vegetables (includes the three dwarf tomato varieties that I grew in 2017)
  • 2017 Seeds Orders (sources of some of these varieties and more about dwarf tomatoes)

To avoid the problem I had with blossom end rot in 2016, I tried adding (clean) crushed chicken eggshells to the hole when I transplanted my tomatoes.  I decided to do this for the eggplant and peppers as well since they are tomato relatives.  I tried this because calcium deficiency is one cause of blossom end rot (cycles of too little and too much water is another) and eggshells contain calcium.  I still had blossom end rot problems early in the season, but they disappeared after a week or two.  When I dumped out the soil from the containers at the end of the season, I noticed that the eggshells had disappeared from the tomato containers but not from the eggplant containers, so I think the plants did eventually absorb calcium from the eggshells.  I didn’t have any serious problems growing tomatoes in 2017.

tomato ‘Anna Russian’

‘Anna Russian’ is an heirloom variety that I hadn’t planted before.  This is classified as a ‘pink’ (red flesh with clear skin) tomato.  The fruit is sweet and mild.  The plants grew vigorously and produced a lot of large fruit.

‘Cherokee green’ is another open-pollinated variety, but it was selected too recently to be considered an heirloom variety.  These plants also were quite vigorous and probably produced the most fruit of any variety that I planted in 2017.  Initially they seemed a bit bland, but later in the season the fruit had a lot of flavor.  The flesh of ‘Cherokee green’ is indeed green, but the skin turns yellow when they ripen, which makes picking them easier.  I also check that the fruit are a little soft when I pick them just to be sure.

from the left: ‘garden gem’ (two), ‘Corleone’, ‘garden treasure’, ‘Anna Russian’, and ‘Cherokee green’ tomatoes

‘Nectar’ produces red cherry tomatoes that are sweet and flavorful.  It produced well again in 2017.

‘Garden gem’ and ‘garden treasure’ are two hybrids that have been recently developed; see How to Get Garden Gem Tomato Seeds.  ‘Garden gem’ is semi-determinate, meaning it produces tomatoes for about five weeks, stops for a few weeks, then produces a smaller, second crop.  The fruits are small, flavorful, and start to ripen relatively early.  ‘Garden treasure’ produces flavorful, medium-sized fruit starting mid-season and has become one of my favorites.

I planted two paste tomato varieties in 2017, ‘Corleone’ and ‘Polish linguisa’.  The latter is an heirloom variety that produces relatively large fruit, while ‘Corleone’ is a hybrid that holds the record for being the most expensive vegetable seeds that I ever bought; however I got a very dependable producer in return.  I found neither variety to be particularly flavorful but that is typical with paste tomatoes.

Now we come to the dwarf varieties that I grew in containers in 2017.  None of these produced a lot of fruit, which is to be expected, but they all did well enough that I decided to continue planting dwarf types in containers.

tomato ‘dwarf sleeping lady’

The fruits from ‘dwarf sleeping lady’ are described as brown, but I would say the ones that I grew were mostly red with green shoulders.  Flavor of these small-medium sized fruit was good but not outstanding.

tomato ‘dwarf sweet Sue’

True to its name, ‘dwarf sweet Sue’ produced sweet fruit with good flavor.  These were medium sized.

a cluster of ‘Polish dwarf’ tomatoes that broke off during a storm

Unlike the other dwarf tomatoes I planted, ‘Polish dwarf’ wasn’t recently developed by the Dwarf Tomato Project but has been around since at least 1965.  The small fruits are tart and flavorful, what I now realize is my idea of “real tomato flavor”; they were my favorite tomato of 2017.

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Seeds Order for 2019

I already ordered and received my garden seeds for 2019.  Once again, I ordered my seeds from Pinetree Seeds (superseeds.com), my usual seed source (see Resources).  This uncharacteristically early order (see 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. 2018) was spurred by a “Cyber Monday” special.

As always, I only order seeds for varieties that I’ve run out of (and want to continue planting) or new varieties that I want to try.  Flower and vegetable seeds remain viable for many years if stored in a cool, dry place.  I use sealed containers in my refrigerator.

First I’ll list all the vegetable varieties I ordered.  There are quite a few this year.

  • tomato ‘defiant’
  • tomato ‘cherry bomb’
  • tomato, ‘plum regal’
  • pepper, ‘Aconcagua’
  • mizuna ‘Kyoto’
  • okra ‘Clemson spineless’
  • cucumber ‘diva’
  • broccoli ‘aspabroc’
  • beet ‘touchstone gold’
  • cabbage ‘purple pak choi’
  • cabbage ‘green rocket’
  • cabbage ‘optiko’
  • carrot ‘Danvers half long’
  • bean, pole ‘fortex’
  • pea ‘super sugar snap’

‘Kyoto’ mizuna, ‘purple pak choi’ and ‘optiko’ cabbages, ‘Danvers half long’ carrot, ‘fortex’ pole bean, and ‘super sugar snap’ pea are all varieties that I’ve planted before and like well enough to continue, or at least I haven’t found anything better.  The pole bean, ‘fortex’, has been so good the past two years that it’s the only variety I plan to plant this year.

