Tag Archives: Mortgage lifter tomato

Growing Tomatoes

The Trellis Experiment

I know it’s the middle of January but I also know that plant and seed catalogs start pouring in.  Many of us comb through them and get that gardening itch.  Like it or not, winter is a time to think about the next planting season, at least for me anyway.  Looking back to see what worked well and what was a failure.  Looking forward to see what new experiment might fruitfully improve the garden and what new plants to grow.

We love tomatoes and have been growing a variety of both large and small sizes.  The challenge of growing tomatoes for me is keeping them straight up.  I bought a variety of tomato cages early on but they never worked well for me.  Most of the time they’re too short.  My tomato plants grow over six feet tall and some years I have to get on a ladder to tie them in place.  So I have been experimenting with ways to keep them from flopping over in the least amount of time.  Tying tomato plants is a time consuming process.

These are some of the varieties of tomato we grew last season.

When the tomato cages failed, I used long poles to tie the main stalks up, then used some shorter and smaller ones vertically in between for the branches.  This method worked well but risked damaging the roots when I pushed a new pole into the ground to support a branch.  The tomatoes also flopped over when I failed to have enough time to keep tying them regularly as they grew.  I also used a lot of smaller poles, too many of them, in fact.  I had been using this method until last season.

I made this railroad trellis on one side of a three feet plot and planted ‘Baby bell peppers’ and some leafy vegetables in front of the tomatoes
It worked quite well with cherry and grape tomatoes which tend to creep like a vine. The red ones are ‘Sakura’, yellow are ‘Nova’, and the black and orange on the far left are ‘Indigo’

I experimented on a new method last season.  I still use the longest and largest pole, 8 foot long, to tie the main stem to.  But this time I also put these long poles on either side of the plant, making a railroad track with plants in the middle.  Each tomato has 1 foot by 16 inches in space.  Then I tie smaller poles, horizontally, connecting each long pole together.  I keep a foot of space between each horizontal bar.  Once the tomatoes grow and branch out, I just tie their stems to these bars.  Restricted to gardening on the weekend some weeks, the branches still rested on the bars, without flopping down.

The trellis also worked well for large tomatoes. On the far left are ‘Tie-dye’, then ‘Brandywine’, ‘Cherokee Purple’ with ‘Mortgage Lifter’ at the far right.  At the end of this plot is Swiss chard and Kale.

One mistake I made was to use thinner sticks for some of the bars.  I ran out of the the sturdier ones so I used the ones made for hoops in their place.  They bent way too easily  under the weight of large tomatoes.

Toward the end of the season, ‘Tie-dye’ which grew profusely, got too heavy for the thin sticks I used
When I installed the correct size pole, it worked well. The larger tomatoes, some over a pound, can rest on the bar as well. These Brandywine tomatoes, most either over a pound or close to it, are resting on the bar. I tied some of the fruit stems to the bar as well, to support the weight.

At the end of the season, once I cut all tomato plants down, I untie the poles and put them back in the toolshed.  That saves a lot of space.  I can always shrink or expand the trellis according to how many tomatoes I grow.

In Search Of The Perfect Tomato

…And The Search Still On

Plant and seed catalogs start to pile up at this time of year.  It’s always fun to leaf through them as there’s not much I can do in the garden and they give me ideas for next season.  Now is the time to look for new plants, plan new arrangements for the garden, and order new seeds to experiment with.  The growing season starts in less than two months.  March is when I start my chili pepper and tomato seedlings.  It doesn’t matter how cold or how high the snow is outside.   If I don’t start seedlings for these two vegetables early, there will not be enough time for them to produce mature fruit.  The growing season in the Northeastern part of the US is very short I have to start early in the house.

We love tomatoes, especially home grown tomatoes.  We did really well with our tomatoes last year.  Not just what we grew in our garden, the seedlings we had given to friends and colleagues did well too.  I think the weather really helped.  I experiment with new types of tomatoes every year and continue to grow only the ones we like best.  Our favorites are Brandywine, Mortgage lifter, Cherokee purple and Rose for large tomatoes.

Holy basil, Thai basil, Rose tomatoes, Mortgage lifter, Brandywine, Cherokee purple, Chocolate tomato, Nova, Indigo cherry, Tomatoberry and some self-sown tomatoes
Holy basil, Thai basil, Rose tomatoes, Mortgage lifter, Brandywine, Cherokee purple, Chocolate tomato, Nova, Indigo cherry, Tomatoberry and some self-sown tomatoes
These Brandywine tomatoes were over a pound each and very tasty too
These Brandywine tomatoes were over a pound each and very tasty too
Mortgage lifter is another large tomato we have been growing. This one is also over a pound
Mortgage lifter is another large tomato we have been growing. This one is also over a pound
Cherokee Purple has very thin skin and easily split when there is too much rain but has an exceptional taste.
Cherokee Purple has very thin skin and easily split when there is too much rain but has an exceptional taste.

