Thoughts on the 2021/22 Tomato growing season.
Yet another season is now pretty much behind us Tasmanian’s. Yet another erratic season of ups and downs. Below are some of my thoughts on the season gone and a review of the tomato varieties I grew (either outside or in the hothouse). These are my experiences where I am based near Cygnet in the Huon Valley.
I rate the tomato season as from November to March. November proved pretty ordinary at best. Average daily temperatures at my place (Cradoc Huon Valley) was 1.75 degree C lower than the previous November, 1 degree C lower than the BOM Grove avg (which is colder than my spot). On top of this, on November 15 we are a very late cold event which saw that day average 4.7 C with snow flurries. The sudden drop in soil temperature and cold humid conditions are not what tomato seedlings want at this time of year.
This is why I stagger my tomato plantings and have protection set up until xmas. Regardless of protection this season, the wet humid conditions lent themselves to fungal issues (Septoria, early blight) which generally remained for the season for many. I saw many tomatoes around the area doing their best but with more lower leaf damage and fungal issues continuing to creep up. December to March was decent. Temps were above those required but it was dry. So there was much watering required to keep soil moisture pretty consistent. Fungal issues didn’t ruin my outside plants, but many plants were close to leafless by the end of March to mid April. It has been sometime since I have seen this but it was wet until December so little most can do (and quite humid in Jan to March). I sprayed a few milk solutions in late November and December and this seemed to keep things acceptable. The above avg temperatures were ideal for quick ripening which meant I have very few green tomatoes now (April 22).
A reminder that those tomatoes that suffer the worst of the sub optimal temperatures (see previous posts – daily temps on avg below 13C after planting) are set back. You can wait till early December to plant (I usually plant my last batch of outside tomatoes around this time, but protection is still often required until x-mas time as December is often erratic also. A few tomatoes i put some black plastic on the soil and removed around xmas time and this made a big difference to their early growth.
As a note, my hothouse plantings were done during October except for a few in November. The hothouse is kept a little cooler than many with both ends open except for mesh to prevent insect and bee entry. This is to minimise mildew from dry conditions and pest build up (caused from high humidity which can occur if closed on sunny days).
Varieties I grew this year and thoughts.
Calmart – small bush red cherry – first to ripen on Dec 16. Outstanding bush which produces many fruits over late Dec through to February.
Whippersnapper – small bush pinkish small cherry fruits. Produced many in January tho seedless (not a problem for many) – impacted by Septoria more so than others.
Earlinorth – another winner, easy to mange bush with medium sized red fruits. Taste is acceptable and ripened early equal with Calmart on Dec 16 and many produced through January.
Dwarf San Marzano – bulk of fruit ripened March through to mid April. Heavy yields. I think I prefer this to Roma now.
Silver fir – interesting ferny leaves. Medium red fruits. Produced many mid January thru to early March when is had no fruit left and was pulled.
Northern Delight – medium red fruits on a bush. One of my picks of the season. Ripened all its fruits from mid January through to end of February. Very heavy yields. Not winning awards for flavour but given its yields, a winner. Still tastes great cooked.
Early Annie – Not as early as its name suggests over the years I grow it. BUT it is heavy yielding of medium to large red fruits on a bush. Most ripened in March.
Siletz – a regular in my garden, produced from late Dec through January but was hit by too much Septoria and succumbed. I could have down more for it but had just too much going on late January.
Oregon Springs – I have grown this regularly over the past decade. Ripened starting late Dec, most were mid January to mid February. Large red fruits on a bush. Always was struggling with septoria.
Azoychka – Have heard many good things about this indeterminate yellow fruited variety. It ripened early January to March but struggled from fungal issues. I will try this in the hothouse next season. Tastes great. Poor season for it most likely due to bad start. I did not protect this one adequately during Nov cold spell.
Ailsa Craig – Scottish Heirloom, indeterminate. One plant I did not protect during November. It handled the Scottish Nov weather well on and produced early January, with high yields in February. With a better start to the season, and affording it some protection, this could be a real winner.
Gold Nugget (vining form) – was meant to be the bush gold nugget. Grew as a 1.5m tall indeterminate with the typical gold nugget fruits. A happy accident really as others that grew these seedlings this season had the same thing happen and the fruits taste better than the bush form. Has some strong resistance to fungal diseases and hung in until the time of writing although the fruits are now largely all harvested. Ripening mid-January, touch later than the bush form.
