Friday, January 30, 2009

A Few Reliable Heirlooms

Although I have had trouble with some heirloom tomatoes in my yard (the ‘Glacier’ that I tried last year, for example, died within a month of planting), a few have been absolutely reliable and productive. The heirloom tomato varieties ‘Rutgers,’ ‘Arkansas Traveler’ and a sub-variety of ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter’ that I purchased from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange have all produced well in my yard.

One problem with trying new heirloom varieties is that they usually aren’t certified as being disease resistant. This makes choosing, and trusting, new-to-me heirloom varieties a bit nerve-wracking; I know there is a (big) chance the plants won’t survive long enough to set fruit.

I could be wrong, but I think that the official testing for such resistance is expensive. For varieties in the public domain, like most heirloom tomatoes, a seed company might not be able to recoup the cost of that testing in sales of seed, since the seeds can be acquired from many suppliers, sometimes even for free from a gardening friend.

That means all the testing is done in our own yards, by gardeners everywhere. Even we, though, can’t officially proclaim that a variety is officially resistant. We can only share the wonderful news that a plant has survived and produced the hoped-for tomatoes.

The fact that some heirloom tomatoes have survived in my yard gives me hope that more reliable heirlooms are out there in the world, but I am still going to start my next new heirloom tomato as a graft, as described in yesterday’s post, just to make sure…

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