With those fleshy giants of the tomato world in focus, Colin Randel reports on the most recent Award of Garden Merit (AGM) trials of beefsteak varieties grown in a polytunnel.
Beefsteak tomatoes have not been assessed since 2003 and of those cultivars awarded an AGM then, ‘Beefsteak’, ‘Canestrino de Lucca’, ‘Costoluto Florentina’, ‘Legend’ and ‘Marmande’ were included in this latest trial. There were some interesting skin and flesh colors, although most of the 34 cultivars (22 of these F1 hybrids) were red fruited. Beefsteaks’ fruit size and weight are not an exact science but our trials panel agreed that this AGM trial had to produce a minimum fruit weight of 150g (many can attain more than 500g) and when sliced horizontally the fruit consisted of a minimum of three locules (these are the inner segments of each fruit).
How to Sowing
The seed was sown in the propagation house on March 17 in pans of peat-free compost, covered with a thin layer of vermiculite and germinated at 23-24C (73-77F) bottom heat. When seedlings wеrе large enough to handle they were pricked out into 9cm (3 ½ in) biodegradable pots and grown on at 20C (68F) day temperature and 16C (61 F) at night, reducing after three weeks, to 15C (59F) day and 13C (55F) night. Seedlings were watered with a fine rose with maintained moisture throughout the root zone but not overwatered. Feeding commenced at the three to four-leaf stage with Sangral 1:1:3 at the ratio 1:100 until planting out. Sangral is a commercial product, but larger garden centres stock suitable alternatives.
How We Will Plant Out
New Horizon peat-free growing totes (not tomato planters) were used. These were put in the polytunnel on April 15 to warm through to 13-15C (55-59F). Shaking and knocking them to break up any compost that was compacted aerated the bags. On May 6 they were prepared for planting – openings were cut 24cm (9 ½ in) from the border of the tote. A cross was cut out, 15cm (6in) long, creating a square hole for planting. Three each side of the growbag, six drainage holes, were cut at 1-2cm and set up for drip irrigation. On May 9 the tomatoes were planted, two plants per bag (three bags per trial), strung, and side shoots topped out as needed. In this post, you can find more about tomatoes growing.
And Then Growing On
On May 15 the irrigation system was set for watering twice a day, 09.30 and 15.30, at 0.5 litre pet plant per watering. The watering was reset for three times per day on June 10. The plants were sprayed with Epsom salts, 10g per litre of water, as a foliar feed from May 22. Feeding commenced on June 5 with Sangral 3:1:6 at ratio 1:200 and biological control using encarsia began on June 7. On July 11 the lower leaves to the bottom truss were removed and the plants were ‘stopped’ two leases above the sixth truss on July 15.
The criteria were: taste, yield, appearance, resistance to pest and disease. Cropping records commenced on July 17 with Brix readings undertaken prior to the first fudging assessments on August 20. These readings ranged from 4% to 6.5% – beefsteaks do not have the levels of ‘cherry’ cultivars which expect to be at least 8% to be considered sweet. A further judging assessment was undertaken on September 15.
Here video with interesting tips about growing tomatoes.