Gardening Tips Tomatoes

A Secret to Success in the Garden

There’s a secret to success in the garden (or any other endeavor) that’s seldom mentioned.

In spite of what’s promoted – either in ads for various gardening products or articles on gardening – things are not always perfect no matter how good the gardener or the garden is.

As plants age they (like most life forms) don’t always look as lush and beautiful as before they started producing fruit. Plants in any garden have their season of beauty followed by an eventual season of decline.

In addition, varieties that have performed successfully for years may suddenly fail to perform as anticipated.

Open Pollinated Big Beef

An example of that in my garden this year was my open-pollinated Big Beef. I can’t remember exactly how long I’ve grown this variety. It’s been at least 20 years.

It’s always produced more tomatoes than any other variety I grow. AND it keeps producing until freezing weather comes.

Even in a year when early blight is intense, it still performs.

The tomatoes are not only more beautiful than others, but they taste delicious as well.

This year I planted six. When they first started bearing fruit I got about 6 tomatoes. None since then! What a shocker!

The good news is they have plenty of blossoms and with the cool down we’ve recently had they’ve set some fruit. We’ll see.

It’s never over until it’s over — no matter what things may look like.

Two more Big Beefs that I planted in July (backups) are looking great. They’ve already set some nice looking fruits and have lots of blossom.

This Year’s Other Varieties

It’s my habit to grow Big Beef as my staple and then at least 2 or 3 other varieties as backups.

It’s backup(s) that make sure you still have a harvest if something goes wrong with a favorite or a first planting or a new variety.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomato plants can quickly volunteer in your garden (from last year’s planting) and take over. I’m constantly pulling them up and/or pruning back the ones that I want.

As I’m sure you know if you’ve raised them, they’re one of the most dependable backups you can have for tomatoes.

They don’t taste quite the same as “regular” tomatoes but when you have no others available they’re great.

In my garden they’re the first to give fruit and the last to stop when cold weather comes. Unbelievably I’ve seen them survive several frosts with maybe only a few leaves browned.

The other two varieties I planted this year were Carbon and Dafel.

Carbon, tried at the recommendation of a friend, was new for me.
I like it much better than Cherokee Purple which is similar. (Planted five. )

It has stopped producing but has blossoms. So I’m hopeful more will come by October.

Dafel was raised from seed saved back in 2012. (It was originally a hybrid tomato.)

The fruits are about the size of a large plum. Many are even smaller. But they’re delicious with the real tomato flavor that I remember as a child. (Planted six.)

And thus far, it’s producing more tomatoes than any of the others (except of course the cherry tomatoes).

Even with the high temperature we had some weeks ago, which causes most plants to stop setting fruit, I didn’t see much decline in production with the Dafel.

Final Thought

There are many variables from year to year. Some you’ll be aware of; others you won’t detect. But plants do.

“Backups” are another tool to give you an edge and help make sure you get a harvest if mother natures throws you a curveball.

It’s a secret to success in the garden that’s seldom mentioned.


Suggested reading:

Tomato – One Tough Plant but Still subject to Nature’s Variables


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  • A good read Theresa. I think two of the hardest things for a new gardener to learn are patience and faith. Patience comes with gardening if you give it a chance. Faith; sometimes no matter how diligent you are some veggies will have a bad year. If you’ve done your best, have faith and wait till next year. It could be the best year you’ve ever had for the same veggies. Always good to hear from you.

    Happy gardening

    Ray Kent

  • Hi Theresa, so good to hear from you! Variables in the garden is a given! My young niece is learning about this this year. She calls me upset stating “it grew so well last year”….Gardening lessons. May we all keep learning and sharing. Thank you for your posts and hey ITS FALL GARDENING TIME!!! YAY!

  • Theresa, I planted six tomatoes I purchased from a greenhouse in the Black Hills. I don’t remember what kind. (I know, not very smart.) I’ve had 6 to 8 tomatoes a day until the first frost a few days ago. They were a little smaller than a baseball, but great taste.
    I can hardly wait to dig up the white potatoes, 40 plants. I’ll have plenty to give away, as I figure they won’t keep through the winter. Next spring I’ll plant red potatoes as I’ve heard they store better.

  • I planted three tomato plants and the two biggest producers succumbed to worms, which I battled big time. The third is hanging in the there with a few fruits and some blossoms.

    I also planted two bell pepper plants. One produced the first and only pepper but never grew past a foot high while the other one that I planted at the exact same time is about 3 ft tall and has a several peppers on it. So strange. I did notice just recently, though, that the little pepper plant has a bunch of little baby buds on it so maybe there’s still hope!

  • Thanks for letting me know about OP Big Beef — Big Beef is my go-to tomato as well. I’ve got a packet ready for next year. Going to try Carbon, too. I love the Cherokee Purple, but they can be really susceptible to blight.

  • Hi Theresa!
    I appreciate your insight and suggestions. My tomatoes didn’t do well this year. What I’ve had for making juice is an abundance of little yellow ones…hubby’s favorite.
    Of course I’m dealing with worn out soil that we’re rebuilding with no-till. It’s better this year, and even better in years to come.
    As always, thank you for your garden-sharing. It’s so good to commune with a “soil-sister!”

  • this was the best year i have ever had for tomatoes – i’m in the uk – i think largely because with the lockdown i had far more time to spend in the garden so i could prune out extra leaves etc and keep blight at bay. most of mine were cherry tomatoes , some grown from supermarket ones that had gone mushy. nearly all of them have ripened (my friend is a bit miffed as she was hoping for some for her green tomato chutney!) so next year i expect to have almost none to make up for it!

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