THE SPRING/SUMMER 2011 GARDEN REPORT
I grew 5 different types of heirloom tomatoes this year - Cherokee Purple - which I really loved - it was the largest type of tomato I have ever grown and was everything it was promised to be. Large, sweet and meaty. I wish it had produced more than I got.
Costoluto Gero - in terms of flavor this was my least favorite variety - it was acidic in flavor, prolific during the spring and always seemed to be the one I found when I was looking for tomatoes to pick. I've discovered I do not care for acidic tomatoes and I was glad when it stopped producing and didn't come back in the fall. It was a little larger than best pack size.
Eva Purple Ball - this was a nice tomato, I enjoyed it when I could find it but I think it was overwhelmed by its neighbors.
Black Plum - this was a prolific producer, with a smaller fruit that the standard Italian Plum tomato plant you buy in the Lowes or Home Depot garden centers. I don't know that I will get it again.
Mike's or Matt's Wild Cherry - the optimal word for this plant is "WILD". OMGosh! This plant was CRAZY!! It was a pretty tame looking 6" plant for a month and then all of a sudden, it took off! It became a monster in my garden bed, sending out branches in all directions. I found it growning everywhere. All of the other tomato plants had to compete with it for space. I was picking "Wild" Cherry tomatoes in and through every other plant in the garden. What was worse is that unlike, a plump, sweet, 1-inch "Sweet 100" the tomatoes on this plant were about the size of the end of your little pinky finger. When you popped it in your mouth you had the sensation of eating mostly tomato skin and little else. I will NEVER grow this one, again and I will warn everyone to do the same.
TRYING TO FOIL THE BIRDS
I decided if I were going to protect my tomatoes from the birds, I would need to build some protection. I took PVC pipe to create a frame work than I attach deer netting. Unlike bird netting which is 14' by 14', deer netting is 7' wide and 100' long. I was not content with just wrapping it around the sides of the frame work, I decided to run netting across the top as well. This worked well until the Mike's Wild Cherry grew through the roof. I couldn't reach most of those tomatoes so I let the birds have them. This picture doesn't show the tomatoes through the roof but try to imagine tomato vines growing 3 or so feet into the air above the roof line all the way across the top of the tomato house and every single vine came from Mike's Wild Cherry.
OTHER THINGS LEARNED SPRING AND SUMMER 2011
I learned that leeks are a cool season crop and when the tomatoes took over and the weather became unbearable the leeks simply disappeared. I had placed the cucumbers - a bush variety - about 3 feet in front of the tomatoes but found that this was not a wise decision. Although I was training them up, they were inside the tomato house and therefore often obscured by the netting and Mike's Wild Cherry. I can't begin to count the number of cucumbers I didn't find until they became large yellow balloons with large seeds and a bitter flavor.
I found that the tomato house was great for tomatoes but lousy for plants that needed pollenators in order to produce fruit. Next year, I will make the structure smaller so that it only encloses the tomatoes and not everything else. Eggplant and peppers did poorly. Basil got lost in the tomato vines but managed to reseed itself. I put in bush beans in another section of the middle garden but once again the squirrels and birds plucked out the seeds as they broke through the ground. Instead of 36 plants I got 5. I was able to pick a few summer squash before the southern squash vine borer found it and destroyed the plant.
We worked all summer long, watering the tomatoes during the long drought we are experiencing in this part of the country, in hopes of having a great fall crop. In September, I noticed the leaves on the tomato plants looked misshapened, which seemed odd. As I looked closer, I discovered that every tomato plant was infested with mealy bugs. The simple solution was to spray everything with Safer Insecticidal soap or make a homemade solution, except with the vines up through the roof it was inpossible to reach and clear the problem, so I decided to tear the whole thing down. Better luck next year.
This year's grand experiement was successful in some ways but not so much in others.