Promising Tomatoes – a 14X?

With 60 tomato plants now being monitored and tended for big tomato production, it’s about time some promising young tomatoes showed up!  I’ve put significant energy into pollinating megablooms, so it’s encouraging to see some early fruits.

First, the Big Rainbow megabud profiled on July 7th dried up and fell off.  But this evening, I found, under leaves, lower down on the plant, this bizarre conglomeration – possibly a 10X but obviously hard to say:

Big Rainbow (1.888 DT 2011) 001 7-20-2014 E rev Big Rainbow (1.888 DT 2011) 001 7-20-2014 D rev

Then the first noteworthy Big Zac (OP) of the season, a 6X Big Zac (2.602 DT 2012)(5.35 Lyons 2010):

Big Zac (2.602 DT 2012) HT 001 7-20-2014 A rev

Next a progress report on one of the 3X Epstein’s Potato Leaf fruits, now estimated at 0.642 lb.:

Epstein's PL 3X blossom NH 7-20-2014 D rev

The Sumo (1.782 DT 2012) plant in the high tunnel is sporting 2 5X’s and this very young 8x:

Sumo (1.782 DT 2012) HT002 7-19-2014 C rev

A fresh photo of the 6X (or more?) fruit on the Michael’s Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012) plant in the giant tomato bed – growing very fast, 0.432 lb. est.:

Michael's Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012) 6X TB-001 7-20-2014 D rev

The biggest megabloom profiled on June 30, 2014 – the one with 38 sepals – actually survived and a small tomato is starting to grow, albeit slowly – in the high tunnel on the Michael’s Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012) vine:

Michael's Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012) HT001 7-19-2014 D rev

But, on the same vine, much more impressive and growing very fast is a, well, a 14X !?

Michael's Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012) HT002 7-20-2014 K rev Michael's Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012) HT002 7-19-2014 B rev2

It’s from a minimum of 8 fused ovaries, but who can really say?  It certainly has all the appearance of a tomato that could get HUGE!

At the moment the biggest threat is:

Blossom End Rot 7-20-2014

Blossom End Rot has reared its ugly head again.  Soil has plenty of calcium.  I’ve learned, the hard way, that around here, BER comes on fast and is very destructive in hot (103° F this week), dry weather, especially if the top 1-2″ of soil dries out.  So in the high tunnel, two soaker hoses are spaced about 4′ apart.  It’s the space between them that dried out.  So I sprinkled heavily and applied bonemeal around the affected plants.

I’ve lost about 15 tomatoes to BER so far, including some promising ones; hopefully those will be the last victims of the season!  Varieties hit hardest were Omar’s Lebanese and Bezrazmernyi.

 

First Tomato of 2014

I can’t even call it a “Big” tomato. This MegaMarv tomato is from a 3X megabloom – see First Megabloom of 2014 .

It has never shown impressive growth.  First blush noticed this morning – right on schedule, 40 days from fruit set, despite this June being 7° cooler than June 2013.

MegaMarv (0.828 DT 2014)(2.678 DT 2012) A

Three diameters measured with precision calipers are, in mm:

112.4 X 93.9 X 63.2

Using formula developed a couple of years ago (see Predicting Tomato Weights), estimated weight is 0.770 lb.  It has enough curvature that I think even 0.7 lb. might be on the high side.

Headed out now to pick it, then will take taped diameter measurements to see how accurate the two methods are.

To be continued…

Later…

Taped cc measurements are:  333 X 261 X 296, yielding an estimated weight of 0.862 lb.

Actual weight:

MegaMarv (0.828 DT 2014)(2.678 DT 2012) C

0.828 is slightly closer to the taped estimate than to the caliper estimate, which seems to be the general trend and not unexpected, since the measuring tape takes into account more shape variance than do calipers.

