William Schlegel

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since Jan 23, 2017
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Recent posts by William Schlegel

Indeterminate tomatoes have stems that end in new leaves and just keep growing.

Determinate tomatoes have stems that end in flowers and eventually ripen all their fruits.

I used to only grow indeterminate tomatoes. However when I started my own tomato breeding six years ago I started experimenting with both.

I now have both wonderful varieties bred by other people with both traits and my own tomatoes.

It is a simple dominant / recessive situation with indeterminate dominant.

There is a third way called dwarf and at least some dwarf varieties keep their fruit off the ground without staking for me.

The most important thing for starting a tomato breeding grex in my opinion is to start with hybrids and or include at least one variety that crosses readily because a part of the flower called the stigma / style sticks out and or make deliberate crosses using the many videos available on youtube or other online tutorials.

I've occasionally been able to find a blooming sungold F1 or Sunsugar F1 plant for sale at a local retailer and checked to find the stigma / style to be sticking out before even buying it. That could be a very good place to start such a grex because dehybridization projects using Sungold have produced numerous successful open pollinated versions for other breeders.

Other seed for varieties with stigmas that tend to stick out a bit is available including Exserted Tiger, Exserted Orange, Big Hill, and the promiscuous tomato project from Experimental Farm Network and Snake River Seeds.
2 months ago

Cindy Haskin wrote:

William Schlegel wrote:How out crossing works in tomatoes in my experience:

Domestic tomatoes can be almost 100% inbreeding to about 30% outbreeding. This depends in part on pollinators available. They will accept pollen of any other domestic tomato and multiple wild species. Flower structure is the main game changer.

Habrochaites tomatoes range from inbreeding to obligate outbreeding. Domestic can accept their pollen.

Penelli tomatoes are about the same as habrochaites. Except growing the plants is tricky.

Galapagense, pimpinillifolium, and Cheesemanii tomatoes are about the same as domestic. In practice though this means they mostly keep to themselves or only contribute pollen to open flowers.

Peruvianum tomatoes can sometimes accept penellii pollen. The larger Peruvianum complex is a bit complicated. It can be crossed with domestic with difficulty.

Some specific Arcanum tomatoes can contribute limited pollen to domestic. But cannot cross back to the Peruvianum complex.

One specific Chilense population is known for both crossing with domestic and peruvianum. But growing it is elusive.

I have never seen or heard of all these tomatoes you have listed. Are they from other countries as some of the names suggest? Where would I find any? Would adding a few to my own future land race attempts be of any real benefit?


Those are species tomatoes. You can find them online and they do contain rare genetics but most wild species tomatoes do not taste good.

https://www.hrseeds.com/wild-tomatoes here is one source.

Solanum pimpinillifolium, and Solanum cheesemaniae are the two wild species known to taste good.

Some wild species tomatoes like Solanum habrochaites are commonly used as rootstocks or rootstock parents for grafted tomatoes but do not taste good.

Most people do not need wild species tomatoes, but serious plant breeders make crosses with them looking for resistance. Joseph Lofthouse has used a couple species of them to make some hybrid populations. After about 7 generations some tasty ones showed back up!

If you just like tasty tomatoes, I would not go all the way to wild ones. Or at least stick with the two tasty species. Though personally I've found it a delightful journey of botanical discovery it may not be for everyone.

The two tasty wild species contain tremendous diversity and those I would recommend to everyone. Also many modern varieties incorporate wild genes.

Fortunately, Joseph's tomatoes are available and with those most of the hard work has already been done but depending on the population may vary in flavor a lot even still.


Joseph's tomatoes are at the above link including some wild species such as a diverse population of Solanum habrochaites sold as Neandertomato (these would not taste good).  Solanum habrochaites crosses are a serious long-term project to get back to good flavors but the journey can be a lot of fun for those who love plants. His Q series and Wildling Panormous tomatoes will offer tremendous diversity and the benefit of those first seven generations or so, but some will likely still have off tastes. Some of them may be obligate outcrossing which means planting at least a few plants may be necessary.