Isis Candy – lovely orange red fruits on this indeterminate cherry. Did seem more susceptible to the fungal season, however plenty of fruits ripened. Plants were removed by late March with no fruits left to ripen.
Early Wonder – Ripened largely over February to March, a tick earlier than Early Annie. High yields of small to medium red tomatoes.
Snow White – A real winner. Indeterminate white yellow cherries. The more yellow pearly the fruits get, the sweeter they are. Very heavy yields. Too many almost as so many came in close too each other. Was a lovely tasting tomato that many visitors enjoyed.
Barrys Crazy Cherry – One of my favourites. Delicious yellow cherries. Loaded with fruit, didn’t show many signs of fungal issues. Ripened early February onwards. A yearly variety I grow. All visitors loved this one.
Chico Grande – I was expecting the fruits to be more plum shaped, but most where more rounded. But easy to grow bush (small to medium red fruits) that had every fruit ripen by mid March. Plant was out by late March. average flavours but other family members liked it. Taste is personal!
Sweet Marbles – In the Tommy Toe vein. I don’t rate it as high as Tommy Toe but grew well and produced lots of red cherries from late Jan on.
St Pierre – French Heirloom, produced a decent number of medium to large red fruits of nice flavour during mid February to late March.
Rouge de Marmande – A regular I grow as nice flavours and fairly reliable. Not quite the bush tomato it was 20 years ago in my opinion but well worth growing in our climate.
Kotlas – a regular for 12 years growing, this was its worst season as Septoria hit it hard. First time I have seen this. First fruit ripened late December, produced a reasonable number of smaller to med red toms during January until Septoria won the battle during February.
Legend – a bit like kotlas. One struggled with early blight and Septoria. Still produced nice big red fruits in January but by February the fungal issues lowered yields.
Cherokee Purple – Still one of my favourites. I grew this in a hand made cage and did no leader trimming this year. I just let it be and it produced over 30 delicious fruits ranging from 200 to 450 grams. Some Septoria on lower leaves. Only 3 green fruits remain, plant just been pulled. Ripening began mid February, majority came in March to early April. Worth it for the flavours.
Tommy Toe – still the premier red cherry. Last harvests have just been undertaken. My wife’s favourite for flavour.
Napa Chardonnay – one of the tastiest yellow cherries I have grown. Only complaint is the thin skin and tendency to crack if soil moisture is not consistent. Well worth growing for the flavour.
3 more I forgot about in original draft:
Yellow Cherry Honeybee – ripened mid Jan on. Good flavours and good yields. First time growing and was happy with this indeterminate cherry.
Black Truffle / Japanese Black Trifele – How could I forget this one. A regular tomato I grow and in my top 5. Grew outside and in hothouse. Yields well each year with tasty pearish shaped brown fruits. Grew exceptionally well in the hothouse also. Ripens earlier outside in mid January onwards which is always a bonus. Biggest yields are mid Feb onwards.
Fahrenheit Blues – disappointed by this pretty looking tomato. Too slow compared to the others to ripen outside so I doubt I will grow this one again. Likely fine in a hothouse but blue ambrosia and indigo blue peformed well and taste better to my taste buds.
Loxton Lass – a winner. Very tasty yellow/orange fruits, some quite large. Easy to manage. Ripened mid Feb on but was planted early December.
Blazing Beauty – a regular for me. Love the flavours of these medium to large orange fruits on a 1.5m tall easy to manage bush.
Gondwana Rose/Thunder – A tad disappointed by these. Had one also in a hothouse. Both seemed slow to ripen and other friends plantings did the same. Will try again as i always do. Two failures and I stop trying.
Gondwana Moon – Opposite to above. High yields and nice flavoured and pretty yellow and black small to medium fruits.
Gondwana Lava – Does not beat the Moon, but worth growing again. Pretty cherry fruits and like Moon, packed with anthocyanins.
-obviously yields are high with the higher average temperatures than outside planted so comparisons can’t be done
Mortgage Lifter – first fruits ripened mid Dec, lots of large red fruits. Died off and I suspect fusarium wilt. Only plant this happened to. Will grow again however and it is a favoured sandwich tomato.
Ovi’s Romanian Giant – Grows long vines in the hothouse and many fruits. Can get to over 1kg fruits (a few of us grew whoppers a few years back) but I left many fruits form this year to get lots of 300 to 500g fruits. Good tomato flavours.
