Last weekend I planted seeds of tomato plants I hope to set out in the garden in mid-March. I'm trying a bunch of varieties I've never grown before. The goal is to end up with 20 or 25 plants, which will be more than enough for me and my husband, with plenty to spare for friends. I always start more seeds than the number of plants I want to end up with. Some may not come up; of the ones that come up, I can pick out the 2 or 3 healthiest of each variety to grow to maturity. I started six each of the following:
Atkinson (indet, early, heat resistant)
Abraham Lincoln (indet, early, resistance to foliage diseases)
Stone (indet, drought hardy)
Stupice (indet, Czech very early variety - said to be cold tolerant which often means heat tolerant as well)
Sophie's Choice (very early [55 days], not heat tolerant, but since it produces so quickly maybe that will not matter)
Tropic VFN (indet, late, but said to be disease resistant and heat tolerant, developed by Univ of FL
Matt's Wild Cherry (Said to be quite robust, fruit is tart)
Red Currant (this one has always done very well in the heat, and the fruit is delicious. I used to help a friend sell at farmer's markets. We would bag up these little tomatoes as snacks. We always sold out quickly)
Last year, I bought a BHN 444 (F1) plant at a nursery. I place it in the garden where it got shade from around 4:00 in the afternoon. Unfortunately, I did not keep a record of exactly when I planted it. I don't think I planted it particularly late in the season, but by the time it started flowering, the weather had already gotten too hot for pollination. The plant lived on through the summer, and in the fall it produced a huge number of medium sized red tomatoes. My garden is in Lockhart, and I work in San Antonio during the week, so the garden has to get along on its own without watering for 4 days every week. What impressed me about this plant was that it remained healthy throughout the hot, extremely dry summer. Other tomato plants, even currant tomatoes that usually do well in heat, were terribly stressed, but BHN 444 kept plugging away. Could be, at least in part, because of the afternoon shade.
I forgot to order seeds, but since this variety performs well in the heat, no harm in ordering it now and starting it a bit late. Johnny's seeds has it among their listings.
Speaking of shade, I would very much like to have some mesquite trees, or something similar, growing throughout the vegetable garden, to provide light shade, thus maybe prolonging the spring growing season. I gathered some mesquite seeds last year but stuck them in a drawer forgot to plant them. Need to check their germination requirements. I haven't found any mesquite trees for sale at plant nurseries. They are generally considered pest trees, something I've never understood, since they enrich the soil, provide protective shade for other plants, produce edible seed pods, and beautiful hard wood.