If looking for a fun source of resistant genetics in a fully domestic tomato you might try something like Purple Zebra F1 or Sungold F1.  These modern hybrids incorporate small amounts of wild genetics from the wild species for various resistances to common tomato diseases.


Modern hybrids can be a fun and tasty way to get started with tomato breeding. They will segregate the second year you grow them. Segregating tomato populations are great fun! It is basically like having someone else make a tomato cross for you as the start of a breeding project!

I think the main thing with a tomato landrace or grex is really to look for tomatoes that have open flowers with styles and stigmas that stick out a bit and are more likely to cross occasionally.
3 months ago

John Indaburgh wrote:I've found that tomato seeds germinate well in wood chips, undisturbed since the tomato fell on them, and since most weeds don't you get a big advantage. I have a lot of tomatoes that fall to the ground and get left there.
I only grow a limited number of heirloom beefsteak varieties. Mortgage Lifter is my shortest to harvest.  I also grow Dester, Pink Brandywine, Pink Ponderosa, and Belgian Giant. So the volunteers are one of those, but I don't know which.

Intriguing! Wood chips, bark, and sawdust at least temporarily create a more open soil texture similar to sandy or gravelly soils. Similar to those soil textures found in seasonally dry riparian areas where I have seen volunteer tomatoes. Also, in seasonally dry riparian areas you tend to get little drifts of organic materials such as branches, sticks, or leaves. Soil texture could also explain the good germination out of compost piles.

Pink Ponderosa would be that same variety or a close relative that Richard Clemence wrote about with Ruth Stout. It would make sense that it would still work.  
7 months ago

Just thought I would cross link in this new thread above because I think it asks an important question:

Is reliable volunteering possible in tomatoes?

Dependent on genetics?

Dependent on soil type and other habitat elements?

Is good volunteering ability the ultimate evolution of direct seeded tomatoes? Or will they stop short of that?

Why don't wild south American tomato species either direct seed or volunteer well with some exceptions? Namely Solanum peruvianum and Solanum pimpinillifolium seem to do some but the other species at least for me do not.

Some other related threads:





7 months ago

Paul Sofranko wrote:I had about a dozen volunteers from tomatoes that were tossed on the ground or were in the compost pile. Unfortunately, I didn't record what they were because I didn't expect them. Nevertheless, very few produced anything as they germinated too late.  

That is about where I was in 2016 when I first noticed two volunteers that barely produced. In 2017 I collected tons of short season tomato varieties and tried them all direct seeded. With more deliberate selection direct seeding and volunteers are much more productive in zone 6A. Though they do produce a late crop

Some of the results of that 2017 direct seeding were as follows:

Sweet Cherriette
sungold F3
Anmore Dewdrop

Almost as early:
Tumbler F2
Krainiy Sever
42 Days
forest fire

Female part of the flower sticks out and early enough to direct seed:
Blue Ambrosia
PL Matina
JL potato leaf

Fancy and early enough to direct seed:
Blue Ambrosia
Amurski Tigr

tasty and early enough to direct seed:

Sungold descendents
Blue Ambrosia
Possibly yellow pear (in a good year like 2017!)

Other interesting:
Dwarf Hirsutum Cross "jeepers" exceptionally healthy plants and worked direct seeded.

I would add in subsequent years I have discovered or bred some additional very interesting tomato varieties all of which I think will work direct seeded or as volunteers:

Big Hill (Bred by Joseph)
Exserted Tiger (Bred Blue Ambrosia x Amurski Tigr)
Exserted Orange (Bred w. Joseph and others)
Joseph Lofthouse's promiscuous tomato project
Brad (A favorite of Joseph's)
Wild Child- bred by same guy as Blue Ambrosia a very early stabilized wild cross
I have one project I call Mission Mountain Sunrise or MMS for short. It is a very fun blue bicolor but is so far unreleased.
Also I would add there are at least two strains of Jagodka and the strain I obtained in 2017 was different from Joseph's strain. Which is funny because it was really good but I only got it because Joseph said so much about his strain! If I were interested in boring red tomatoes I would cross the two strains and call it Jagodka x Jagodka. I don't know for sure if Josephs strain is as early as Earl's strain. Also Anmore Dewdrop is a stabilized version of Tumbler f1. So if you want hybrids to start with I would highly recommend Sungold F1 and Tumbler F1.

