This has been a good tomato year for me. I made several big changes to the way I grow tomatoes and perhaps this helped. The big challenge right now is to use them all.
I pick the tomatoes a little early when they show an orange or yellow tinge and allow them a couple days to ripen, therefore the green ones in the picture. I may sacrifice some taste but this puts me ahead of the line. Of whom you may ask?
These are the secretive ones which, like a squirrel, quickly move to the other side of the tomato or tree. And only by circling the other side, do you see them.
They are slow moving and have soft bodies and a quick jab with thumb or finger squishes them and squirts their fluids. Quicker footed and less easily squashed are these guys.
And finally the fleet footed.
I now try hew the permaculture way which, unlike organic growing, means no spray. Can there be exceptions? Probably not. Occasionally however I do spot spray with neem, which seems effective.
So what were the growing changes. This year I will save tomato seed so my one thought was, rather than a group gathering, I would physically separate various heirloom types so they would be pollinated from the same variety and their seed would grow true. Distancing them also complicates the smorgasbord for the pests. A second change was to hand water with a hose rather than my gravity fed dripper irrigation system. Therefore I was on hand to observe and respond to activities round the tomatoes. I also applied compost teas and comfrey teas with a watering can, which may have helped. Some plantings were on a north south axis, some on a east west axis and 14 plants were in a keyhole design.
This design worked fairly well. You can see my 3/4″ hose and the mulched center. Watering and harvesting was much easier since rather than going down a line you just rotate yourself in a circle. I was concerned there would be less sun exposure but the plants were apparently not affected – though remember this is at the top of a hill with full Georgia sun exposure. For watering at the top of the hill I did not use gravity feed, it would have taken too long. Rather through a combination of various valves (see separate post on totes) I used the pump at the foot of the hill to provide the pressure, so watering was not a chore and was speedy.
Which varieties worked best. Of my heirlooms, Rutgers again performed solidly. My other heirlooms did not. Remember it is humid and blighty down here. I was given Ukrainian Purple seeds and followed them with interest. A large percentage got a black rot at the bottom, which did not affect any other varieties.
Otherwise they taste fine and have a distinctive shape.
A number varieties which did well in previous years failed miserably this year including Cherokee (heirloom), yellow pear and sweet olive. Their seed was several years old and I wonder if there is degradation with older seed. I researched varieties recommended for the southeast and bought 3 hybrids from Johnny’s and they all did well – Juliet F1, Big Beef F1, and Mountain Fresh Plus F1. So, as an Italian electrical goods advert from my UK days would say – you need “an appliance of science”.B
But – when it comes to taste, then the Cherokee purple heirloom triumphed. So the hybrids produce well but the heirlooms generally taste better and perhaps that’s why I had to share so many with discerning insect tomato lovers.
And finally a couple of shots of my favorite insect.