Many people who don’t do a full blown vegetable garden still plant one vegetable that is best home grown.
I have found that tomatoes are easy to grow and the reward is fantastic. Ask anybody who has grown tomatoes and they will tell you that what you buy at grocery store pales dramatically in comparison to what you get out of the garden. The taste of home grown tomatoes has no equal.
This year I have a total of 8 tomato plants. Two ‘Brandywine’, two ‘Early Girl’, two ‘SuperSweet 100’ cherry tomatoes, one ‘Arkansas Traveler’ and one ‘Mr. Stripey’. So far the yield I have gotten from the ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Early Girl’ has far exceeded my expectations. The plants are so heavy with fruit that picking can be a challenge when the fruit are jammed together in their supports. In fact, one of my ‘Early Girl’ plants is threatening to bring down the stake and spiral cage that supports it. I am using the Veggie Cage spiral tomatoe cages. You just connect them to a stake (I have six foot stakes in the ground) and gently guide the tomato plants through the center of them. As the plants grow, you guide the shoots through the sides to give them support. Not only do they work exactly as advertised, with no tying of the plants, but they are attractive as well. Four of my plants are in my Square Foot Garden. My ‘SuperSweet 100’ cherry tomatoes are doing very well trellesed up with a nylon trellis, and I haven’t had to tie them or their neighbors up as well. As the plants grow I gently weave them in and out of the trellis and they seem to be appropriately supported.
In the past, I had planted fairly standard varieties of tomatoes, usually ‘Big Boy’ or ‘Better Boy’ and that was the extent of my tomato experience. This year I chose ‘Brandywine’ because all over the internet, I have read that they are possibly the best tasting tomatoes. They certainly don’t disappoint. Not only are they meaty with a rich flavor, but they can grow to fairly enormous size. I have had two tomatoes that have weighed over a pound, and 4-5 more that hover around 14 ounces.
The ‘Early Girl’ variety was a result of me possibly channeling the spirt of my grandfather. Apparently he used to grow tomatoes all the time and the variety he planted most often were ‘Early Girl’. These look much more like supermarket tomatoes. They are almost perfectly round and red, not irregular and pinkish like the ‘Brandywine’. They are not as meaty, but still have a good tomato flavor, just not quite as sweet.
My ‘SuperSweet 100’ are my husband’s favorite. He has always loved cherry tomatoes, but we were shocked at how sweet these are. They are truly like garden candy.
I have to say that the yield on ‘Arkansas Traveler’ and ‘Mr. Stripey’ is downright disappointing. I suspect it has something to do with being in my Square Foot Garden (when the ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Early Girl’ are in the potager). It could also be that I did some direct composting early in the season around the plants in the potager, but not in my SFG. Next year, I will definitely put all of my tomato plants in the potager and probably direct compost early in the spring again. I think I might plant one or two more ‘Brandywine’ and try a few other varieties as well. I’d like a Roma tomato, maybe a yellow grape tomato, and something more exotic, like a ‘Black Krim’. It all depends on what I can get at the nursery. I’m not sure if I’ll start seeds again next year. While I enjoyed raising my “babies”, I am horribly impatient and hate the hardening off process. While that seemed to go well this year, most of my starts didn’t make it. I may have started seeds to early. We’ll see how the winter goes. If it’s another tough one, I’ll probably start seeds again, just so I can have something green to look at when it’s still cold outside.