Thursday, April 8, 2010

This Year's Problem Tomatoes

When I first got into gardening, I used to think that people that referred to their tomatoes as anything other than tomato, were a little bit pretentious.  Who were they trying to impress with the "Tomato-Black Krim" stuff?  How different could one tomato be from another?  The answer?  Very different.

The first sign of difference can occur as early as the very first green you see.  Most tomatoes emerge as dicots, which means two cotyledons.  This year I got my first tricot.  Three cotyledons emerged in one of my Striped Roman tomatoes.  This trait can occur via spontaneous mutation but also may be inheritable.  It doesn't occur that often so it pretty cool to see.  Supposedly, tricots may be potentially superior plants.  In theory their larger surface area should make for faster establishment.  To this I say HA.

My tricot Striped Roman is best described as frail and needy.  Sure its bigger than its dicot brother but it is extremely sensitive to over watering.  If its feet get a bit too wet, it turns yellow and drops leaves.  Since some of these stems are fused together, these losses can be substantial.  I lost all of the branches in this photo.  I then dug it up, replanted it deeper and gave it a drier potting mix to help fend of the wet feet.

  I can't blame all this plant's issues on genetic oddity though.  The tricot's brother also has a leaf structure that is odd.  Sort of wispy and prone to getting tangled on itself.  I fear for this plant once I get it in the garden and the wind.  I'm holding out hope that once in the ground it will get some sturdiness to it.  Other gardeners report it does better once in the ground.  My fingers are crossed.  Otherwise, I won't be seeing any of the gorgeous tomatoes this plant produces.

Striped Roman is not the only tomato that has me scratching my head this year.  I have a few varieties that have been grown in the exact same conditions as the rest of the group, yet they are only 1/3 of the size of the others.  Odder still is that these varieties are supposedly known to have some size to them.  The worst of the bunch are Big Rainbow, Big White and Pink Stripes and Kelloggs Breakfast.  Also currently sorta shrimpy are Black From Tula and Japanese Black Triefele which incidentally is from Russia!  They are all healthy, just really really short. 

I did a bit of reading on these varieties to try and see if it was me or them that was the problem.  It may be me.  So far I haven't found anyone that has said that any of these particular varieties were slower than typical though there were a few mentions of difficulties growing JBT.  So for now, I continue to scratch my head, clearly they need more of something.  What that particular something might be remains a mystery for now.


. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Interesting garden mystery.

Nicki Farrell said...

I have had the same problem with this variety as well as a few other roma type heirloom tomatoes I end up with a handful of varieties showing the curling tangled leaves while thousands of others look fine but once planted in the ground I still had tons of tomatoes I have been told to much water, to cold, and just the way these ones grow. Next year I may have to experiment with the same varieties in different growing areas different soils as I really want to know for sure if this is just something that happens or something I am doing.

Stacy said...

Hi Nikki,

What I've since learn is that the wispy leaf trait is genetic. Heart shaped tomatoes often have it. That frail wispy striped roman I posted about ended up being hugely productive with fabulous tasting fruit. Not only did I save seeds from it, but heart shaped tomatoes actually dominate my selection for this year!