Final EarthBox 2013 Recap — The Tomatoes And Tomatillos

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.

The tomatoes and tomatillos drew most of the attention whenever people would check out the garden, so it makes sense to me to save them for the last recap.

Tomatillos — 14.6 pounds.  The bees looooved these. There was one strong plant and one weaker plant. The weaker plant needed additional support by the time it was a couple of feet tall, and by September 5 it was completely done. The overall yield was still very good, and we’ll have roasted tomatillo salsa into next year. Rick Bayless’ Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Recipe is  here.

073113 tomatillo

Tomatoes — The total yield was 91 pounds, out of 3 boxes. The indeterminate varieties got well over eight feet tall and flopped over the top of the cages. The Sun Golds in particular were crazy vigorous.

072113 tomato front

Here’s the May 18 summary of the types of tomato and tomatillo plants:

051713 tomatillo and tomato

The varieties — back to front, starting with the leftmost box. Descriptions from the Seattle Tilth plant sale:

Two Mexican Strain tomatillos. 65 day maturity.

Glacier. 56 day determinate. Grows to 2-1/2 feet high by 3-1/2 feet wide. “Great for containers”.

Siletz. 70-75 day determinate.  “One of the most reliable slicing tomatoes you can grow.”

Stupice. 60 day indeterminate. Red, 2″ fruit on 6′ vines.

Sungold. 65 day indeterminate. Apricot-orange 1-1/4″ cherry-tomato fruit on grape like trusses.

Brandywine. 85 day indeterminate. Fruits up 1 pound and 7″ in diameter. (The Brandywines are near the house to try to get some reflected sun off of the house.)

Roma. 75 day determinate.

And the results:

Glacier — 13.9 pounds. The Glaciers were early, consistent, and tasty… excellent all the way around. A definite keeper for 2014.

Siletz — 12.9 pounds.  The Siletz were the most compact of all of the varieties. They were a nice halfway point — not as big and slow maturing as the Brandywines, but they still had some good size and taste. It felt like we got *way* more Glaciers than Siletz, but the numbers don’t back that up at all. These might benefit from being planted with something else equally compact. Most likely a keeper for 2014.

Stupice — 9.4 pounds.  The Stupice suffered a little bit from being in the “back center” of the stack of tomatoes. That, and the Sun Golds went nuts. These were probably the most unremarkable of all of the tomatoes, that is, they weren’t especially big or tasty or prolific… they were “fine”. That means that they may get another try in 2014.

Sun Gold — 19.2 pounds.  Craaaaazy prolific orange-colored cherry tomato. As sweet as candy. Winner.

Brandywine — 10.1 pounds.  Slow to mature. The Brandywine had the longest theoretical maturity, which is what actually came to pass. These all split into craggy “rustic” fruits. I’d be fine with passing on these next year in favor of an early variety.

Roma — 26.o pounds.  The biggest output by weight, the Romas were very late. Ultimately the tail end had to be rescued off of the vines before they were completely ripe. If we do these again they’re going to need a sunnier spot — they were sort of behind and under the Sun Golds *and* crowded by the Brandywines.

harvest 091513

We intentionally mixed earlier and later varieties of tomatoes, and it worked out about as expected. The early ones did great, and the later plants had to race to ripen before calling it a year. Given that this summer was supposed to have been especially nice, we might have seen the best case scenario for the really long maturity types. Overall though, the tomatoes were relatively cramped, so it could go better next year just by giving them the appropriate amount of space.

All in all, 230 pounds of herbs and vegetables out of 12 EarthBoxes, and the yield should have been greater than that. We’ll get ’em next year.


4 thoughts on “Final EarthBox 2013 Recap — The Tomatoes And Tomatillos

  1. Hello–may I ask — how did you drill the holes for the green tomato cages into the concrete blocks that are around the corners of the raised earthboxes?



  2. Hi Mary,

    I just set the cages onto the blocks. I was a little concerned about it, so I tied them together at the tops with garden twine and added some pvc reinforcement.

    As you can see in the picture below, the tomatoes were one big solid mass by mid-season — the vines were all intertwined — I don’t think anything was “going anywhere”.

    You can see some of the pvc structure here:

    I cut short pieces of pvc and ran them under the boxes. They’re connected by “T’s”, that then go up the sides of the cages and are secured with cable ties.

    I think the tomatoes would have benefitted from being spread out a little more. I’ll likely do something very similar with pvc this year, but I’ll probably offset the boxes from each other so that it’s not one continuous run underneath the boxes.

    Hope that clarifies it a bit.



  3. Looks great. Ive been thinking about moving 9 ebs to the driveway this year. I like your concrete block idea nut Im considering making some with quickcrete and embedding the poles for the trellis/cage. Im in W. NY and its pretty windy here. Any thoughts or suggestions


  4. Hi cathy,

    The quickcrete is an excellent idea! I’d imagine you’d want to make forms out of wood and make sure not to “glue” the quickcrete to the driveway. Alternately, you could cut milk jugs in half and use those as forms for the quickcrete. In any event, I think I’d keep the wet quickcrete well away from any concrete.

    I think if I were to try that I’d put rebar into the quickcrete while it sets, then use cable ties to attach the cages to the rebar. Putting the cages directly into the quickcrete might be pretty unwieldy.

    Maybe there’s something like that premade and available at a big box store?



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