Saturday, September 16, 2006

Yellow Taxi Tomatoes

The bees are slowing down. It’s cool in the mornings. Autumn is a comin’ in. The long range forecast says this will be a rainy winter – el Nino is coming back. If that happens, it will be a good thing, as we’ve had some pretty dry winters the past year or two. The bees may be fooled, but I’m not. We haven’t seen the last of the warm weather.

Yesterday, I got three more quart-sized pots of a winter tomato called Yellow Taxi. A week ago, I put in two tiny starts in the back yard where the beans never grew. They are looking robust but only about 8” tall. The new ones are 24” tall. The nursery was practically giving them away at $2.99. That’s because most gardeners think summer is over and it’s too late: tomatoes planted now will not have enough time to put down roots to withstand the colder weather. And they sure won’t have enough time to flower and develop fruit. But the word on the street is that Yellow Taxi is a winter tomato.

What, you ask, is a winter tomato? I think they are referring to the growth habit. As any fool knows, the two main types of tomatoes are bush and vine. Fancy horticultural talk uses the terms “determinate” and “indeterminate.”
• Determinate tomato plants flower and fruit on the ends of their branches and grow like a bush to a certain size (3-5 feet), set fruit, and then decline. Most of the early ripening tomato varieties are of the determinate type.

• Indeterminate plants flower and fruit along their stems and grow like vines until frost or disease kills them. Many of the standard-sized all summer tomatoes for home gardens are indeterminate type, and will need staking, trellis or cages to support them and keep the fruit away from the soil.

So, I’m thinking Yellow Taxi is an indeterminate plant that might weather the cool season provided it gets a month or so of warm weather to establish itself, and provided I give it stakes to sprawl over. We’ll see.

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