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Advice for a good determinate tomato  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: South Central PA
10
cat fungi urban
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Hi!, I have a very small garden and yet every year I try different indeterminate tomatoes with varied results. My biggest issue with them is I haven't found a good way to "control" them and or help support their growth. I was wondering if anyone has any good suggestions for a determinate that actually tastes like an indeterminate like a Brandywine or Cherokee purple. I think I'd do better growing a determinate in my space, but I still want really great flavor. Any seed suggestions anyone can offer, I would greatly appreciate! I'm in zone 6a...Thanks!
 
gardener
Posts: 1813
Location: Zone 6b
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I find if one don't want to cage a Brandywine they do fairly well with one or two steel fenceposts (right at the plant or two about a foot apart in line with the plant, so you can loop tie to the supports), Early Girl has returned well for an indeterminant. A smaller tomato with 4-6 ounce fruits. It will start fruiting at the bottom and go up as it gets bigger and older. One will keep someone in fresh eating tomatoes throughout the season, grab the couple a day that are ripe as it starts and it will keep at it to frost.

A good one I grew this year, mostly indeterminant, is Joseph Lofthouse's Short Season Landrace. I put them in 54" 9 gauge tomato cages and they tipped those some. Might suggest a back trellis of a calf panel and held up with a few steel fenceposts. Just tie the tomato vine to the pane, and a 16' long, 50" high with three set fence posts (one at each end and one in the middle) will allow for 5-7 larger tomato plants. These topped at about 4 1/2 feet. Fruiting from the bottom as they went up, some determinant tendencies to make a mid crop layer in the plant. Blooming and setting to the top of the plant as it goes, but tapering off after it loads the middle.

The only determinants I grow are Roma and sauce style, and those often do better with lower garden fencing, a few concentric rings to keep the vines off the ground and about 3' high. I thread the vines through at 18" to 24" and that is the fruiting layer, the height is to allow me to rig shade as the fruit will sunscald unless one grows in afternoon shade from shadecloth or a handy tree.

I am at 6b with fairly high sustained winds, low humidity, altitude (which can add to sunscald) and a bit of a calcium deficient soil. Early Girl likes to blossom end rot, so have a soil test done .  

How large is your garden?

How much space do you have for tomatoes?  I usually go on a grid, and figure 3' radius for a small tomato and 5' radius for a tall large beefsteak. This year I planted rows, I usually plant blocks of four plants and put a step paver in the dead middle for working. My line rows were 10' apart, and the plants put in either 30" apart or 60" apart depending on size.

How many plants do you want to grow?

Areas you grow tomatoes should be grown with something else in rotation, tomatoes every third year in that spot.

Do you want salad/eating; salsa and sauce; beefsteak; and what sort of a production do you wish?

To extend your season and choices, are and do you want to, start your own or get plants early and do a little uppotting and deep planting to add to the roots, sturdiness and get a head start?
 
Denise Kersting
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: South Central PA
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Hi Deb,

Thank you for your response. My garden is in all about 10ft x 17ft, full sun, I rotate plants as much as I can, but it's not a perfect rotation. I do add compost every year and the soil is pretty good, I start my seeds in the winter in my house, and repot up as they get bigger, before the last frost I have red wall-of-waters that I can use to start them out early and keep them protected to extend my season. I don't get much wind unless a storm comes through, I have pretty high heat in the summer and it is normally dry too. I like tomatoes that are more like a beefsteak, and I use those for everything (salads, sandwiches, sauces) I've grown some sauce tomatoes, and I haven't been overly impressed with them, I'm more into a great flavor (I like the sweeter pink brandywine or the sweet, tomatoey, dusky Cherokee). How's the flavor of an Early Girl?  This year I've got two pink Quisenberry strain brandys, 1 red brandy, 2 Cherokee, and 2 Beaverlodge slicers, all 7 plants growing this year in a kind-of a zig-zagged row using 1/2 of the garden (it's about 4ft x 17ft) it's a little tight, and have been setting r-bar on either side and 1 in the middle by the plant, and weaving garden twine around them to kinda cage them in. (The beaverlodge was an attempt to find a determinate I like, but I haven't gotten to try one yet, the squirrels took all of those to-date.) I think next year I'll only do 2 plants. Maybe I'll just grow my favorites, but with only 2 plants trying to sprawl and take over I'll be able to keep after them. I guess my bigger to deal with is getting my garden fenced again, I'm losing most of my fruits to squirrels and birds!
 