2018 was the only year that was a little iffy. I got a freeze after I got a good amount of tomato seed back but before I got the amazing production I got in 2017. Though the early produced F1's from 2018 led to an amazing F2 year in 2019! Maybe my favorite year so far!
7 months ago

john Harper wrote:

Jan White wrote:I have 6-8 months of potential freezes. I've always had lots of volunteer tomatoes of all different varieties. I don't pick all my green tomatoes at the end of the season and leave the plants and fruit as mulch. If I have a tomato I don't particularly like, I'll chop the plant down and leave it in place as well. So lots of rotting tomatoes all over the place.

The problem I have is that my season isn't long enough to get much fruit off the volunteers. They don't start producing until right at the end of the season.

This year I planted some of the shortest season varieties I could find. Jagodka and Brad are used in the breeding work of one of the members here, so I got those. Then I got seven or eight others with names like Manitoba and Sub Arctic Plenty. I planted them in pots outside so they would come up on their own schedule.  I got my first ripe tomato on September 2nd, which may have been a bit later than it otherwise would be because our summer was very challenging for unwatered plants this year. I'm hoping with some seed selection to improve on that date.

So I'd say just plant lots of short season tomatoes and leave lots of fruit from the ones you like.

I think this is your best chance of developing a usable variety that reliably self seeds.

One problem I have seen is that I get tomato seedlings popping up all over my 6a garden in the spring but most often they either get killed off with late frosts or germinate too late to supply useful fruit. Finding a variety with short season that can delay germination would be key to developing a viable freely reseeding variety.

I would say one additional element is needed in variety development: the potential for genetic segregation. You can gain this potential by starting with hybrids, making crosses, or acquiring varieties that are more likely to cross on their own.

Hybrids: In 2017 when I first got serious about direct seeding I acquired all the shortest season tomatoes I could including the hybrids! One that worked particularly well was Sungold which is an F1 hybrid. There are quite a few early season F1 hybrid tomatoes on the market!

The second way is to make crosses. There are lots of videos available on youtube for how to do this! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aj5TPzhDuI

The other easy source for this potential in my experience is searching for varieties with a trait where the female part of the flower tends to poke out a bit. That is what I found with Joseph Lofthouse's Big Hill and another variety called Blue Ambrosia. This trait leads to a greater rate of crossing. I've tried to capture that trait in Exserted Tiger (descended from Blue Ambrosia x Amurski Tigr) and Exserted Orange (Big Hill x Unknown). Exserted means "sticks out a bit". You will be able to find the crosses when you save the seed from one sort and it turns out quite different. For instance red tends to be dominant so if you plant any sort of yellow tomato like Big Hill and it turns up red the next year you have a cross!

Also and on a separate note: I have hardly any tomato disease issues here. You may have many more on on the East coast? I grew some of my tomatoes on a shady balcony in Missoula MT last summer and the powdery mildew!