The three tomato varieties, all new to me, are all supposed to be resistant to late blight, which I believe infects my tomato plants every year.  I’m curious to see how these fare, although this means I have the always-difficult task of determining which varieties I have to exclude to make room for these.

I’m hoping ‘Clemson spineless’ okra will do well in my garden as I haven’t been too impressed by ‘jambalaya’.  I’m going to try growing cucumbers again after having some success with them in 2018; ‘diva’ is the latest variety I’m trying in an attempt to reproduce the long, non-bitter cucumbers I grew many years ago.  The other new varieties (‘Aconcagua’ pepper, ‘aspabroc’ broccoli, ‘touchstone gold’ beet, and ‘green rocket’ cabbage) are new ones that I’ll trial alongside my favorites.

Next are the two varieties of flower seeds that I ordered.

  • viola ‘Johnny jump up’
  • catmint ‘pink’

Both of these flowers are ones I selected to grow in containers.  I’ve tried growing this common viola before but the seed wouldn’t germinate for me.  I hope that this new seed from a more trusted source will work out.  I haven’t tried catmint before but the flowers I’ve seen growing in flower beds attract a lot of bees and I hope this will too.

Finally, I ordered some garden supplies.

  • plastic labels, 6 inch (15 cm)
  • plastic labels, 4 inch (10 cm)
  • legume inoculant

I ordered some six-inch plastic plant labels a couple of years ago and decided they work well enough that I should get some more as I was running low.  I also wanted some shorter labels as they will work better with the slow-growing seedlings.  I always apply legume inoculant when I plant peas and beans to help them “fix” nitrogen.  I didn’t order Actinovate, an anti-fungal bacteria product, at this time because it has a limited shelf life.

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The Squash that Ate my Raspberries

As I mentioned in my Solo Cucumber post, all the winter and summer squash plants that I planted this year succumbed to disease or insects.  A “volunteer” plant that grew out of my compost bin has had no such problems however.

squash vine growing over black raspberries

To keep the vines from running across my lawn, I moved them so they would grow over my black raspberries.  Eventually, this one plant covered the entire patch.  The main stem is now more than an inch (25 mm) thick at the base.  In its growth habit, the plant resembles a pumpkin or winter squash more than a summer squash such as zucchini.

ripening squash fruit and an immature fruit

We’ve added squash and pumpkin seeds to the compost bin over the years in our kitchen waste, and this plant probably grew from one of those seeds.  The vine has produced a fruit unlike any I’ve seen before.  I expect it’s a hybrid of two plants that grew near each other at the farm belonging to the market where we buy squash.

The fruits that those seeds came from have included butternut squash and a kind of knobbly pumpkin, which this fruit (and all the others on the plant) sort of resembles.  I have no idea if this will be similar to a squash, a gourd, or a pumpkin.  I’m also not sure how to tell if it’s ripe, but eventually I need to pick one, cut it open, and see what nature and chance have produced.

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Cracked Tomato

I’ve had a lot of trouble with cracking of my tomato fruits this year.  I suspect it’s related to the unusually rainy weather we’ve been having.  For more about cracking, and many other tomato fruit problems, see this Missouri Botanical Garden webpage.

dwarf tomato ‘tastywine’ exhibiting cracking

Although the cracks on this tomato appear to have healed to some extent, they still allow diseases and insects to enter the fruit.

This fruit had an odd taste, unlike any other tomato I’m growing.  I’m not sure if that’s a characteristic of the variety or if it’s related to the cracking, perhaps caused by a disease that made its way in through the cracks.

‘Tastywine’ is another of the dwarf tomato varieties that I’m growing in containers this year.  It is one of the varieties developed by the dwarf tomato project (a team that includes Craig LeHoullier, author of Epic Tomatoes; see my Resources page) and the seed is available from Victory Seeds.  It produces “pink” fruit, i.e. when ripe it has red flesh and colorless skin.

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Solo Cucumber

After I planted peas last spring, something came along and dug up many of them before they could sprout and grow.  In their place, I planted some old cucumber seeds, since cucumbers also can grow on a trellis.  Unfortunately, as the seeds were close to a decade old, only one seed of the two different types I planted produced a plant.

cucumber vine (‘homemade pickles’) growing among the pole beans (‘fortex’)

That plant grew a few vines and those vines climbed and spread, even invading the pole beans’ space as you can see in the photo above.

cucumber ‘homemade pickles’

We got a few good fruit off the plant.  There may have been a problem with pollination that limited the number of flowers that produced fruit and the leaves probably didn’t receive enough sunlight.

Most of the plant has withered and died since I took these photos.  I suspect either a disease or an insect such as a squash vine borer caused this.  I have had similar problems growing cucumbers and their relatives for many years.  This year, all of the winter squash and summer squash that I planted died before they produced any usable fruit.

