Sunday, November 15, 2009

Choosing veggies, for newbies....

LeSan of BlueGate Gardens said in response to my vegetable post. "I don't grow veggies on purpose. The birds have planted a few pumpkins, which I enjoyed very much. A neighbor gave me a truck load of tomato plants that got blight and turned to black mush. I do buy ornamental cabbages every winter for the splash of color, but have to keep them on the porch, or they end up like the tomatoes."

Well, I thought about that. She didn't say she didn't like to grow veggies, just that they didn't fare well in her garden for some reason. So, I thought, there is always a remedy. For every problem, there is a solution.

One of the secrets to successfully growing vegetables is variety selection. All those little letters behind the name of the tomato mean something. They indicate that the variety is resistant to blight, or wilt, or whatever. The more letters, the more resistant. This applies to all vegetables, but we will use tomatoes as an example.

For instance, "Celebrity" tomatoes, while not my favorite tomato plant, makes a very good crop of tomatoes, AND it is resistant to almost all diseases that affect tomatoes. You would see these letters behind the name.

This from Totally Tomatoes (where I buy a lot of seeds!)

00175 - Celebrity Hybrid Tomato

(VFFNTASt) This AAS Award Winner established a new standard for main-crop hybrids requiring multiple disease resistance. Highly adaptable from Canada to the South. Medium sized, globe-shaped fruits are crack-resistant and average 7 oz. Semi-determinate. Maturity is 70 days.

This what the letters mean.
V- Verticillium Wilt
F- Fusarium Wilt*
N- Nematodes
T- Tobacco Mosaic Virus
A- Alternaria Stem Canker
St- Stemphylium Gray Leaf Spot
TSWV- Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus
(The FF in the letters behind the Celebrity name indicate that it is resistant to F- Race 1&2. If it said FFF, it would mean F-Race 1,2& 3.)

This will give you everything you need to know about the plant and the fruit. Semi-determinate means that they don't produce all their fruit at once, but will not go on forever, producing tomatoes as they go. Indeterminate vines will produce until the night temperatures get too warm, (actually, 'warm' is HOT!) then they will not set fruit any longer.

Another thing to consider, especially if you are a novice vegetable grower; Don't make your whole crop heirloom varieties. The heirlooms have wonderful fruit characteristics, but almost no resistance to disease. (You could graft them, but that is another post; later on that.) Choose hybrids along with heirlooms, if you must have heirloom plants.

So, at least in the beginning, pick the hybrids that have the letters behind the name, and pay attention to the days to maturity. If you have a short growing season, don't pick a variety that takes a long time to produce fruit.

AND, if you live where it doesn't get to be 90 degrees all night long, your indeterminate tomatoes may last until frost. I never thought of that before, but I would say it could definitely be a contributing factor.....

May I suggest to some of you that "Champion" tomatoes are the best, most fantastic tomatoes that I have ever grown. These indeterminate vines have been known to produce 72lbs of fruit per plant!

Have I bored you to tears yet? Sorry, my soapbox. LOL


Randy Emmitt said...

Never knew the varieties even had those letters to tell about them. Thanks for the education. PS Meg is a 28 year organic farmer now turned gardener and school teacher. Ever grow Foxtail Lilies?

janie said...

Are the Foxtail Lilies known by another name? I have grown Foxtail ferns...

I would like to know about them.

NellJean said...

I think Foxtail Lilies are Eremerus. We should grow some.

Can I just come to your house and eat tomatoes, it seems like so much work...?

azplantlady said...

Hi Janie,

I love that you are such a fountain of information. Of all the vegetables that people grow, I think tomatoes are the most popular. Your information will be so helpful!

Wendy said...

Great tips! I have definitley found that certain varieties do better than others! Certain veggies do as well! My husband was just making fun of my "hideous" carrots. I think I may give up on those and just try something else! As a newbie, just give me some disease resistance, and if they don't do well, I'm moving on.

sanddune said...

Never had much luck growing Tomato. Then I figured out that I was doing everything backwards As to the South florida seasons. I have Celebrity growing now in a 5 gallon container and I am following the Florida Extension Service directions to grow them. Your post is encouraging hopefully this year will be the year! Thanks

janie said...

Thanks for the comments, all. NellJean, you can come and eat whatever we have, but you may have to work for your supper. I have a permillion, cazillion weeds to pull right now. I could use some help.

I looked the Foxtail Lily up. Yes, we should grow some.

Wendy, for flawless carrots, you have to have fine, moist, sandy, nutrient rich soil, screened so that you have no rocks in it to deform the carrots as they grow. Then you might get a really pretty carrot. Myself, I think carrots are carrots, and they all taste the same. (Well, as long as they are harvested early enough, they do.)

Sanddune, I hope you get lots of good tomatoes. Nothing like eating a tomato straight off your own plant, salt shaker in hand....

James Missier said...

I wished I got tomatoes with all these details at the back. I guess its way too warm in my place to get them to fruit.

PS: you would have drive me to tears as I now will have to accept the fact that I cannot grow these tomatoes in my place (sob..sob)

tina said...

Not boring at all. Great info.

gld said...

Another point to remember about tomatoes is to pick one that does well in your particular area.

If in doubt, contact the university extension for your location. They can recommend some varieties for you.

And will have a weird season like many of us in the midwest had this year. Too cool, too wet and disease was rampant. It was the worst tomato year in all my gardening life and I began back in 1965.

I am already making seed lists for next year!

janie said...

James, do you not have any cooler season where you live? No season variation? I thought Puerto Rico was the only place with static weather. Theirs is perfect....

Are all your nights above 85 degrees? I think the hybridizers need to work on that, if that is the case. Everybody needs to be able to grow tomatoes!

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

Very informative. I thought this past summer would have our tomatoes producing like crazy, but instead we got a pretty small amount compared to years when it wasn't as warm. Next year I'll have to pay better attention to what I'm growing.

Anonymous said...
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LeSan said...

For heaven's sake. I saw my name and thought "Oh, what the devil have I done now?" LOL
Thank you so much Janie for taking pity on my little vegatible novice soul. With helpful posts like this I might find my way to loving to grow vegies. Thank you for all that great information. Now when I go to the nursery with the DH I will be able to surprise him with all my tomatoe knowledge. heheh. He will think I am brilliant thanks to you my dear friend. Bwahhhaahhhaaa
oops. I said that out loud didn't I?

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

Great educative post Janie! I will try Champion next year, thanks to you!