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Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

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Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Post  newgloves on 8/11/2010, 8:00 pm

Who has grown heirloom tomatoes and what varieties? I'd love to grow heirloom (green, yellow, multi-colored & plum) as well as my regular varieties but have never attempted growing heirlooms before. I'm a little worried that it seems as though they're more tempermental & prone to disease. Anyone have great success w/ heirloom & what varieties?

I plan on using a small greenhouse to start them in since our climate is pretty temperate and then transplanting them into the garden when it's time. I'm rather excited at the prospect since heirloom tomatoes are just beautiful, make great tomato salads and are so costly at the store. Any suggestions on choosing varieties, starting, growing and transplanting?

Thanks!

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Re: Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Post  glasgrl on 8/11/2010, 9:28 pm

I'm growing a few heirlooms this year: Black Prince, Sausage, Striped German, Mortgage Lifter, Brandywine, and Amish Paste. Mortgage Lifter, Striped German and Amish Paste aren't ripe, yet (I planted late). Brandywine is quite sweet and flavorful (to me, it tastes a lot like Jetsetter but a little less sweet). I like the taste of Sausage and Black Prince, too, but unfortunately, Black Prince proved very prone to cracking and developing strange holes (not seen on any other tomatoes, and I don't think it was insect damage), so I probably won't grow it next year. However, we did have very unusual weather this year.

Sorry, not too much help! I'm sure you'll get a lot of feedback on this subject, though. Smile

-Michelle
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Re: Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Post  Megan on 8/12/2010, 8:14 pm

I am growing heirlooms for the first time this year, Cherokee Purple, Gold Medal, and Black Cherry. The first two from direct-planted seed, the last was a gift start.

Honestly, I have very little idea what I am doing except I've pruned the lowest branches and have been trying to pinch off suckers, as all three plants are indeterminate. I have only grown grape or pear tomatoes before. If you want to try heirlooms, I'd say just go for it! Smile

I did try to start some of the Cherokee and Gold Medals indoors also, and while I got some sprouts, I eventually sacrificed them in favor of the in-ground ones, which were muuuuuch slower to start but a lot sturdier once they got going. I have seen a leaf or two die but overall they seem great so far, just slow. The first few are starting to ripen now and I can't wait!

I am seeing cracking too but with all the crazy rain and intense heat, I'm just glad to have tomatoes.

Glasgrl, sounds like a great assortment. I have read a little about some of those. I'm curious to hear how your Amish Paste and the Mortgage Lifter go.
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heirloom tomatoes

Post  ander217 on 8/13/2010, 7:10 am

I've grown Brandywine with great success in some years, not so great in others.

My favorite tomato this year for taste was Aunt Ruby's German Giant. However, although my plant produced many huge blossoms, only one set fruit. Different varieties next to it set many fruits. We've had an unusually harsh summer with months of drought followed by extremely high temps and humidity, so I'm not ready to completely write off Aunt Ruby. Our neighbor grew it last year when we had a much milder summer and he said it produced fine. I suspect it is one variety not meant for extremely hot weather, so I'll try it again next year and hope for better results.

I had the same problem in the past when I grew Mr. Stripey.

My Green Grape tomato did very poorly during the early part of the season and I considered ripping it out and replanting with something else, but I just never got around to it. Someone posted on another forum that Green Grape tomatoes shouldn't be pruned. I stopped pruning mine and it seemed to revitalize and it is now loaded with fruit.

I think many of the heirlooms are geared more to specific climates and growing conditions, and the results are not always consistent. But the wonderful taste makes it worth growing them.

You said one of your tomato varieties had strange holes in it - is it possible you might have had a tomato fruitworm at work on that plant? They bore into the tomatoes and leave holes. You can google for photos of the damage they do.
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Re: Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Post  glasgrl on 8/13/2010, 12:51 pm

The holes were less round/specifically shaped than those made by a tomato fruitworm (based on Google's pics). I wonder if they were rubbing against something (the plant is VERY dense, and it's hard to see inside it).

Thanks for the info, though! That's good to know.

-Michelle
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Re: Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Post  newgloves on 8/13/2010, 1:13 pm

How did you all start your tomato plants? I'm planning on getting a small greenhouse to start a number of my spring plants - including the tomato plants. My last frost date is mid March so I think it's sometime in February that I should start tomato plants. Did you start them from seed indoors, direct seed them or buy them from a nursery? I'm planning on doing a total of 12-14 tomato plants (we have extended family that expect garden treats) - some hybrid and others heirloom. The varieties I've been considering are Aunt Ruby's Green German, Green Zebra, Kellogg's Sunset, Black Pineapple, Copia, Gold Medal, Hillbilly, Brandywine & Carbon Tomato as well as a green pear tomato, Celebrity, Champion and some cherry tomatoes. So, I've got to pare it down to 1 green, 1 orange, 2 multi-colored, 1 plum, & 1 green pear variety. Then the 2 cherry, 2 champion and 2 celebrity (and maybe 2 others in my large pots). What am I getting myself into - between us, the parents, grandparents, uncle/aunt and immediate neighbors that should be a good enough variety & enough tomatoes.

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Re: Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Post  quiltbea on 8/13/2010, 1:40 pm

I've got Matt's Wild Cherry and Delicious for heirlooms along with Brandwine. The Matt's is terrific. Tasty little tomatoes the size of small grapes. Early fruiting. I'm saving some seeds right now.
The Brandywine are not ripe yet and there aren't a lot on the 2 plants, but one plant was entirely destroyed by hornworm. The Delicious is a late variety and I haven't tried any yet. They are still green.

As for starting seeds, mine are kept on banquet tables in the basement furnace room. I use shop lights propped up on old VHS tapes to keep them higher than the tops of the seedlings. First I started the seeds on a heat mat in very small 3/4" soil blocks. Then transplanted into 2" soil blocks after the 1st true leaves germinated, then into 4" air-pruning pots made from 2-litre soda bottles for the last 5 weeks under lights. They did great. The lightbulbs are sunlight bulbs. A 4-ft double light and bulb set cost me $26.21 including tax at Lowe's here in Maine. I have 3 sets now.

Here's one of my shop lights over peppers and other seedlings.

Here's some of the early Matt's Wild Cherry toms. I plan to save seeds and try them again next year.
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Re: Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Post  glasgrl on 8/13/2010, 3:11 pm

I purchased mine from someone else who raised them from seed. Wink I just started SGF this year, so the early spring was taken up with building the garden. All my plants got a very late start. Rolling Eyes

-Michelle
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Re: Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Post  chocolatepop on 8/14/2010, 1:37 pm

Yup, heirloomer here. This is what I have (some here arent, most are):
black cherry
black plum paste
carbon
cherokee chocolate
kelloggs
orange banana
paul robeson
sungold cherry
currant
pineapple
green zebra
white cherry
japanese trifle
Black Elephant

I started mine in those cardboard like squares you get from home depot (they decompost) and then just kept potting up from there. I then used a grow light and shop light.
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Re: Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Post  camprn on 8/14/2010, 2:22 pm

I have been very happy with my heirloom tomatoes this year. Gilbertie & Striped Roman are paste type, Purple Gypsy more of a beefsteak type.
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