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Dwarf Tomato ‘Perth Pride’

One of the dwarf tomato varieties that I’m growing in containers this year is called ‘Perth pride’.  It is one of the varieties developed by the dwarf tomato project (a team that includes Craig LeHoullier, author of Epic Tomatoes; see my Resources page) and the seed is available from Victory Seeds.

dwarf tomato ‘Perth pride’

These tomatoes are described as purple, but I would characterize the ones that grew in my garden as red with green shoulders.  They have been quite tart lately but were a little less tart earlier in the season.


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Monarch Caterpillar

Several years ago, I planted some seeds of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) along the side of my house to provide food for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).  By “plant” I mean I just spread some seeds that I collected from plants growing in a nearby, undeveloped area.

The area where I planted the milkweed is an approximately two foot (60 cm) wide ribbon of soil between the house and driveway, and as it is on the south side of the house, it resembles a hell strip.  Despite the heat and occasional drought, the plants have thrived and we’ve found caterpillars feeding on the leaves most summers.

This summer has produced the most monarch caterpillars we’ve ever seen.  Caterpillars that we found on the plants in July subsequently pupated and laid their own eggs, leading to the second generation of caterpillars that we are seeing now.  Yesterday, we counted fourteen monarch caterpillars but I suspect there are even more that we missed.

monarch butterfly caterpillar

I took this photo of one of the caterpillars this morning.  It has been chewing on this milkweed and devoured a large portion of the leaf.

My previous posts on milkweed:


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Double Tomato

I picked a ‘Polish dwarf’ tomato the other day that looks like two fruits that grew together.

tomato ‘Polish dwarf’ double fruit

It appears that this happens when multiple blossoms fuse together into what is known as a “megabloom”.  It seems that this usually happens early in the season, probably during a cold spell.  See more in these links:

To me, the funny shape resembles a Minion™ butt, albeit red rather than yellow.

The scar on the top left of the tomato fruit is due to cracking, which happens when the skin can’t grow as fast as the inside of the tomato.  This can be caused by temperature or soil moisture fluctuations, both of which we’ve experienced in the past month.

See more about cracking, and many more tomato fruit problems, at this Missouri Botanical Garden webpage.

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Monday Morning Harvest

This is what we harvested this morning.  We last picked vegetables Saturday afternoon, so the garden is producing pretty well, as it should be by mid-summer.

beans, tomatoes, peppers, and blackberries

I grow pole beans on a trellis.  Most of these are large ‘fortex’ beans that I first planted last year, but a few are the smaller ‘Kentucky blue’ variety.

There are one each of ‘Takiis ace’ (green bell) and ‘sweet banana’ (yellow) peppers.  I am growing these in containers this year, like I did with dwarf tomatoes and eggplant last year, but I think they would do better planted in the regular garden.  Both the plants and the fruit seem to be smaller than they should be, and I’m getting what appears to be blossom end rot on some of the ‘Takiis ace’ peppers, which hasn’t been much of a problem in the past.

My thornless blackberry bramble fruits have just started to ripen this week.

We started picking ripe ‘sungold’ cherry tomatoes (in the bowl at the top of the photo) in mid-July, about 2 months after they were transplanted.  They are very tasty but they will split if you let them ripen much past the yellow stage.  The ‘garden gem’ tomatoes (the five smaller, pointy tomatoes at the bottom middle of the photo) began to ripen soon after the ‘sungold’ tomatoes.

The two largest tomatoes are ‘garden treasure’, and they have just started to ripen.  The medium-sized tomato on the right is ‘gardener VF‘, a variety from Cornell University that I am trying for the first time.  Finally, the small tomato on the bottom left is ‘Polish Dwarf‘, a variety that I started growing last year and whose tart taste I really like.

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Spring Flowers 2018

I planted some more spring-flowering bulbs two years ago.  These photos were taken on May 5th; the flowers have finished blooming now, except for the grape hyacinths.  The bulbs were all purchased from Van Engelen (see Resources).

First up are some daffodils, Narcissus ‘Professor Einstein’.

daffodil (Narcissus ‘Professor Einstein’)

I planted some ‘Persian pearl’ tulips on a hillside many years ago.  Those are species tulips and as such are expected to naturalize and increase, but in my yard they have diminished each year.  You can see them in my post Spring Flowers.  I decided to supplement them with a different species tulip, Tulipa clusiana var. Chrysantha, that is supposed to naturalize well.

Tulipa clusiana var. Chrysantha on the hillside

These flowers are yellow on the inside and reddish on the outside of the petals.

Tulipa clusiana var. Chrysantha closeup

A few of the tulips that I planted all the way back in 2001 still bloom every year.  This is one of them.

long-lived tulip

I also planted some grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) that have grown very well and may have increased in number already.  Last year, after blooming, the foliage died back in the same way as other spring-flowering bulbs; but to my surprise, they started growing again in the fall and kept that foliage all through the winter.

According to the Van Engelen website, this is considered to be the original blue-flowered grape hyacinth and it originated in Turkey around 1878.

grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) with pollinator

Here, you can see the grape hyacinth with one of the little pollinators that were busy visiting these flowers.  I think this is a fly, as I can only see a single pair of wings, but I’m not sure.

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