Normally I prefer to leave tomatoes on the vine until they are about 80% ripe, but this one was growing slowly and a small 3X tomato is just starting to assert itself about 18″ higher up the vine:

MegaMarv (2.678 DT 2012) 3X 7-11-2014

At the moment, the most interesting and promising tomato might be a 6X Michael’s Portuguese Monster which has set fruit in the giant tomato bed and appears to be growing at a decent rate:

Michael's Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012) 6X TB-001 7-11-2014 B rev

 

Actually now that I look at the picture up close, this could have as many as 8 fused ovaries!  Unfortunately, the plant and this tomato are just inches away from a busy sidewalk, and passerby’s snack the occasional tomato every year.  Perhaps if I set out a basket of fresh ripe tomatoes on a table by the sidewalk with a sign:

“Please take one of these ripe tomatoes and enjoy it, and please let the big tomatoes get as big as they possibly can ON the vine”

= = =

Another anecdote comparing vines in the giant tomato bed to those in the high tunnel -

Omar’s Lebanese (1.724 DT 2010) – one plant from seed of this fruit in each location; comparison of flowers and flower trusses; all measurements are in millimeters (mm)

Parameter                                             GTB                HT

Height of largest flower truss                418                 184

Width of largest flower truss                  614                  72

No. blossoms                                          24                    9

No. sepals, single                                    8                      8

Diameter, single                                     43                    27

No. fused ovaries, largest                        5                      2

No. sepals, largest                                  17                    12

Diameter, largest                                   113                    53

The flower trusses on Omar’s Lebanese in the high tunnel are truly impressive – perhaps the largest I’ve ever seen.  614 mm is a full 24″ across!! And this is 8.5 times as wide as the largest truss in the giant tomato bed.

One of these days I’ll get a complete analysis done on soil from each bed. Soil differences might prove to be the biggest difference affect plant growth and megabloom formation.  I’m guessing the giant tomato bed has a much higher pH and way too much potash (why would I put ANY wood ashes in this alkaline soil anyway?).

Megabloom Induction & Update

Over the past week I’ve tried my best to pollinate the megablooms using plastic spoons, small paintbrushes, and a vibrating toothbrush.  For the most part I have been unable to extract any pollen.  Perhaps one in ten open tomato blossoms yields any pollen at all.  Flower thrips fall out instead.

I’m finding that 10 a.m. is too late in any case.  Either the pollinators have beat me to the pollen or it’s just too hot for viable pollen to form.  So far this summer has been significantly cooler than 2013, but still last 6 days have reach 97, 98, 98, 97, 99 and 99° – just too hot for tomato production.

Anyhow, among the megablooms profiled last week, three are definitely dead and none of the rest have definitely set fruit.  It appears that the most likely to set is the Porterhouse blossom.

In the giant tomato bed, one pleasant surprise is a pair of balanced triples on Epstein’s Potato Leaf (a Big Zac derivative):

Epstein's PL 3X blossom SL D rev Epstein's PL 3X blossom NH D rev

I’m anxious to see how these grow – the vine is very healthy!

Some discussion about whether and how one might induce production of megablooms.  Here’s another idea and observations -

In the backyard high tunnel, I’ve been pruning each vine to only one stem.  Predictably I make mistakes!  About 3 weeks ago I pruned off all growing tips of the Big Rainbow (1.888 DT 2011) vine – NOT in the plan.  However, the plant desperately wanted to grow and it has found a way.  The plant is about 1/3 the size of most other vines, the leaves are deep green and large, and finally, the past few days, a couple of very thick, rather deformed suckers have started shooting up.

Here’s a pic the Big Rainbow vine this morning:

Big Rainbow (1.888 DT 2011) stunted 7-7-14 rev

And a massive megabloom developing:

Big Rainbow (1.888 DT 2011) 6X blossom 7-7-14 B rev

Here’s a closeup:

Big Rainbow (1.888 DT 2011) 6X blossom 7-7-14 D rev

And a second megabloom forming on the other thick sucker:

Big Rainbow (1.888 DT 2011) 5X blossom 7-7-14 C rev

It’s too early to tell what they might produce, but it’s pretty clear that the over-aggressive pruning induced the development of these “megabuds”.  I’ve grown this variety for the past three years and don’t recall seeing anything beyond the occasional double blossom.

So between well timed excessive heat (via leaving the plastic closed up too long) and pruning everything off, it appears that megabloom induction is indeed possible!  Whether these will lead to 8+ pound tomatoes remains to be seen…

 

 

Megablooms in Abundance on Tomato Vines

By any measure, tomato vines in the backyard high tunnel are doing much better than those in the giant tomato bed in the front yard.

