Saturday, May 26, 2007

Attack Of The Tomato Killers

Yet another disease to worry about now. This time it's tomato yellow leaf curl. It pretty much destroys tomatoes. It's been found for the first time in Southern California. Whether it would make it this far north is problematic, but it sounds like our damp climate might not be suitable for the vector that spreads it.

We should at hope, at least.
It would almost seem like a moot point, worrying about tomato health on the coast in Humboldt. Sure, to the south and west of Eureka, lots of tomatoes are grown. In the damp areas along the coast it can be dicey whether you'll get tomatoes at all, outside of using a greenhouse.

Well, you'll likely get plenty of tomatoes, if you're lucky enough to avoid the early and late blight that is so common here. Getting ripe tomatoes on the coast is another issue all together.

Back when I had an active vegetable garden, I ended up doing fairly well with tomatoes, although they'd still take FOREVER to ripen. I finally settle on two varieties that seemed to do best for me here on the coast: Cascade Early (sometimes called Early Cascade) and Northern Delight.

Cascade Early, which I can't find on the web sites of the nurseries I used to order it from, is an indeterminate variety. Indeterminate means the plant doesn't grow to a set size or shape. Those are the ones where the vines can spread everywhere.

I particulary liked Cascade Early because it was blight resistant. It would get blight, but the blight wouldn't go through the plant like wildfire, as happens with so many other varieties. I found that by keeping a close eye on the plants, once you detected blight, you could give them one or two sprayings of copper fungicide and that would usually (but not always) keep the blight under control.

Northern Delight was one I tried because it supposedly got ripened fruit in something like 55 or 60 days, if memory serves me correct. It was a relatively small determinate plant, meaning the plant would grow to a certain size with a certain number of tomatoes and that would be it.

I was hesitant to try a determinate variety, at first. I didn't want to just have tomatoes for a couple weeks and then that would be it. But, since it was supposedly so early ripening, I gave it a try. I figured maybe by the time I'd harvetsed the Northern Delights, the Cascade Earlies would be ready to pick.

I was pleasantly surprised with the number of tomatoes, the size of tomatoes and the length of harvest with Northern Delight. We harvested bags and bags of 1 1/2 to 2" fruits from those plants over a period of over a month or more. Probably did better with them than we ever did with Cascade Early.

Northern Delight did get the blight, though, and spraying wasn't as effective as with Cascade Early. Still, it was well worth planting both varieties. Got lots of tomatoes, although neither variety's fruit ripened anywhere near as early as they were supposed to. I'd plant between late April or May and still usually have to wait until August before I got ripe tomatoes, depending on the weather, of course.

Gardeners on the coast here have more than enough challenges in regards to tomatoes with our cool, damp weather and the early and late blights. Let's hope this tomato yellow leaf curl doesn't make its way up here.


At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep telling you the yellow peril will wash us all away. We're all doomed!

At 12:53 PM, Blogger daniel said...

let all be fine and well,

ive worked on a few farms in new york and the old farmers will tell you that you can get tomatoes to ripen in darkness. yes thats right tomatoes ripen in the dark, not in the light.


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