We love cherry tomatoes too but never had much luck finding one whose taste we really loved until last year.  We have been depending on the self-sown tomatoes for our cherry tomatoes.  They grew fast, strong and very sweet.  The seeds or plants I bought have been disappointments until last year.  I found Indigo cherry and Nova, which are very beautiful and tasty.  I will grow these two cherry tomatoes again this year but I am still looking for a new one to try.

Indigo Cherry drop bears plenty of beautiful fruits and is very sweet when it's very ripe
Indigo Cherry drop bears plenty of beautiful fruits and is very sweet when it’s very ripe
I bought one Chocolate tomato at the Union Square Farmers market in 2014 because of its color, but it tasted so good that I kept the seeds. The ripe fruit has a reddish brown color with green stripes that drew my attention initially.
I bought one Chocolate tomato at the Union Square Farmers market in 2014 because of its color, but it tasted so good that I kept the seeds. The ripe fruit has a reddish brown color with green stripes that drew my attention initially.

At this point we still debating between the Black Krim-Heirloom from Crimea or Burpee’s Steakhouse Hybrid.   But our favorites and the Chocolate will always have their place in our garden.

 

Tomatoes And Chili Peppers

Time To Start Seedlings

Tomatoes and chili peppers are a staple in our vegetable garden.  We love trying new kinds of tomatoes for both color and taste.  Once we find the one we like we cull seeds to grow the year after.  Four kinds of tomato we have been growing every year because they have a marvelous taste are Cherokee purple, Mortgage Lifter , Brandywine and Rose.  We fell in love with the Cherokee purple at first bite, with its thin skin, juicyness and full tomato taste.  The rest are big, meaty and tasty.  We vouch for these four tomatoes anytime we’re asked.  We let the cherry tomatoes self-sow year after year.  I have no idea what type of cherry tomato they are, but they’re very sweet.  At this point I should call them ‘Resident Tomato’ since they seem to come up by themselves all over the yard every year.

Cherokee purple from last year's harvest
Cherokee purple from last year’s harvest
This Mortgage lifter also from last year's harvest
This Mortgage lifter also from last year’s harvest

We both love spicy food hence the collection of chili peppers.  I try to add some new kinds of chili pepper every year.  Some are harder to grow than others.  And, growing chili peppers in a cold climate is a challenge.

Growing tomato and chili pepper in the Northeastern part of the US takes some good planning since the growing season is a little bit short for some them to grow, bear fruit and ripen.  I have learned from vendors at the farmers market that the tomato and pepper plants they are selling were germinated in early March.  So, I have been following their method.

This year I started my tomato and chili peppers on March 8, never mind the snow and freezing cold out side.  I put seed trays on heat mats set to 80° Fahrenheit by the bay window.  Natural sunlight is enough for now and I don’t have room in the basement to add trays there.  It’s too cold down there anyway.  Some tomatoes sprouted within 5 days but the chili peppers take a little bit longer.  I usually see them sprout up within a week, providing that the heat mat stays between 75 and 80 degrees at all time.

Tomato and chili pepper seedlings by the bay window, March 14
Tomato and chili pepper seedlings by the bay window, March 14
Tomato seedlings, March 19.  Pretty lanky stretching for light
Tomato seedlings, March 19. Pretty lanky stretching for light
Chili pepper seedlings, March 19.  They are a little bit shorter than the tomato and  a little bit slower to grow
Chili pepper seedlings, March 19. They are a little bit shorter than the tomato and a little bit slower to grow

Now I have to wait for the true leaves to come up before I can put them in their individual pots, should be one more week now.

So far most tomato and chili pepper seeds have sprouted:

  • The large tomatoes: Mortgage lifter, Rose, Brandywine, Cherokee purple and Chocolate
  • Cherry tomato: Indigo cherry drop, Razzleberry, Tomatoberry and Nova
  • Chili pepper: Bhut Jolokia, Sikkim, Purira, Korean chili, Karen chili (tribal), Jamaican Red, Jamaican yellow, Himalayan yellow, Lemon drop, Wild Brazil, South Indian chili, Yellow torch, Long Thai, Thai Bird chili, Scotch Bonnet, Mexican chili, Yellow Thai chili

I forgot to put baby bell and Shishito peppers in, so I will have to buy the plants for this season.  They are very mild and good for snacking.  I may be able to start the Shishito now though since I will stir-fry the peppers when they still green, no need for maturity.

The gourmet growing season has begun!