Texas Gardening forum: Tomato varieties for deep south Texas?

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Name: Heidi
McAllen, TX (Zone 9b)
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HeidiS
May 20, 2016 11:13 AM CST
Hi everyone! I'm hoping some of you have some ideas for me. I've lived in south Texas for almost three years now, and have had a terrible time with tomatoes, both because of the dreaded yellow leaf curl virus and because of stink bugs. This spring I didn't even try tomatoes, but I'd like to try again. Any suggestions for varieties that might work down here?
Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
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Bubbles
May 20, 2016 9:42 PM CST

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@HeidiS Welcome! I think @Gymgirl would be able to help you. She is a tomato guru and lives in the Houston area. She is most enthusiastic about growing tomatoes! I think she will pop in as soon as she knows she's been summoned!
Name: Linda
SE Houston, Tx. (Hobby) (Zone 9a)
"Godspeed, & Good Harvest!"
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Gymgirl
May 23, 2016 10:30 AM CST
You rang? LOL!!!

Ok. Here's the skinny on growing tomatoes in MY yard (Houston)....
It (usually) gets brutally HOT here by the 1st of July. The heat lasts well into mid-September. My goal is to pull my last tomato by the end of June, and rip the vines. They're ratty and diseased by then, and not worth trying to carry over in all the heat. Additionally, once the humidity sets in and the temps avg. greater than 82°, the pollen clumps and doesn't fly in the breeze (contrary to popular belief, bees are NOT needed to pollinate tomatoes -- but, they sure help!)

To this end (harvesting the maters by the end of June), I have to set transplants out here by the 2nd weekend in FEBRUARY. Yes. That's not a misprint. FEBRUARY. Basically, the middle of winter, here in Houston. I have all sorts of frost contingencies in place, and PLAN to protect the seedlings once they're transplanted out. In order, I use: PVC hoops (almost year-round), perforated plastic sheeting, solid plastic sheeting, old sheets, lightweight mover's blankets, old Christmas tree lights (the ones that heat up), hot water filled milk jugs, and, if push comes to shove, a small space heater under the covered hoops. To date, I've only had to go as far as the first four contingencies, combined. No plants were lost to frost.

This sounds like a lot, however, in the grand garden scheme, we have only a handful of nights that dip below freezing. And very rarely for more than a day or so in a row. So, it's only a night here and there to protect the plants past the solid plastic covers.

I start seeds indoors on the weekend closest to the Winter Solstice (December 20th). I pot up once after the first set of true leaves, grow them for 5-6 weeks, harden off 1 week, transplant them out on the 8th weekend from sowing the seed.

If you protect them, and have the proper sunlight to grow them, you should have full production by mid-April to mid-May.

Historically, I grow long-season (85-120 DTMS) indeterminate heirloom tomatoes. Beefsteaks. When I had the proper sun patterns I was successful. However, a large tree is sucking up my sunlight, and I am not able to grow tomatoes like I want to in my yard. Have to decide on tomatoes vs. the tree....

Sioux (NOT Super Sioux) is the most heat resistant tomato I have ever grown. It is a fine, tennis-ball size slicer that grows in clusters of 6-7 fruits, like perfect huge grapes. I literally had to stop watering them during our 2011 drought, because I couldn't take the heat. They, on the other hand, were just fine, as long as I kept going out to water them!

You might also try Mortgage Lifter and Kellogg's Breakfast. Just get them out as early as you're willing to protect them.

Hope this helps! I tip my hat to you. I tip my hat to you.
[Last edited by Gymgirl - May 23, 2016 10:49 AM (+)]
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Name: Heidi
McAllen, TX (Zone 9b)
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HeidiS
May 25, 2016 7:37 AM CST
Thanks for all the info, @Gymgirl!

We really don't have issues with frost down here in McAllen--we cover things maybe two or three times per year and the rest of the time we're fine. This year we were having highs in the upper 80s and into the 90s by FEBRUARY, which was probably higher than usual, and our first 100+ degree day came in March. Thumbs down It seems like I ought to have production going strong in February and March at the latest if I'm going to get anything. Planting should happen roughly in October, I'm guessing. I'll check into the Sioux variety you mentioned, and see if I can get the timing right next fall. If I can get the variety and the timing right, maybe I'll have a chance at battling the stink bugs!
Name: Linda
SE Houston, Tx. (Hobby) (Zone 9a)
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Region: Texas Vegetable Grower Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Master Level Canning and food preservation Gardens in Buckets
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Gymgirl
May 25, 2016 8:45 AM CST
Make it a practice to clear out any leftover garden debris before the late fall /early winter weather sets in. The moths lay eggs in garden waste or under piles of brush, etc., to over-winter, protected from the elements. Angry

Then they hatch in the springtime, and begin their destruction.... I tip my hat to you.
Name: Heidi
McAllen, TX (Zone 9b)
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HeidiS
May 26, 2016 7:21 AM CST
Yes, good idea!
Name: Sondra
NE Houston, Texas (Zone 9a)
Cat Lover Region: Texas
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SALL20
May 29, 2016 6:03 PM CST
The smaller cherry type tomatoes have done well for me. Mine never stopped producing this year! I still have some plants from last year, plus some new ones that the birds planted. Smiling
Name: Tabitha
Spring, TX (Zone 8b)
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madrid2000
May 30, 2016 8:00 AM CST
Gymgirl where do you get your seeds? My current yard is filled with trees, so I have a few tomatoes slipped between flowers on the curb this year. I started teaching at a school with a very nice garden in the back, so I am hoping to grow tomatoes next year. All I have to do is clean out the weeds in the school garden. Whistling Do you grow fall tomatoes too, or only in the spring?
Luling, TX (Zone 8b)
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coryvp
Jun 2, 2016 3:37 PM CST
SALL20 said:The smaller cherry type tomatoes have done well for me. Mine never stopped producing this year! I still have some plants from last year, plus some new ones that the birds planted. Smiling


Cherry tomatoes do well for me, too, in this hot and humid climate. Long after most of my full-size tomatoes give up, the cherry plants will still fire them out. I'm hoping that happens with Black Cherry; this is my first year growing them and they're like mini Cherokee Purple, which is a big win as far as I'm concerned.
[Last edited by coryvp - Jun 2, 2016 3:37 PM (+)]
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Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
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Newyorkrita
Jun 2, 2016 4:34 PM CST
coryvp said:

Cherry tomatoes do well for me, too, in this hot and humid climate. Long after most of my full-size tomatoes give up, the cherry plants will still fire them out. I'm hoping that happens with Black Cherry; this is my first year growing them and they're like mini Cherokee Purple, which is a big win as far as I'm concerned.


Black Cherry tastes wonderful. Big Grin

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