Oh and for whatever reason here my volunteers and direct seeded tomatoes almost never germinate before the last frost- they did a bit in 2017 but then mostly survived it at one inch in height. So the other four years germination was well timed. If a one inch rainfall event doesn't happen at the proper time here tomato seeds need to be watered to germinate. Rain virtually stops in March and April here and then we tend to get hammered by rain in May and June.
7 months ago
So some questions for you: What are the varieties you spread tomatoes from? What is the texture of your soil that is how much sand, silt, and clay? You can answer the latter question if unknown with the USDA's Web Soil Survey https://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/HomePage.htm
7 months ago
Tomato seeds seem quite capable of surviving the winter and volunteering the next year. However, and I don't know why this is, the percentages seem to be lower than for direct seeding. Also it seems like at least in my garden their is a trend towards gradual extinction. For instance in my direct seeding experiments these past five years I have probably left thousands of tomatoes on the vine at the end of the season. My current garden is littered with them. This spring I couldn't find a tomato packet I had saved of one variety I grew a seed crop of the year before. So I walked out to the isolation garden picked up a tomato mummy crumbled it into a pot and grew some more! In that garden however there were no volunteers.

In 2019 I grew a huge direct seeded population of segregating F2's. In 2020 I had a nice little patch of volunteers. I fully expected them to volunteer again in 2021 but they really did not. Evidence towards this trend towards gradual extinction.

Now some of the seeds can survive for multiple years in the ground. It does seem to me like tomatoes really benefit from a one inch or greater germinating rainfall event properly timed.

I've hypothesized that enough years of direct seeding and volunteering could result in tomatoes that volunteer as you wish. However the reality often seems to be this gradual trend towards extinction.

In 2016 I picked up a single plant of Amurski Tigr https://ohioheirloomseeds.com/products/amurskij-tigr-amur-tiger-tomato-seeds
From the tomato plant lady at the Missoula Farmer's market. It seemed to have everything I liked about tomatoes at the time. It was a early season indeterminate and it had stripes!

So in 2017 I did my first big direct seeding experiment and this included seed from the Amurski Tigr plant. It also volunteered. So I put some pollen from it on the exserted stigma of Blue Ambrosia also in my 2017 garden.

In 2018 I direct seeded a huge direct seeding of Blue Ambrosia saved seed.

Then in 2019 the stripes reappeared in my 2019 direct seeding.  

So in 2020 I grew the result out isolated and Snake River Seeds has been kind enough to offer the result in their catalogue.


In my personal seed collection I also have yellow variants from 2019 and volunteers in 2020.

So in my personal experience Amurski Tigr and it's descendant Exserted Tiger volunteer fairly well. However if they volunteered as well as you hope they would utterly have taken over my garden by now and would have made it impossible to direct seed other varieties in some of my gardens. That has not been the case- though I worried it might be in the garden where I grew the ancestors of Exserted Tigr in 2018, 2019, and 2020, they didn't reappear in 2021 or at least not much and any that did got weeded out because I used the area for a massive grow out of elite material from Joseph Lofthouse's promiscuous project in 2021.

Joseph Lofthouse's promiscuous project is best available from EFN seeds https://store.experimentalfarmnetwork.org/collections/lofthouse?page=1 both the wildling panamorous and the Q series are currently available and look fairly similar to what I grew out. Direct seeding was successful in 2021 but I found no volunteers from the 2020 grow out in my oldest garden. Exserted Orange is also available on the Joseph Lofthouse page and it is one that Joseph sent me in the F2 from Big Hill x Unknown and I reselected for good exsertion of the stigma to match Big Hill which is also available from EFN and Snake River.

This year I also grew a great deal of potentially crossed Big Hill seed direct seeded but didn't select anything from it. Suffice it to say Big Hill, Exserted Orange, Exserted Tiger, Amurski Tigr, and Blue Ambrosia all work direct seeded as do many others.

I would look for tomato varieties of about 60 DTM or less ideally though 70 DTM or greater varieties will sometimes work out direct seeded.

One would think that wild tomatoes would be particularly good at volunteering and direct seeding. In my experience having grown ~12 or so species tomatoes, that is not the case in zone 6a. I believe that is largely because of adaptation- most North American garden habitats do not closely enough approximate the habitats found in South America and the season is shorter here.

