Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tomato Trellis Trials

Last year, we participated in a study sponsored by PFI and the Ceres Foundation to look at three different trellising techniques: cages, stake and weave and cattle panels. Unfortunately, the year was atypical for tomato production - so it is difficult to draw any real conclusions from the study. However, my curiosity is sufficient that I believe we will run our own trial again this season (without PFI and the other two farms).

The question is - what heirloom variety do we use this year for the trials. Last year it was Cherokee Purple. The variety tastes excellent, but is one we don't have the best success with on the farm. We'd rather spend the 60 plants it will take to do the trial on a different variety that we know tends to do consistently well for us. (never fear, we'll still grow Cherokee Purple - they are great tasting - just not 60 plants worth).

Candidates for the trial include:
Italian Heirloom
German Pink
Wisconsin 55

Our tomato variety page is here.

Requirements for choice as the variety to test are:
- a variety that we want the kind of production 60 plants can give us. In other words, we need the demand for that sort of tomato!
- indeterminate cultivar
- larger plants (indeterminate tends to handle that)
- sufficient production levels to perhaps show some differences by trellising method

German Pink may eliminate itself because it produces very large (wonderful) fruit - but not a huge number of them (about 13-15 per plant). Trophy and Wisconsin 55 are our workhorse red, intermediate sized tomatoes. There is always demand for moderate sized slicers. Trophy tends to hold on to its fruit better than the 55's. But, could the 55's be easier to keep up with using a method other than cages? Hm.

Our initial thought is to go with the Italian Heirlooms. Larger, 1 pound fruits start earlier than even the Trophy's and 55's. They are meaty, tasty and one of our favorites. But, would it be better to go with one of the other varieties?

We'll keep you informed. Any votes out there?

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