Vegetables and Fruit forum: Growing nearly 100 varieties of Tomatoes

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Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
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DavidLMO
Dec 5, 2015 6:04 PM CST
This is followup to a post over in Seeds forum which was getting wayyyyy OT.

I had said:

Linda - Our Master Gardener group grew 92 varieties of tomatoes this year and our fall tomato Fest was a huge success. About a third of them were purchased via normal catalogs. In our Spring plant sale (about 50 % ordered from catalogs) we grossed over 5 K $.

And Linda replied:

David--with 92 varieties (yikes, can't even imagine), how many plants does that equate to??? We try to keep it down to a reasonable variety, although we never know what will get donated. Plus, we have to cover all of our bases.....paste tomatoes, dwarfs, each of the colors, hybrids, heirlooms.
~~~

Thousands and thousands and more thousands Big Grin We too cover all the bases.

At the Univ of MO extension area we have like 6 + acres divided into 3 plots. Each year one is held fallow (planted in cover crops that are turned under), one is planted in corn & peppers and one in essentially tomatoes & some other demo crop. The latter 2 are planted with a winter cover crop turned over in Spring.

Each year we have access to two Greenhouses at MO Western State University. We start virtually all our plants there in late winter. In addition to all the tomato varieties, we plant hundreds of species of annuals, peppers, other vegetables, herbs and perennials. Our Spring plant sale is held in conjunction with the members of the university Biology honorary society who help us and get 1/2 the proceeds.

WRT all the varieties of tomatoes, we also get a ton of starts from a KS university (can never remember whether KU or KSU). We share the demo results with them. Many of these are grafted.

The land we use was initially used by Extension. After our Master Gardener group started, we took over.

Some of the tomatoes grown are sold at the Spring plant sale. The balance are grown out and used in our Fall Tomato Fest attended by hundreds of locals. It is very popular.
In addition to tomato judging, we have salsas, other food items derived from them, food, a book sale, lectures & demos and we sell a limited number of the tomatoes.
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Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
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Newyorkrita
Dec 7, 2015 8:42 PM CST
Thumbs up Big Grin Big Grin
Name: Linda
Carmel, IN (Zone 5a)
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mom2goldens
Dec 9, 2015 7:04 PM CST
David--that sounds like an amazing project. It's awesome you have that greenhouse space to grow in. We are all home gardeners, starting plants under grow lights and praying our weather is good enough to get them out at the appropriate time.

How have your grafted tomatoes done?

We tried selling some of the new dwarf varieties this year, but they just were not that popular. I grew out a few in my garden, and they were very prolific, but didn't love the taste. But they were nice, bushy, hardy plants.
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
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DavidLMO
Dec 9, 2015 11:57 PM CST
mom2goldens said:David--that sounds like an amazing project. It's awesome you have that greenhouse space to grow in. We are all home gardeners, starting plants under grow lights and praying our weather is good enough to get them out at the appropriate time.


Well -- me too personally and for my business. I have no personal access to all those facilities. Crying

mom2goldens said:
How have your grafted tomatoes done?


The owns I have personally done have pretty much all died. Hilarious! Grumbling Crying

Our Master Gardener group had a workshop that I led after I learned at the Great Plains Growers Conference. Unfortunately, the Extension guy was supposed to take care of them and he let them perish. Shrug!

The ones we got from K State did fine and were a good seller.
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Name: Don Shirer
Westbrook, CT (Zone 6a)
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DonShirer
Dec 10, 2015 10:16 AM CST
Dave:
Just out of curiosity I calculated that if you give them 4ft between each one, you could get more than 2700 plants in that one acre devoted to tomatoes! Even if you allow half of that space for aisles thats a lotta work!
Do you try to save seeds on the OP varieties?
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
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DavidLMO
Dec 10, 2015 10:54 AM CST
Well, yeah it IS a lot of work. nodding And aside from our one Extension liason rep, all work is done by the Master Gardeners (with exception of tractor related work.)

We don't save seeds at all.

Everything is pulled at end of season and composted.

I should also have mentioned, the tomatoes that get ripe well before the Tomato Fest are donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank. Any Master Gardener is also allowed to pick and take home what they want.
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Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
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DogsNDaylilies
Dec 17, 2015 6:47 AM CST
DavidLMO said:I should also have mentioned, the tomatoes that get ripe well before the Tomato Fest are donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank.


That's wonderful! Thumbs up I'm glad they/you do that.
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
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DavidLMO
Dec 17, 2015 9:49 AM CST
Grrrrr....age..... Crying