One key word there is habitat. I have seen volunteer tomatoes growing in the wild in places like dry riverbeds in southern California near agricultural areas, in areas burned by forest fires where someone may have sat and eaten a lunch while say fighting fire, along sidewalks in Nevada, on city streets in Southern California, in a waste place on the edge of an agricultural field in southern California, and along a trail on the island of Kuai in Hawaii. Disturbance, lack of competition, and riverbeds seem to be key habitat factors. I add sand to my gardens and I do think the gardens that have had sand addition seem to have better volunteerism. That is to say the more your garden is like a dry riverbed the more closely it may approximate natural tomato habitat. There is a book on growing grapes that I read that says that to grow grapes properly the vine yard's soil should be deeply mixed and inverted to mimic something like that of a natural riparian area where grapes grow in the wild. I think something similar may be true of tomatoes. Riparian soils are hard to characterize because they are deeply mixed and layered, there may be patches of sand, cobble, organic material all in layers. So certain soil textures may be favorable or unfavorable to tomato volunteerism!

One intermediate method was reported by a gardener who cowrote a book with Ruth Stout https://www.amazon.com/Ruth-Stout-No-Work-Garden-Book/dp/1927458366/ref=asc_df_1927458366?tag=bingshoppinga-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=80195748809666&hvnetw=o&hvqmt=e&hvbmt=be&hvdev=c&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=&hvtargid=pla-4583795274845089&psc=1 one Richard Clemence. He grew the variety Ponderosa and every year would bury a few tomatoes in the mulch next to a wooden stake. Then he would dig up those tomatoes in the spring extract their seed, pull back the mulch and replant the seeds  in a row each spring. Their is a very good parallel there with what I did this spring when I walked out and grabbed a tomato mummy and extracted its seed and replanted it. This method might represent a nice way to ensure year to year success without encountering that slow decline towards extinction. One wooden stake and an hour or so of work in spring and fall combined. There need not even be a stake if you get good at recognizing tomato mummies and finding the little ball of seed inside. I could therefore spend an half hour collecting the mummies the spring before I rototill. Crumble the mummies to extract the seed, rototill. Then sprinkle, cover, mark, and weed the row.

There are currently 100's of Lofthouse promiscuous project tomatoes lying rotting on the ground of the direct seeded rows of my massive 2021 grow out. Representing untold thousands of seeds. I don't plan to let them volunteer next year though as I had one plant with so spectacular a flavor I want to dedicate that entire garden to its offspring in 2022 which will because of small seed numbers necessarily have to be transplants.

So if there are volunteers I want to keep I'll likely end up transplanting them! I'm sure I'll put in some direct seeded rows in 2022 though. Maybe the segregating yellow seed I've saved including the packet from the 2020 volunteer yellow sibling line to exserted tiger.

Another key thing I think is weeding. Without some weeding direct seeded and volunteer tomato seedlings tend to disappear. In my experience this can be as little as one weeding event. when everything is about ~6 inches tall or so give or take. Earlier and more frequent weeding seems to give better results but once a bit later is enough. Though it helps to know precisely where the seedlings are likely to appear!

7 months ago

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:In the spring of 2021, I did a direct-seeded planting of about 10,000 seeds of Wildling tomato, which is a hybrid swarm of three species of tomatoes. I planted about two weeks before average last frost date.

Seven plants survived and bore fruit. I collected around 1800 seeds. Maybe that will be enough to continue the experiment next year, maybe not.

If those seven plants represent a genetic improvement in germinating and surviving direct seeded it almost certainly will. If they simply survived by random chance then they very well may not! Interesting experiment nonetheless either way and the very small number of surviving seeds is sort of exciting for the prospects of the former.
7 months ago
In 2021 the main tomato I saved seed from direct seeding was a very ordinary seeming red exserted potato leaf from the mixture of exserted tiger, non-isolated big hill, and promiscuous project. I'm not sure from which it came ?! It tasted like a normal red tomato. I am curious to find out what percentage of regular leaf offspring it will have because each of these will be a hybrid as potato leaf is recessive!
7 months ago