Im planning on growing heirloom tomatoes for local farm markets this summer. Are they easy to grow? I was reading that they are more susceptible to infections/disease. Is this a huge problem? I plan to raise them organically but i am worried that it will be a diseased endeavor! I'm buying a bunch of books on the topic soon but want to hear your experiences with them.
Sounds like you'll be doing a lot of reading over the next few months.
The biggest problem you might face is Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. This is spread by little insects called thrips which are nearly impossible to control with even the strongest of commercial insecticides. Some folks have thrown in the towel and switched to average tasting varieties just to have something marketable.
Commercial hybrid tomato varieties have tolerances to soilborne diseases such as Fusarium, Verticillium, Nematodes, and a few have tolerances to TSWV. If you have Fusarium or Verticillium in your soil then commercial hybrids may be a near-requirement. There are some solutions for Nematodes, some less drastic than others.
If your soil is clear of Fusarium, Verticillium, Nematodes, and you dodge the TSWV bullet, then it comes down to fungal foliar diseases such as Early Blight, Septoria Leaf Spot, Bacterial Spot, Bacterial Speck, Anthracnose, etc. Most of those spread because of hygiene issues (handling plants while they are wet) or soil splashback (a thick layer of straw or leaf mulch will fix this), or overcrowding of plants (lack of airflow). If these become an issue, then there are organic and non-organic spraying regimens.
I am not saying you will face all or even any of those problems.
I thought Houston would be the last place that folks would bang the drum of organics. We have a lot of possible disease issues here in our "normal" years of torrential rains every 1-2 weeks during the growing and harvest season. Last year was a drought and this year was shaping up to be the same but we've had some rain in the last 2 weeks.
Unfortunately their website is down, but Animal Farm west of Houston is the real poster child of organic farming including heirloom tomatoes, organic vegetables, and sustainable, green agriculture.
And the last point I wanted to make is that I have found for the foliar diseases like Early Blight, Septoria, Baterial Spot/Speck, Alternaria, and Anthracnose, hybrid vs. heirloom doesn't really matter.
thanks. thats a little more reassuring. Luckily, i am putting the tomatoes in virgin soil. No veggie gardens there before. I also plan to purchase some fungi products from one company.
I will gardening in z5 MI. Our springs are wet but we dont plant out until June 1st in my area. It stays fairly cool or comfortable intil late June. Humidity is not generally a problem. Hopefully my weather will be suiting for growing heirlooms. Now to narrow the list. thanks for the link. I will check it out.