growing alone/great tomato varieties

nan and stewart stewart at
Mon Aug 14 09:17:04 EDT 2000

Loved reading your market experience (as buyer, not vendor).  I also grow alone, plus manage a few dairy goats, ducks, chicks and some rabbits that i felt sorry for at the animal shelter, plus have several hundred children come each spring from schools, home schooling groups and just with families...

i am in north mississippi, hour south of memphis, zone 7b
i grow on a small intensive scale (given that there is no topsoil on this farm, just clay subsoil) but i am pleased at how well sheet composting works to condition new beds the year before...

i have ten 4 ft. x 30 ft. beds, plus a big double dug garden for premium crops..i had originally planned to double dig all the beds, but maybe not now that the sheet composting plus green manure or buckwheat cover crops have loosened up the soil so nicely...over the last two years...

i have goat barn litter (not composted, but usually old from the winter) plus leaves from town that i heap on the beds, about 2-3 feet thick, and have covered with large paper feed bags or left over plastic....both black and clear....the earthworms seem to thrive in this environment and it is so easy to pull up the remnants of the bermuda/quack/johnson grass left from the one initial tilling that i do with an 8 horse power tiller (no tractors on the farm since all alone and middle aged back and no machine skills or interests)

I don't ever need to till a sheet composted bed again--just use a garden fork to fork in the cover crop (hairy vetch is terrible on a tiller, austrian winter field peas go in with with tiller or by hand, and i grow non vining cow/purple hull peas in the summer, again the vines are too hard on the tiller)

anyway, my big success (in a climate that is murder on tomatoes) was in two varieties (from tomato growers supply company   or 1-888-768-3476):

1. early season indeterminate:  Jetsetter VFFNTA Hybrid

TRULY vigorous, disease resistant, early, large fruit with NICE taste..what more could you outproduced the midseason ones that were meant for hot, humid climates (like creole, hawaiian, sunchaser - these were disappointing)

2.  third year growing - Enchantment  VFFNTA indeterminate, mid season  Hybrid....performs well every year, even under lousy soil conditions (first two years)

This is a small egg shaped salad tomato, NOT a paste/roma...they call it a has a pleasing shape (size of large hen or duck egg), seems never to get any blemishes, disease tolerant, lots on the vine...and my customers like the taste and the shape alot.  It is quite a handsome tomato to display at market!

all tomatoes had same growing conditions so it seemed like a fair enough (nonscientific) test for this year....

By the way, I followed the national gardening assoc. advice and transplanted my seedlings from their original seed trays into large pots (they say double transplanting is good for tomatoes, though time consuming for growers)..these pots had half sterile potting mix (purchased) and half home made compost..the transplants were absolutely gorgeous and even though early blight is epidemic here, i only lost about 7 out of 50 plus and it didn't spread within a row, even though i left the few diseased ones in the row longer than i should have (was curious to see what happened since we never seemed to have this up north in mass where i grew)

 I also broke down and bought an organic fertlizer formulated for tomatoes, but got it wholesale and felt is was a great idea for less than ideal soil...used this fertilizer (dry) in the transplant pots, and then again when they went out in the garden.  

you guys are great...thanks again for all the advice, plus sharing your experiences even when they are painful, frustrating, really helps us new growers keep up our spirits!!!!!
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