Each year we grow two 96′ (29 m) beds of early tomatoes in our hoophouse. We plant them mid-March, start harvesting at the end of May, and pull them up at the end of July or beginning of August. By that point the plants have reached as high as we can go and the outdoor plants have started producing large amounts, so we don’t need to ask more of the hoophouse plants. Each year we grow varieties that we’ve had years of success with, plus a few new ones.
Last year I wrote My favorite tomato varieties, about the four we trialed then: Pink Boar, Geronimo, Cherry Bomb and Estiva. We decided to grow Pink Boar and Cherry Bomb again, but somehow we didn’t! Pink Boar developed more splits and more disease in the last few weeks as the season reached its end. Cherry Bomb was out of stock when we placed our seed orders, so we tried another red cherry, Sakura.
Sakura is a 55 day indeterminate red cherry. It did well, resisted disease. But when I checked why it didn’t seem very productive, I discovered that a confused planter had planted only one Sakura and an extra Black Cherry instead! Next year, maybe we’ll try Cherry Bomb again, or try really planting two Sakura!
We stopped growing Stupice, a 62 day indeterminate red, in favor of
more Mountain Magic, 66 day indeterminate reds. A plan is just a plan. Somehow, a bunch of Black Cherry (64-75 day indeterminate purple) got substituted for some Mountain Magic and some Garden Peach at planting time, due to more worker confusion. We love Black Cherry, but they take longer to pick than larger tomatoes. Some might argue that Mountain Magic at 2 oz (56 g) are not that much bigger then Black Cherry at ½-1 oz (14-28 g), but as you see, they are at least twice as heavy. The disease-resistance of Mountain Magic, Glacier and Garden Peach was medium this year.
None of us missed the Stupice, with their green/yellow shoulder problem. As I noted last year, the lack of red lycopene in the shoulders might be due to too much heat. We did try not pruning the Glacier (56 day determinate red) at all this year, and we got less of a green shoulder problem with those, so that’s worth remembering. We’d like to keep that one, as it is so fast at ripening. Sungold is still faster, though catalogs claim Glacier should be one day ahead.
This year, I wanted to try several large red round fast-maturing tomatoes, and a couple of different colors. To be chosen for our hoophouse crops, tomatoes have to mature in 80 days or less. Our main red is Tropic (80 day indeterminate red). It’s good at setting in heat and has a good flavor, but this year had a lot of disease. This summer has been peculiarly mild, up until mid-August, so not a good test of heat-setting tomatoes.
We tried two plants each of Skyway (78 day 8-12 oz (112-168 g) indeterminate red) and, for the second year, Estiva (70 day indeterminate red). Both looked impressive: big shiny unblemished fruit. But no flavor worth reporting. Estiva had good disease-resistance, and split resistance, but was slower to fruit than the 70 day claim.
We planned to try Premio (60 day 4 oz (56 g) indeterminate red), but didn’t get any seed. Maybe next year?
We did try Mountain Fresh Plus (75 day determinate large 8-10 oz (112-224 g) red, short plants) for a second time. “The most widely-grown market tomato in the East and Midwest” Johnny’s Selected Seeds. We are a fan of many of Randy Gardner’s “Mountain” series of tomatoes, but not this one. It wasn’t very productive, and the flavor wasn’t exciting.
Tropic remains our main red slicer.
Jubilee (80 day indeterminate orange) is our main orange slicer, and that did very well, with medium disease resistance this year. The fruit looked a little different this year. Possibly we were still sowing seed we bought during the pandemic, which came labelled “Probably Jubilee”. It’s also called Golden Jubilee.
We also trialed Mountain Spirit (77 day indeterminate large yellow/red) and Purple Boy (80 day indeterminate large purple, Park Seeds). Neither of these wowed us much. Production was low and flavor was only so-so. We had hoped Purple Boy would be a good substitute for Cherokee Purple, which splits and yields poorly in our hoophouse. Mountain Spirit had a mushy texture.
I’m concluding (provisionally!) that large fruited tomatoes are not such a good idea for us. We do better with more productive, more modest sized tomatoes.
We came up with an idea to reduce the chance of misplanting in future. We didn’t want to write labels for every single potted tomato, so we have been labeling just the rows of 3 or 6 in a standard 1020 flat, which holds 18 pots. This means we often have more than one variety in a flat. We have small numbers of purple, brown and green pots, so we can use those for particular varieties. Mostly we have the standard black pots. Our new idea is colored dot stickers, which are often to be found in our office is oddly large numbers. I wonder if anyone else ever uses them?