Garden Guy: Pick the right tomato variety for your needs


When purchasing tomato seed for spring planting, you will run into the words “determinate” and “indeterminate” varieties. What you choose will depend on what type of tomato you want and what you are going to do with them.

Determinate tomato varieties grow as a compact bush, often referred to as “bush” tomatoes, and produce most of their crop at one time. All the fruit can be harvested in two to five pickings; the plants are then pulled up. Once the first flush of fruit has ripened, the plant will begin to diminish in vigor and will set little to no new fruit. Determinate plants are often the choice of the gardener who wants a large supply of ripe fruit at once for canning. Many paste or roma tomatoes are determinate varieties.

With indeterminate varieties on the other hand, the vine continues growing all season as it produces its fruit. These plants are also referred to as “vining” tomatoes and will require staking to support the large load. The majority of tomato varieties are indeterminate including most heirlooms and cherry types. Other indeterminate tomatoes include beefsteak, big boy and brandywine.

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Some years the avocados I pick are wonderful. But some years the fruit has blackish fibers running throughout the fruit. Most years the fruit has these fibers and the fruit often rots. Do you know what causes these fibers?

The dark fibers or strands are actually the vascular tissue of the fruit. These threads are part of the conductive system of the plant bringing water and nutrients to the fruit. They are usually the same color as the fruit pulp but can discolor for various reasons, cold temperatures being one. For some trees, especially seedlings, it is the nature of the fruit to exhibit darkened strands as the fruit reaches maturity and beyond.

For tropical areas, the most likely answer is disease. There are a number of fungi which enter an avocado at the stem end of the fruit. Some of these pathogens will cause vascular browning as a precursor to decaying the flesh.

These stem-end rotting fungi are basically decay organisms or weak pathogens, which are present in the soil and on dead or dying plant tissue. Their spores spread by wind and splashing water. Clearly the disease is made worse in a rainy environment. Infection typically occurs when the fruit is still on the tree, but it does not develop until after the fruit is picked due to anti-fungal compounds present in unripe fruit. The fruit, however, will continue to decay as it ripens.

Measures that would help to lessen the problem include the following:

1. Since the disease organism attacks dead plant material, clean out dead limbs and twigs would help to reduce the incidences of fruit rot.

2. Keep trees healthy with proper nutrients and water.

3. Maintain a thick layer of mulch under the tree’s canopy would help to minimize the disease.

4. After the fruit is picked, dry it and place in the refrigerator if not eaten soon. Caution: Temperatures below 41 degrees can cause fruit injury in some varieties. For severe problems, trees can be sprayed with a copper fungicide to limit infection.

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We have a backyard lilikoi vine that is out of control. In cutting it back I find quite a few fruit came off the vine, but are not yet fully ripe. Will they ripen eventually if left them on the kitchen counter? Thanks, D.N.

In general, lilikoi do not ripen well off the vine. If allowed to ripen, the fruit will have a woody or bitter off-flavor. You may have to count the fallen fruit as loss.

Generally, you will get the best flavor when the ripened fruit falls to the ground.

Hilo resident Nick Sakovich is a professor emeritus of the University of California. He has worked in the field of agriculture for 30 years. Email your questions to Sakovich at askthegardenguy@earthlink.net. Also, visit his website at www.gardenguyhawaii.com.

 

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