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Heirloom Tomatoes and Small Gardens

July 26, 2009

Back in May I wrote about the different varieties of heirloom tomatoes I planted in my garden: German Queen, Beefsteak, Brandywine, Marion and Cherokee Purple Rose. I planted thirteen plants in all and most of them are producing a decent number of tomatoes. The catch is something I discovered on a recent trip to the Farmer’s Market in Nashville, Tennessee. A farmer there had a table full of what looked like Cherokee Purple Rose tomatoes. But some of them were labeled Cherokee Strawberry tomatoes.He said that he had planted two varieties at opposite ends of the garden but that the ends of the rows were too close together and the two varieties cross pollinated. The result was a delectable purple tomato with a slight strawberry flavor and shape.

This led to an ahha moment. I hadn’t even considered, when I arranged and planted my garden, that pretty much all heirloom vegetables are pollinated by open pollination and that the different varieties could cross pollinate. So I started reading. Now the Clemson Extension says that tomatoes are usually self pollinating but that insects occasionally cross them. They recommend planting the different varieties at least 10 feet apart. I planted the German Queen, Beefsteak, Brandywine and Marion all in a row cheek by jowl as it were and the Cherokee Purple Rose are just a few feet away at the end. We’ve had LOTS of bees this year. Some of my Cherokees are showing signs of  being slightly different that the very first ones so I have to wonder, have they been cross pollinated?

I think am thinking that next year I’ll plant more of the Cherokee Purple Rose in the back yard and try to find some of the Mortgage lifter or one of the other varieties that I couldn’t find this year to plant way over in the FRONT yard. Have you ever had any heirloom vegetables to cross pollinate?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2009 11:05 pm

    My luck with Heirlooms was not good…the wilt virus got them.

    • Lauren permalink*
      July 27, 2009 5:38 pm

      I am so sorry! As they say, there is always next year….

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