Nyagous – Heavy yielding medium sized very tasty brown fruits. A candidate for market gardening if I was to grow only a few varieties.
Paul Robeson – Not quite Cherokee Purple, but loads of large brown fruits. Certainly nice flavours. I planted tis later than most in the hothouse.
Black from Tula – Very happy with this variety. If under-watered the fruits tend to dry out in a hothouse so important to water well. High yielding and flavoursome.
Earls Faux – An improved Brandywine Pink. Almost can see through the skin before they ripen pink. Large and full of flavour. I grew this outside the huon bushfire summer and they performed well. Up there in the flavour rankings but a later to ripen variety grown outside.
Mary Italian – I usually grow this outside but decided to see how it went in a hothouse. It went awesome. High yields of medium fruits that turn orange then red.
San Marzano – Still the premier paste tomato in my opinion. A few early fruits tend to get blossom end rot, but this ups my game to water adequately. Had no problems outside the first few fruits.
Italian Red Pear – I should have grown this outside. Stems had to be cut after 3m growth in mid January. High yields of ok tasting fruits. Nice in salads with a vinaigrette.
Periforme Abbruzesse – Next to San Marzano, outstanding paste tomato. High yields. Grows very tall in a hothouse. Usually I grow this outside.
Lucid Gem – Beautiful fruits, tasty and handles the heat well. Will be a regular. Long harvest window in a hothouse. Will try outside next year. Remain fresh for a long time after picking.
Canestrino di Lucca – High yields of medium sized paste tomatoes. Pastes with just this tomato were Delicious. A nice option for a paste tomato. Vine will grow large if allowed to.
Kaleidoscopic Jewel – Looks beautiful. Not quite as high yielding but nice flavours. Will try outside but I suspect it may need more warmth to yield well outside.
Keloggs Breakfast – American heirloom. Almost seedless and so meaty. Not great for seed saving but I can see why Americans rate it so highly.
Black Beauty – My pick of the hothouse season. So high yielding and the fruits are in my top 5 for flavour. On top of that the fruits are beautiful. Dark sunny side, light on the shady side, showing reds and pinks when ripe.
Blue Ambrosia – high yields in the hothouse. Look a treat. Healthy with anthocyanins (in blueberries). Yielded more than Indigo Rose.
Indigo Rose – My 2nd pick of the season. A mini–Black Beauty, although Indigo Rose is the reason for so many modern colourful varieties. Blue Ambrosia yielded more, but Indigo is a bit more flavourful. Flavours are all individual however!!
Brads Atomic Grape – One of those varieties that tastes so much better if you let it almost over ripen on the vine. Colours are amazing, yields kept coming. I suspect it may yield less grown outside.
Dark Galaxy – Another like Atomic Grape, later to ripen outside but they are so pretty. In the hothouse they yielded plenty of small to medium fruits. Large range of fruit sizes was interesting.
Earl of Edgecombe – Not the highest yielder, but lovely flavoured yellow large fruits from this NZ heirloom.
Blue Gold Berries – a late planting in the hothouse. Grew quick and wild so better outside I would say to do its thing. Beautiful yellow bottoms with dark stained tops where the sun hits.
Wagner Blue Green – Another of those multi colour fruits. Green inside, dark purples on the top and yellow when ripe on the bottom. Grew very well in the hothouse. Slightly later to ripen than Lucid Gem.
Dwarf tomatoes in the hothouse
Boronia – delightful large brick red/brown tomatoes full of flavour. Cherokee Purple esque.
Kookaburra Cackle – My equal favourite of the season. Delicious brick red small to medium large fruits. Yields well. Will be a regular.
Coorong Pink – Did very well also. Lots of dainty pink fruits small to medium sized.
Geranium Kiss – A top candidate for red cherry tomatoes if you don’t want an indeterminate growing wild. High yields.
Pepper like Stripes – Roma like but pretty orange stripings. Less Blossom end rot on this compared to Roma. Lovely roasted. Good addition to sauces and cooking. Easy to manage.
Comparisons are almost impossible to make to be honest. Should I weigh everything and record it all next season? The stats nerd in me says yes but adding more work to a busy time of the year sounds silly!
I look forward to the downtime to rejuvenate before the next growing season. Some interesting varieties I have most of the new varieties for next season already planned.
Enjoy winter before the tomato seed sowing begins (late July to September for me).
Happy Growing and Sowing.