High Tunnel Backyard 9-29-2014 A High Tunnel Backyard 9-29-2014 B

Here’s a comparison of leaves of “Russian” vines, a wispy-, regular-leaf variety which produces heart-shaped fruit. Note that both vines were grown from seeds of the same specimen (2.319 DT 2010).

Tunnel:

Russian (2.319 DT 2010) leaves high tunnel 9-29-2014 C

Giant Tomato Bed:

Russian (2.319 DT 2010) leaves giant tomato bed 9-29-2014 C

Here are some measurements which really emphasize differences between these two plants with identical genetics; all measurements are of the largest leaf or leaflet and are in mm (millimeters):

MEASUREMENT               GIANT TOMATO BED    HIGH TUNNEL

Plant Height                                  855                               1082

Thickest Stem                                 11.2                               19.6

Longest Leaf                                 242                                 374

Longest Leaflet                             104                                 210

Widest Leaflet                                 41                                   84

 

All varieties are showing this stark contrast.  Treatment differences are discussed at:

http://tomatodepot.proboards.com/thread/5281/induce-megabloom-production?page=1&scrollTo=69304

Some impressive megablooms are starting to open in the high tunnel!

Here are some triples (3X) -

Polish Giant Beefsteak (2.222 DT 2013):

Polish Giant Beefsteak (2.222 DT 2013) 3X blossom 6-29-2014 E

Big Zac (3.486 DT 2012)(3.94 Pennington 2010)(7.18 Harp 2009):

Big Zac (3.486 DT 2012) 3X blossom 6-29-2014 C

A few 4X’s -

Russian (2.319 DT 2010), with sepals measuring 3-1/2″ across:

Russian (2.319 DT 2010) 4X blossom 6-29-2014 I

Domingo (4.55 Wahl 2012):

Domingo (4.55 Wahl 2012) 4X blossom 6-29-2014 C

Big Zac (4.57 MacCoy 2013)(5.07 Boudyo 2010):

Big Zac (4.57 MacCoy 2013) 4X blossom 6-29-2014 D

Chilo della Garfagnana (3.375 Koshykar 2012):

Chilo della Garfagnana (3.375 Koshykar 2012) 4X blossom 6-29-2014 D

And some 5X’s -

Omar’s Lebanese (1.724 DT 2010):

Omar's Lebanese (1.724 DT 2010) 5X blossom 6-29-2014 A

Belmonte (1.556 DT 2011)(4.14 Perry 2009):

Belmonte (1.556 DT 2011) 5X blossom 6-29-2014 C Belmonte (1.556 DT 2011) 5X blossom 6-29-2014 F

Brutus Magnum (2.006 DT 2012)(6.25 Meisner 2011):

Brutus Magnum (2.006 DT 2012) 5X blossom 6-29-2014 B

And some which even appear to be 6X (admittedly usually tough to tell beyond 4X or so) -

Big Zac (3.75 Catapano 2007)(4.59 Lyons 2006):

Big Zac (3.75 Catapano 2007) 6X blossom 6-29-2014 B

Leadbeatter’s Lunker (1.644 DT 2012)(4.905 Leadbeatter 2012):

Leadbeatter's Lunker (1.644 DT 2012) 6X blossom 6-29-2014 J Leadbeatter's Lunker (1.644 DT 2012) 6X blossom 6-29-2014 C

Epstein’s Potato Leaf (__Johnson 2012)(Big Zac derivative):

Epstein's Potato Leaf (__ Johnson 2012) 6X blossom 6-29-2014 C

Rebecca Sebastian’s Bull Bag (2.200 DT 2010):

Rebecca Sebastian's Bull Bag (2.200 DT 2010) 6X blossom 6-29-2014 D

And yes, even a 7X -

Porterhouse (F2)(2.062 DT 2011):

Porterhouse (F2)(2.062 DT 2011) 7X blossom 6-29-2014 E Porterhouse (F2)(2.062 DT 2011) 7X blossom 6-29-2014 B

And last, but not least, an 8X!

Michael’s Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012):

Michael's Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012) 8X blossom 6-29-2014 E Michael's Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012) 8X blossom 6-29-2014 N Michael's Portuguese Monster (2.610 DT 2012) 8X blossom 6-29-2014 O

This megabloom has 38 distinct sepals, compared to 6 or 8 on other blossoms on this vine.

