Garden Tomato Productivity Study

Investigating time to first tomato production and total weight of the tomatoes produced. The study used "Large Cherry", "Marglobe", and "Stupice" tomatoes.

Last Updated 9/15/2020


Purpose of this study

This study was to determine which tomato types yielded tomatoes the fastest, and which types had the highest production. This is intended to be valuable information for personal gardens, community gardens, and gardens supporting food pantries. Hence the emphasis on fast and plentiful production. Fast yields are also important for northern growers with a limited growing season. The production of large amounts of tomatoes is important because, well, more tomatoes are always better!

Type Selection

The tomatoes selected for this study were based on the following:

No consideration is given to the taste of the tomatoes. It is assumed that these tomatoes taste good, as they are all very popular, and very common in home gardens. Also, no consideration was given to firmness, or shelf life, as these are all commercial concerns, not garden considerations.

The study is not really concerned with the number of tomatoes produced or the weight of each tomato. The interest is actually in the total weight that the types produced. For example, a home gardener doing 'canning' is not concerned that one type of tomato is an inch bigger than another, but how many jars can be canned!

It should be noted that the types selected are NOT HYBRIDS. Hybrid seeds will produce a plant, but seeds harvested from that plant, will not necessarily produce the same type of plant and vegetable/fruit. The study tomatoes are all open-pollinated(heirloom) types. This means that the tomatoes grown, will produce seeds that will produce the same type of plants. These open-pollinated types are particularly good for gardens "on a budget", as only the initial seeds have to be purchased.

Finally, all three tomato types selected are indeterminate types. These grow 6ft to 20ft and will produce until frost kills them. (This is in contrast to the "bush" or determinate type of tomato.) It is assumed that the indeterminate type has more production, and the production lasts longer.

Planting and Growing

Four seeds of each type were planted about a foot apart, like the corners of a square. This is practicing the "Square Foot Gardening" method (discussed later). The 4 seeds of each type are referenced as "type1, type2,...,type4". This was done for all three types of tomatoes, in the same garden. The spacing between the three types was about 6 feet and the spacing between each plant was 1 foot. This was done in the late spring and summer in Zone 5. The garden is in the open, so sunlight is not an issue. There were no fertilizer or chemicals used.

Very little watering was done. The intent was to have the plants use the natural amount of rain. Watering was done for the first week of sprouting, so the plants could get established. Later, plants were watered just once, after about three weeks without rain.


Growing Time Results

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In this study, the production times, or growing times, are defined as time from sprout to first ripe tomato. These plants were started as seeds between a layer of moist paper towels in a baggie. As soon as germination was seen, they were transplanted to the garden. When the plant first pops through the soil (sprouts), this is time 0 in the above chart. By 'normalizing' the times to the first sprout, variables like planting depth are eliminated.

As can be seen above the "Large Cherry" was the first to produce, followed by "Stupice" and then "Marglobe". It was hoped that there would be at least three of each type, to get a better average grow time. Birds tore up some of the original sprouts. For example, shortly after sprouting, the "Large Cherry" sprouts 1-3 were plucked out by birds. The birds did not pluck #4, but after replanting 1-3, plant #4 was already quite large and overwhelmed the space for plants 1-3. In the end, there were actually three plants for each type.

It was suspected that the smaller the tomato type, the sooner it would be to first production. That seems to have been proven true, as the "Large Cherry" produced first, followed by the slightly larger "Stupice", and then the large "Marglobe". It has been empirically seen that the very large "beefsteak" tomatoes, seem to take a long time to produce and do not produce many tomatoes(though they are large).

Advertised growing times for Marglobe tomatoes were 78 days, 75 and 73, versus this study's 79 days. The published times for Stupice to maturity vary widely. One website generously said 55-85 days, while others said 55 and 65 days. It is generally viewed as an early producer. Our earliest Stupice came in at 74 days, while the average was (as shown) 77.3 days.

It is interesting to note that one website said that Stupice time from "transplant to harvest" is "approximately 70 days". The study author has often seen, empirically, that transplanting plants, seems to take a long time for the plant to become established before producing. The study author has maintained that it is faster to production to just plant seeds (or use baggie technique) rather than buy plants. This certainly seems to validate the author's view!


Production Weight Results

This study attempts to compare the production of the three tomato types. It has been shown for smaller, non-commercial size gardens, that "Square Foot Gardening" yields maximum total production. This is based on the premise that 'packing' plants close together will yield less production per plant, but greater production per SQUARE FOOT of space used. "Square Foot Gardening" is important for personal gardens and community gardens, as it leads to more production, less weeding, and less watering.

The starting point, week 0, has been normalized to the day that the first tomato, of each type, was harvested. The plants are still producing at the time of this writing, so the graph is only partially done. It should be completed in several weeks.

The graph below shows the sum total produced weight of the three plants of each type.

As can be seen, the Marglobe tomato plants far outproduced the other types.

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The graph below shows the weekly total production weight from the plants of each type. This may be useful for weekly planning purposes. Considerations might be, how many weeks to full production, or how much production can be expected per week. For example, one might make plans around Marglobe final production of 4000 to 4500 grams per week.

It appears that Stupice production peaks around 1500 grams per week.

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PICTURES OF TYPICAL TOMATOES IN THE STUDY

Large Cherry

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The three Large Cherry tomato plants had an average tomato weight of 0.73 ounces (20.7 grams). In a 5 day period (9/1-9/5), the three plants produced 57 tomatoes.


Marglobe

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Marglobe #1, the main Marglobe producer, produced 43 tomatoes in 10 days. The average weight was 6.1 ounces (174 grams). In a month, #1 produced four tomatoes that were more than 10 ounces!


Stupice

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The three Stupice plants had an average tomato weight of 0.95 ounces (27 grams). In a 5 day period (9/1-9/5), the three plants produced 53 tomatoes.




CONCLUSIONS and RECOMMENDATIONS

This section will be completed when the study concludes.


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