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Be a "Winner"
by John Harmon
June 1, 2003

The big questions this week besides "when can I plant outside?" have been about tomatoes. I can't answer the question about when it will be safe to plant outside. It was -5C out here east of town on Wednesday morning. Even pansies that are noted for being able to stand a little frost won't be happy at that temperature. The long-range forecast looks good for daytime temperatures but it's still anybody's guess. "Ya pays yer nickel and ya takes yer chances!" I would think that the first week of June will be about right and even then your plants may require some light frost protection. Planting outside in the Yukon is always a ""bet" and how long you wait will determine if you win or lose.

You can also be a winner if you enter the Titanic Tomato Tournament. There will be another tournament this year with just a few changes. The junior category will be discontinued because there just weren't enough entries to justify it. Everyone will compete in the same category. I haven't completed the list of prizes for this year but will be able to let you know what they will be soon. Get your tomatoes transplanted and going now and you will be ready to enter when the time comes.

Many folks have asked me what the difference is between determinate tomato cultivars and indeterminate types. It's really very simple. Determinate is a term used to describe a tomato plant whose growth is stopped by the production of flowers and fruit. Determinate tomato cultivars are usually compact plants known as "bush" tomatoes that bear their entire crop over a short period of time. Once the plant begins to set fruit it stops growing and spends all it's energy producing fruit. These are the kind of tomatoes that are used for field crops when the farmer wants a large quantity of fruit to be ready at one time. They are also usually shorter season tomatoes that take fewer days to get ripe fruit than indeterminate types. They also require little or no pruning or management once they are planted out.

Tomatoes used for greenhouse production are indeterminate types. They are also called "staking tomatoes" and will require support of some kind. Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow and set fruit throughout their life cycle. Varieties selected for greenhouse production fall into two broad categories: large beefsteak or slicing types and cluster or hand types. The larger types are harvested singly. The cluster or hand types are harvested in clusters of four to seven fruit and are sold with the cluster stem still attached. Many of the tomatoes grown for the Titanic Tomato Tournament and most of the heirloom varieties are indeterminate types. Indeterminate types require more care throughout their life cycle. They need to have the suckers picked and need to be supported in some way; either stakes or tied to a string. They will also need to have the number of fruit on each truss restricted for best results. Indeterminate types will usually produce larger tomatoes and there are many unusual varieties available. For information on pruning tomatoes check out http://www.tropicals-north.yk.ca/. and click on the pruning tomatoes link towards the bottom of the page.

You will sometimes see a tomato listed as "vigorous bush" or "semi-determinate". This is a variety that behaves mid way between a determinate and indeterminate tomato and it's anybody's guess which way it will go.

Many folks have also asked about the disease resistance of various tomatoes. It's a little late this year because you should already have your tomatoes planted but it will help you when you select seeds for next season. Here's a list of the most common abbreviations you will see next to the tomato name on seed lists and what they stand for. V = Verticillium Wilt, N = Nematodes, F = Fusarium Wilt, FF =Fusarium Races 1 and 2, T = Tobacco Mosaic Virus, A = Alternaria Stem Canker and St = Stemphylium Gray Leaf Spot. Tomatoes are usually listed as being resistant to one or more of these maladies. The key word is resistant it does not mean immune.

The one you want to pay close attention to if you are a smoker is the Tobacco Mosaic Virus. All tobacco and tobacco products carry the Tobacco Mosaic Virus. A smoker will have it on their hands and clothing. If you are a smoker you should only grow varieties listed as resistant to Tobacco Mosaic Virus. Even then you should wash your hands before handling your tomato plants or even just picking some fruit.

The guessing game of when it will be safe to plant outside is ongoing and in any game there are winners and losers. All you have to do to be a winner is control your eagerness and wait another week or so before planting outside.

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