Note that several of these megablooms emerge from “ribbon” vines; that is, multiple fused vines which are quite flattened.  In the world of giant pumpkin growing, ribbon vines are duds.  I don’t recall this phenomenon producing anything remarkable with tomatoes either, but my sample size is small and my memory inadequate.

The huge challenge at this point is to find enough viable pollen needed to get these impressive blossoms to set fruit.  Western Flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) are running rampant, gobbling up the pollen before it even matures.  At least the weather has been cooperating – so far not nearly so hot as 2012 and 2013.

 

PS -
Here’s what I posted at The Tomato Depot on June 17th in the thread “Induce Megabloom Production”:

As those who have tried to grow giant tomatoes can attest, regardless of genetic stock, you really need fused ovaries (manifested as megablooms) in order to grow giant tomatoes. Though some have claimed to grow 4, even 5 pound tomatoes from a single ovary (blossom), upon careful inspection, these would almost always be the result of tightly fused fruits. Usually with the really big tomatoes, it’s quite obvious from deep lobing and weird shapes that they emerged from megablooms.

So in our quest for the 8-pounder, an enticing question is:

What, if anything, can we do to induce the production of megablooms?

There has been some discussion of this in the “New thoughts on that elusive 8lb’er” thread, as well as the “mega bloom varietys???” thread.

I have not stumbled upon any genuine research into this question, but several have made observations and conjecture. This issue has come into sharp focus for me in the past few days. I have two garden beds in production for large (hopefully giant) tomatoes. Here is a summary of the differences.

Parameter              Giant Tomato Bed       Backyard High Tunnel
Size of bed                    33′ X 7′                            27′ X 6′
No. tomato plants             24                                      36
Walking path        Down middle, boards           Outside bed

Sunlight                       Full sun                 Sun only 11 am – 5pm

New organic matter         6″                                     4″

Other nutrients             Lots                        Not as much but a lot

How long as garden    3 years                            40 years

Date seeds planted    March 25                          April 05

Date transplanted       May 21                            May 22

Watering method     Sprinkling                Buried soaker hose

Surface cover    Wood chips & leaves              Leaves

First blossoms open May 24th                      June 17th

What has me intrigued is the stark contrast in megablooms – or rather “megabuds” in formation, since most are in earlier stages of development. Here is a comparison of the best megabloom/megabud between these two beds.

Best/Biggest Blossom    Giant Tomato Bed     Backyard High Tunnel

1X                                  14                                   6

2X                                   4                                    7
3X                                   2                                  10

4X+                                 2                                     8
None yet                         2                                     5
Total                              24                                   36

Here, “3X”, for example, means a triple, or three fused blossoms, and raw numbers indicate the number of tomato plants with that size of “best/biggest” blossom.

The contrast is sharp – plants are doing much better in the high tunnel, at least as far as megabloom production. What is also noteworthy is that in the giant tomato bed, both 4X+ blossoms withered and died, despite my best efforts to pollinate. Also, one of the 3X’s died. The other 3X (on a MegaMarv) took and is growing fairly well, though it has some catfacing. Despite 100+ blossoms that have opened in the past couple of weeks in the giant tomato bed – nearly all singles – only this one MegaMarv has set fruit.

Yes, it is early in the season, but these preliminary observations raise several questions about what might be involved in inducing megabloom production.

What has worked for you? How much, if any control do we have to stimulate production of those coveted 6X or 8X blossoms? Has anyone compiled a list of all the potential factors involved in this megabloom phenomenon? How would we distinguish a genuine cause-effect relationship from a mere correlational observation?

Curly Top Virus, Beet Leafhopper and Tomato Plant Destruction

In southern Utah this past week, setting up supports and weeding.

Before:

Kanab Garden 6-24-2014 A

After:

Kanab Garden 6-27-2014 A

Some losses to pocket gophers:

Kanab Gopher 6-24-2014 A

Widespread losses to Curly Top Virus, carried by Beet Leafhoppers, Circulifer tenellus.  Of 516 tomato vines, 260 are dead or nearly so.  Probably 150+ are in earlier stages of the disease.  This sight was way too common:

Kanab sick tomatoes 6-25-2014 L Kanab sick tomatoes 6-25-2014 M Kanab sick tomatoes 6-25-2014 K

Kanab sick tomatoes 6-25-2014 G

Note the purple veins and how healthy the weeds are!  Nothing can save these plants at this point.  Yet another lesson learned the hard way.  Working on mesh bags to put over replacement seedlings which will go in about two weeks from now.  Also planning on companion plantings of marigolds and basil.

