Kathryn Fontenot | 12/11/2010 2:15:57 AM
Do you enjoy the taste of a homegrown tomato but have a small yard or no yard at all? If yes, then this is the research study for you.
Twelve hybrid varieties of tomatoes from Burpee Seed Company were grown to determine the ultimate tomato for patio growers. Seeds were purchased from Burpee Seed Company because it caters to the home growers. The majority of varieties were chosen because they are determinate tomatoes. Unlike indeterminate tomatoes, determinate tomatoes have a flowering terminal point which prevents them from from continuous growth. Usually, determinate tomato varieties stay within 5 feet in height. Determinate tomatoes are well suited to containers because they do not become top-heavy. Other varieties grown in this study were chosen because they had unique characteristics valued by home owners.
The tomato plants were grown in three-gallon containers. Plants were trellised with 56-inch standard tomato cages, available at most local nurseries. A peat-based soil was used as the medium, and the pots were all fertilized with Osmocote Plus Multi-purpose Plant Food (15-9-12) at a rate of 1 tablespoon per container. Tomatoes are heavy users of micronutrients. Osmocote Plus Multi-purpose Plant Food is a slow-release fertilizer (six months) that contains micronutrients. The plants also were fertilized weekly with Miracle Grow water-soluble all-purpose plant food (24-8-16) applied to the foliage and roots of each plant using the Miracle Grow feeder on a garden hose.
Some insect problems were encountered; the cucumber beetle became a problem early in the study. Sevin was applied to plants to control the insect population. Stink bugs arrived toward the end of the study, and because we were not going to harvest very many more times, control measures were not taken.
Fruit were harvested, counted and weighed once a week from June 7 to July 12. The 12 varieties studied were Supertasty, Health Kick hybrid, Sweet Tangerine, Patio Princess, Fresh Salsa, Bush Steak, Ensalada, Italian Ice, Celebrity, Heat Wave II, Yellow Magic and Porter House. The roma types were Health Kick hybrid, Ensalada and Fresh Salsa. Yellow Magic, an indeterminate tomato, is a yellow, bell pepper-shaped tomato, Sweet Tangerine is an orange tomato, and Italian Ice is a cherry tomato that was light yellow to white when harvested.
The top three producing tomatoes (number of tomatoes) were Italian Ice, Patio Princess and Health Kick. The top three producing tomatoes (pounds of tomatoes harvested) were Super Tasty, Health Kick and Patio Princess. Italian Ice is a cherry tomato, therefore the weight prevented the variety from being in the top three producing for pounds of tomatoes. A panel of 40 taste testers awarded Heat Wave II the best tasting tomato. My personal favorite tomato for color, both inside and out, was Sweet Tangerine. It was bright orange on the outside and inside with little to no blemishes. The Bush Steak, Patio Princess and Health Kick varieties had a firm, white center on the inside, which is not considered desirable. Fresh Salsa was a firm tomato with no “jelly.” It lives up to its name as far as making a salsa. The Ensalada, Heat Wave II and Supertasty had nice color on the outside and inside. However, the insides of these varieties had small, white blotches throughout. The white blotches did not affect flavor. Italian Ice tomatoes were between a yellow and white color on the inside and outside with little to no blemishes. Celebrity, Yellow Magic and Porter House tomatoes were the poorest performers of all the selected tomatoes. The Celebrity and Porter House were not firm and were poor producers in containers. Overall, the Yellow Magic variety never yielded tomatoes. It was all foliage and no fruit. I did harvest five fruit one week from the Yellow Magic plants. However, the fruit were very small and not worth the effort of growing in a container.
If you are looking for good color and good yields, I would suggest planting Sweet Tangerine. Even though Sweet Tangerine was not in the top three varieties for number of tomatoes produced or pounds produced, it did have good yields and was beautiful inside and out. If you are looking strictly for flavor, plant Heat Wave II. Not many tomatoes have beaten Celebrity in taste trials conducted at LSU. Finally, if you are looking for a high-producing tomato in a container, plant Patio Princess.
Growing changes to be made for the next tomato study will be to use a heavier medium. The medium used in this study was primarily composed of peat moss. Using a basic potting soil may yield better results. Saucers will be used under containers to prevent water from running out the bottom of the pot and reduce the frequency of watering. Also, a three-gallon container was not quite large enough once the plants matured. I would recommend a five-gallon container.
The total number of tomatoes harvested between June 7 and July 12, 2010, for each variety can be found in Figure 1. The total number of pounds harvested for each variety between June7 and July 12 can be found in Figure 2. There were 10 plants of each variety. Figures 1 and 2 and a picture of each variety can be found in the attached document.