Mazarini Surprise

On the very next row, just a few feet from the Portuguese Monster plant I discovered this today –

Mazarini (2.246 DT 2012):

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Flavor was good (not mild, but not intense – a bit on the tart side), but not as good as others have described.  Frost damage very likely had a negative effect on flavor assessment.

This plant received the same treatment (mostly neglect…) as the Portuguese Monster plant listed in the previous post.  It’s always a surprise to get a BIG tomato with relatively little effort.  For potential to produce GIANT tomatoes, I’m not quite as impressed with Mazarini as I am with Portuguese Monster for this reason:  Ten other Portuguese Monster fruits averaged 1.265 lb., with the largest (after the 2.610) weighing in at 1.612 lb.; in contrast, seven other Mazarini fruits averaged 0.474 lb., with the largest (after this 2.246) weighing 0.668 lb.

So how is it that a neglected tomato patch can just about out-perform my intensive-effort giant tomato bed for producing big tomatoes?

Briefly, this tomato patch included 820 plants in 8 long rows, arranged in 4 double rows.  Plant spacing was 2′ apart to accomodate drip hose having 2′ spacing of emitters.  Watering rate was 0.6 gallons per hour for 1.5 hours per day through most of the growing season.

On the east end of the tomato patch, however, were several beds of peppers, etc. which were watered with overhead oscillating sprinklers.  This water overreached those beds and also sprayed the first five or so tomato plants on each row.  Without exception, these 40 or so tomato plants grew much larger, were much healthier and produced more and larger fruits than the other 780 plants grown under drier conditions.

This has convinced me that use of drip hose, at least on 2′ spacing, is not optimal for raising tomatoes, at least not in the heavy clay soil conditions in this patch. Nearly 1 gallon of water per day should have been plenty, even with the record hot summer.  My thinking is that water needs to be distributed on the surface all around each tomato plant.  Unless soil texture allows for extremely good lateral conduction of water, the fine feeder roots near the surface will suffer from lack of water when single point drip hoses are used.  A good mulch might help alleviate this problem to some degree.

Tomato experts everywhere strongly recommend not spraying tomato plants with water.  I no longer agree with that recommendation.  I live in a high desert climate with usually very low humidity.  If tomato plants are sprayed or sprinkled from above during the heat of the day, there will be plenty of time for water to evaporate from foliage without increasing the risk of fungal disease.

An even better approach, I think, is to set up a sprinkling system on a grid with pipes/tubing raised about 12″ above the ground and sprinkler heads/emitters arranged to spray DOWN and OUT instead of up.  The idea is to keep the entire soil surface moist all season while minimizing water staying on leaf surfaces.

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