Melons, on the other hand, are doing very well.  Of 60 varieties, here’s the first to blossom and set fruit, just 40 days from sowing seeds!

Melon Ananasnaya 6-27-2014 A

First Megabloom of 2014

Seems like we’re repeating the weather pattern of the past couple of years: skip the 80′s and go straight to the 90′s. Skip Spring, go straight from Winter to Summer. Predicted high of 93° today. I hope this one takes!

MegaMarv (2.678 DT 2012)(5.51 Meisner 2011)

MegaMarv (2.678 DT 2012) blossom A00B rev

Looks like a couple of triples!  Plants are too small to support a big tomato, but after the disaster last year with trying to get blossoms to set in the heat, I may have to take what I can get now.

Seed was planted on 3-25-2014, emerged on 5-30 (5 days – the earliest of all 24 pots of giant tomato seeds; most took 14 days, give or take a few), transplanted on 5-21 (64 days from seed).  If all goes well, this tomato will be ripe on about 7-12.

Three other varieties are all blooming now as well:  Russian, Domingo, Rebecca Sebastian’s Bull Bag.  Planting seeds directly into 1-gallon pots makes a HUGE difference as far as seedling growth and early maturity.  If space, time and $ were not such huge considerations, I would use only these larger pots.  None of the seedlings raised in smaller pots are anywhere close to blooming, except the super early ones like Stupice and Forest Fire.

Winter Survival

Here are a few types which survived the 2013-14 winter.

Pomegranate, Wonderful.  In the high tunnel, completely top-killed, but the roots survived and are putting out vigorous, fresh foliage.  Next winter, a heavy covering of dried leaves or straw is in order to protect this semi-tropical plant.

Pomegranate, Wonderful, Winter survival

Mangelwurzel (giant Mangel Beet), in the high tunnel, now going to seed, leaves decimated by leaf miners.

Beet, Mangelwurzel 5-28-2014

Chives

Chives, 5-28-2014

Bunching onions

Onion, bunching 5-28-2014

Kohlrabi, Superschmelz 10-26-2014; soccer ball sized, stored in the garage over the winter, now finished flowering in the tunnel.  Even the big ones of this variety are tender and tasty.  Not likely to produce many viable seeds, as kohlrabi and relatives are self-infertile.

Kohlrabi, Superschmelz 10-26-2014 AKohlrabi, Superschmelz 5-28-2014

 

Parsley, Triple curled

Parsley, Triple Curled 5-28-2014 B

Orach, self-seeding

Orach, 5-28-2014

Endive, about 30% survival in the open

Endive, 5-28-2014

Korean Mint, nice flavor with a hint of anise

Mint, Korean 5-28-2014

Radicchio, about 20% winter survival in the open

Radicchio, 5-28-2014 A

Parsnip, Hollow Crown, delicious cooked, all winter long.  Plants now over 6′ tall, flowers just starting to open.

Parsnip, Hollow Crown 5-28-2014 A Parsnip, Hollow Crown 5-28-2014 B

Arugula – unstoppable, enjoyed all winter long from the high tunnel.

Arugula, 5-28-2014

Strawberries, transplanted from runners two years ago, looks like we might actually get some decent production this year.

Strawberry, 5-28-2014 A

And our most productive green, enjoyed all winter long, with 100% survival in the high tunnel:  Frisée, a relative of endive and chicory, just starting to bloom like crazy.

Frisée flowering 5-28-2014 BFrisée flowering 5-28-2014 AFrisée flowering 5-28-2014 E rev  Frisée flowering 5-28-2014 A rev

Also surviving or reseeding well: Purple of Sicily Cauliflower, several varieties of radish, hairy vetch, Purple Vienna Kohlrabi, Walking Stick Cabbage, Goji Berry, Cilantro, potato, sunchoke, rhubarb, several varieties of lettuce, Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry (reseeding) tomato (everywhere), and lots more that overwintered as seeds in the compost pile.  It is emotionally challenging for me to discard the volunteers rather than try to find a home for them!