I should ALSO have mentioned we do get some assistance from youth at our local "Academy". These are troubled boys and girls who have done something bad enough that they need to be institutionalized for some period of time. They help us and score merits that reduce their time. And/or it is part of their sentence to do civic things.

About 50 % are great help and some very eager to learning gardening. Another 25 % are so-so. About 25 % are of little help.
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
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Newyorkrita
Dec 17, 2015 4:23 PM CST
mom2goldens said:

We tried selling some of the new dwarf varieties this year, but they just were not that popular. I grew out a few in my garden, and they were very prolific, but didn't love the taste. But they were nice, bushy, hardy plants.



I tried some of the New Dwarfs last season but they did poorly. If I try them again I will start seeds and get those pl;ants out into the garden much earlier. Of the ones I did get fruit on I had small tomatoes thjat I hated the taste of.
Name: Linda
Carmel, IN (Zone 5a)
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mom2goldens
Dec 17, 2015 8:24 PM CST
David--I think it's great you give young people a chance to see if they like gardening. I know as a youngster, I wouldn't have like it. I grew to enjoy it seriously quite a bit later in life. But if they don't have the exposure, how will they ever know?

I wish our MG Group had some access to greenhouses. It's such a challenge to get annuals (veggies and herbs) grown properly in our zone for a plant sale that is in mid-May. We pray to the weather gods every year, but are not always rewarded for our efforts Shrug!

I need to get motivated to start ordering seeds for the plant sale. Every year, it seems I get later and later. Sigh.......
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
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DavidLMO
Dec 17, 2015 9:07 PM CST
We have access to 3 sometimes 4 greenhouses And we have discussed getting our own near the Extension office. We have plenty of money and space. I am the new Treasurer, so I may push the idea harder.

We are going to start some seeds week after Christmas.

Our plant sale is in April. Crying
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Name: BetNC
Hendersonville, NC (Zone 7a)
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BetNC
Jan 11, 2016 9:50 AM CST
WOW! I'm impressed by what all your group does!! Such a large growing concerrn and doing so many things, too!

Plus, your TomatoFest has me ready to book my airline tickets!!!!

IDo y'all offer tours, too?

I have enough sunny area on my back patio to grow out 8 tomato plants each year. This year, a new frioend sent me a lot of dwarf seed and I'll grow <Mano (red, 1-2 oz fruit) and Cyril's Choice (English heirloom, red 4-8 pz fruit). According to his taste reviews, they're sposed to be tasty, with thin skins. . . and abundant producers.

The others, with fruit colors ranging from green and peach-fuzzed to orange and from countries like China and Australia . . . .a neighbor who doesn't use her back patio has agreed to let me grow out these other 4 dwarves. Truth be told, though, their fruit is so unusual to be a tomato. . that I don't think they'll prove to be very popular with my neighbors(who I distribute my excess production to).
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
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DavidLMO
Jan 11, 2016 10:27 AM CST
The TomatoFest (free) is pretty cool and is attended by several hundred folks. Think our best was like 300 +. It is held towards the end of Aug/early Sept - starts at 5:30 and goes til dark. Here is a summary of the events:

Sell limited quantities & types of tomatoes & pepper
Sell books
Sell birdhouses
Sell vegetable growers guide

Pass out Extension pamphlets

Presentations - usually 3 or 4 topics presented 3 times

Tour of the main garden
Tour of the youngster's Garden & Grow (G & G) garden - 5 - 6 plots ~ 20 ' x 30 '

Tables staffed by Master Gardeners to answer questions on: G&G, vegetable gardening & general, MG and becoming one

Free barbeque where we offer hot dogs, brats, salsa (usually 3 or 4 types) & chips

The main feature - the Tomato tasting and rating. This is the only thing held inside. We offer 30 - 40 + types of tomatoes and each person can judge them.
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Name: BetNC
Hendersonville, NC (Zone 7a)
Annuals Seed Starter Tomato Heads Hellebores Gardens in Buckets Plant and/or Seed Trader
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BetNC
Jan 11, 2016 10:40 AM CST
oh NEAT! and it's good to have it scheduled then, too.

The longest I ever lived in one place growing up (Army brat) was in a little town in SE MO. My brother even started his college-ing at SEMO (State Univ?????).
Name: Paul Fish
Brownville, Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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PaulF
Jan 18, 2016 12:15 PM CST
Dave, it sounds like you are just downriver from me. It would be a good time to visit your Fest. Our Mid-West TomatoFest has had a gathering for many years but the lady in charge passed away and we have just not been able to recover. Our peak year a couple of years ago saw 100 people and 75 varieties. I would love to know more about your fest and maybe I can join in. St. Joe is just as close to me as LIncoln.

As a Master Gardener in Nebraska this is pretty interesting stuff. Let me know.

Paul
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
Seed Starter Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Level 1
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DavidLMO
Jan 19, 2016 12:27 AM CST
Paul .... I have some memory problems, so YOU will have to make a point of checking in with around late July - OK? By then I should have a date for ours. Otherwise I will forget. Smiling
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976

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