Deb Rebel
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Posts: 1813
Location: Zone 6b
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I figure I'm going to lose about 20% of my crop to the wildlife, but if I could only teach them to scarf ONE instead of just sampling eight.

Messing with bird net is a pain but it can help you get more of your tomatoes for YOU.

For birds, hanging red balls at the beginning of the season (grab some NOT overly shiny red plastic Christmas ornament balls after the holiday cheap) can teach birds that the red stuff isn't food. They go for it and find out it's not food, and it can make them go away. Leave them out during the whole growing season, so they can still find a NotFood and reinforce the red isn't theirs. You still might need net.

Squirrels, I have a cat that can almost catch them and I do mean he's awfully close to it. His mother COULD catch them. He scares one a few times and it doesn't come back. Cats aren't normally squirrel deterrent, but dogs are. Squirrels are very intelligent when going after food. It might take woven chicken wire of 1" holes to keep them away. When I moved here there was a 4' x 8' box 2' high made of wooden frame, calf panel, and covered with 1/4" hardware cloth. With strawberry plants in it. Else the previous owner couldn't get ANY because of the squirrels.

Try Joseph Lofthouse's Short Season. They gave me some good tomatoes, once they got to producing, LOTS. The other one that did well this year was Super Fantastic, I had to buy plants-I was trying to market garden and I needed something that did well here as a base for selling fodder. I also grew a lot of heirlooms, and most didn't make it to producing (thank you not, this spring in general) though I finally got a Black Sea Man From Tula to produce. Unusual looking tomato when sliced, in the beefsteak family. I have two more I need to identify today, doing really good beefsteaks, different kinds. One has a blush shoulder forming, really late starter. Supersauce was a disappointment, stick to something like Roma VF, they give a smaller nice solid tomato. I also got some Heinz sauce and they didn't do much either.

Nothing like a good old Brandywine, I call them Candymaters. Nothing like having to find some old pantyhose and make fruit slings to keep the tomatoes on the plant until they ripen. That stuff lets the moisture drain. I've also had to make bags from old sheer curtains and yarn for drawstring and bag fruit, it seems everything else loves my Brandys too. If you can stick a loose fist into the bag and the drawstring falls mid arm, it should be big enough for most brandys, my plants when happy will go 12-16 oz fruits easily. I build cages from calf panels for them, one 2'x2'x7' tall (when sunk in) tower will hold one pink or red suddeth; started indoors early and uppotted from deep starter flat to trade gallon to go out mid May, starts giving me ripe fruit here end of July until frost. Bagging keeps bugs from munching after fruit set, but doesn't slow down a squirrel.

Determinants are great but indeterminants or semi's give me fruit over a longer season than say the Roma 'squat' and everything comes in in about 4-6 weeks.

Hope someone else from your area can jump in and give you more on something determinant that would grow for you. Though each year can be different...
 
Denise Kersting
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: South Central PA
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cat fungi urban
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I absolutely love the idea of the red christmas ornaments!! That is brilliant, thank you! I will definitely try that next year. I also use pantyhose to make slings for my tomatoes, but for other deterrents, well my cat loves to chase squirrels, but she is only allowed out for an hour or 2 a day while we can watch her. I live in a city and if she roams too far, she'll be in traffic. So that leaves them unprotected for most of the day. Dogs, I love them, but not for me. My cat was attached by a stray pit that ran into my yard, and I was previously attacked by one years ago. Neither of us is really comfy with dogs. So I think I'm stuck with an idea of what I would like to build (someday)...I keep thinking if I build a "open" green-type-house, that is a greenhouse like frame with 1/2" hardware cloth or 1" chicken wire so that pollinators could still come in, but birds, squirrels, and chipmunks would be kept out.
Thank you!
 
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