End Of Season Advice for Tomatoes

Here in the Inland Northwest, our weather is extremely variable.

Here are several ways to motivate your tomatoes to ripen their fruit. Remember that the plants main purpose in life, is to procreate and it panics when you do one or more of the following:

Cut back on watering

Shovel pruning – cut the roots about a foot from the plants on two sides. If it’s really late in the season, do all four sides.

Start picking off extra blossoms. One caveat: if it is a cherry tomato leave them alone since they take very little time to go from blossom to ripe fruit.

Pick off tomatoes that you know aren’t going to have enough time to get big enough. These would be the very large, whopper size tomatoes such as Mortgage Lifter, Aussie, Big Rainbow, Rose etc.

Pinch off growing tips as to focus their attention into ripening what they have

Watch the weather like a hawk protect the plants with row cover, bed sheets, tarps, blankets, anything to keep the frost off the fruit. tomatoes-with-tarp

Here we have used blue tarps.

Once frost touches the fruit they will rot rather than ripen.DSCF9210

This what a frost damaged tomato looks like. 

Before a hard, plant killing frost, pick all green ones and bring them inside, most will ripen, the rest you can use for fried green tomatoes or a green tomato relish.

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Tomato Terms: What Does it Mean When I Say . . . Heirloom?

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Many gardeners agree that heirloom tomato varieties boast greater flavor than the hybrids. After all, there is a reason they’ve been around for so long. In general I agree although I’ve had some tasty hybrids such as the cherry tomato, “Sungold” and “Sweet Treats” a larger pink cherry tomato, which is fabulous. 

While hybrid plants typically yield a crop that is uniform in both appearance and timing, heirlooms produce a “mixed bag” harvest. The harvest may come in less predictably, and produce size can vary greatly even on the same plant but it is still worth the real estate that they take up. Heirlooms, especially the larger ones, can be prone to cracking and cat facing which is not their most endearing quality but beauty is skin deep in my book. I have never found a beauty queen tomato, perfectly round, consistently red that can compare with a fat, juicy, sweet slice of, say, “Aussie” or “Rose” on my BLT!

Heirlooms typically come with a story that is as wonderful as the flavor. The Amish heirloom tomato Brandywine yields fruit with an unbeatable flavor in shades reminiscent of a glass of Cabernet. Mortgage Lifters paid off a man’s house in the depression years. Nebraska Wedding is an old Great Plains heirloom whose seeds were given to newly married couples to help them start their lives and start their farms together. Amana Orange takes its name from Amana, Iowa. Paul Robeson, a Russian heirloom tomato was named after the operatic artist who won acclaim as an advocate of equal rights for Blacks. His artistry was admired world-wide, especially in the Soviet Union. 

Tomato Terms: What Does it Mean When I Say . . .Heirloom

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Tomatoes in picture: Black Prince, White Queen, Aussie, Gold Medal, Black Truffle, Costoluto Fiorentino and others.

Whether you call them “Heritage” or “Heirloom”, these are still the varieites you will want to grow for taste. Heirlooms come from seed that has been handed down for generations in a particular region or area, and hand-selected by gardeners for a special trait. 

Heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated, which means they’re non-hybrid and pollinated by insects or wind without human intervention. How experts define heirlooms can vary, but typically they are at least 50 years old, and often are pre-WWII varieties. 

In addition, they tend to remain stable in their characteristics from one year to the next. What that means to you is that you can can save the seeds and if they don’t cross pollinate they will come true. Your “Aunt Ruby’s German Green” tomato seed will produce an “Aunt Ruby’s German Green” next year. Tomatoes are self pollinating and if you want to be relatively sure they haven’t “crossed the road” bag the flowers after you hand pollinate them or plant them away from other tomatoes. Remember that wind, bees and other things can pollinate the flowers. too

Many gardeners …to be continued

How Was Your Garden This Year?

I must admit, this was a tough year for my garden. I am the Tomato Lady and should have beautiful tomatoes and to be honest, I thought about questioning my calling. Slugs, flea beetles, aphids, early blight, late blight, splitting, cat facing, you name it, I had it. The weather was cold and rainy in June, then it got really hot for a long time, then it rained. All of my tomatoes split. You expect most of the cherries to split with their thin skins, (juliet is a fine tasting tomato with thicker skins that don’t usually split) but no the larger ones. The Black from Tula, which I adore, split exactly around the middle, the Sungolds and Honeybunch split stem to stern and the Oxacans, (which I won’t ever grow again, mealy texture, small) split without out the rain. Every last one of them. The only ones that didn’t split were the Nebraska Wedding, Old Fashioned Goliath, Joe’s Pink Oxheart and Mountain Gold.

At the end of the season, we picked all the green ones and left them on the porch to ripen. because of the slug bites and splitting, they rotted before they ripened so i just threw them all in the compost pile and shut the door behind on of the worst seasons ever. 

My peppers did not do well either. The heirloom shelling beans, all 7 varieties, had some sort of issue from the moment they came up. 

Hope springs eternal though, there is always next year. 

Note: the plants themselves were glorious and I’ve talked with many of my customers who said they had great success with their tomatoes and gardens. Below is an Aussie that one of my customers has grown. It was the first of the season. Isn’t it lovely? And big? I can tell you they are tasty.

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