The Beefmaster Tomato Project


The Beefmaster Tomato Project is the first of the Winter Garden Projects. The Beefmaster is one of the best fresh tomatoes for recipes. Project Goals and Objectives are stated at inception and will be followed from start to finish. Projects will demonsrtate how to grow tomatoes using both Traditional and experimental gardening techniques. Winter Garden Projects take place in South Florida and are designed to inform Florida gardeners as well as Northern, Summer gardeners. The Beefmaster Tomato Project will study four gardening conditions.



1) Drought conditions in South Florida during the fall season required the local governments to enforce water restrictions. Watering at the Beefmaster Tomato Project site was to be done before 8:00 am, Thursday and Sunday mornings only. Violations incurred hefty fines for the property owner. There was no sign of lifting the restrictions at the time of planting. The objective was to create a garden with irrigation techniques that addressed both the drought and watering issues.

2) Maintaining the garden using non-chemical, natural growing methods is the next goal. Hybrid tomatoes are engineered for size, flavor, appearance for market and resistance to diseases. The extreme conditions should test the plants ability to resist diseases. No chemical sprays will be used to deter possible problems. If necessary, natural methods may be used.

3) Beefmaster tomato was the variety of choice for a number of reasons. This is an extra large, meaty and sweet variety that grows well in South Florida winter weather. Research the Beefmaster tomato and other varieties here. The two plant's seeds are from different suppliers, showing a slightly different look of the tomato on the seed pack photo. It could be possible the wrong photo was used on one of the packets. The picture of the tomatoes on the seed packets in question had a smoother look than the usual Beefmaster Tomato. The two will be compared in appearance, taste, and resistance to problems. Beefmaster tomato plants are aggressive growers. The goal is to let the plants grow wild and see how wild they will grow. No trimming will be done unless branches are dead. Assistance from the gardener will be limited to physical plant support in the event it becomes absolutely necessary. Many gardeners have grown indeterminate tomato plants reaching heights of 8-10 feet and beyond.


4) Mulching is a major plus in dealing with drought conditions. Opinions on the web were negative regarding the use of Eucalyptus mulch. Some saying the mulch caused tomato plant dwarfing and left the plants more vulnerable to diseases. Eucalyptus plants are known to have healing and disease resistant qualities. The big question is, "Does the bark contain the same virtues"?
If not, this will be a very short project.



The project will follow a typical gardening plan. Observing the process should be helpful to both new and experienced gardeners. Some experienced gardeners will undoubtedly have varying opinions regarding the techniques used. The four goals and objectives will be followed throughout.





STARTING THE GARDEN

Location:
The location will be between two houses with a chain link fence dividing. The slot between the houses runs east to west. Sunlight averages 6 1/2 hours a day. This location was selected because of the intermittent lighting. With drought conditions, getting sunshine in varying doses, a little in the morning, then a few hours at mid day and a little more at sunset seemed like a good idea. The full sun locations would be too much for plants with limited watering available. The chain link fence should provide these viners some additional support.

Plot:
Plot preparation will be very important. This location has a solid cap rock base about 2 1/2 - 3 feet deep. With normal precipitaion this has proved to be a horrible tomato location in the past. But in drought conditions it may be an advantage. Water can build up quickly with no where to go. Even though drought conditions exist, precautions had to be considered in the event of the return of seasonal rains. The plot will be dug out down to the rock and about two feet wider than the the width of the garden bed. Medium size river rock six to eight inches deep will be added as a type of french drain. In the event of heavy rains, this would help diffuse the excess water. The plot measures 3 x 6 feet and will be bordered on all four sides by 1" x 6" boards.

Soil:
Soil preparation was done months in advanced. sphangum moss, organic manure and natural homemade compost were mixed in with the sandy soil. The phangum moss ratio was doubled compared to the usual soil mix for the South Florida garden. This will help in developing a good root base with high water retention. The combination created a rich loamy soil, perfect for tomatoes. It was thoroughly mixed. PH and nutrient testing revealed lime was required for Ph balancing and Bonemeal was needed for balancing phosphorus. The plot was thoroughly mixed again and was left dormant for about 2 months. As the seedlings were maturing, the soil was re-tested having a 6.8 PH with a nice nutrient balance.


Irrigation:
The base Irrigation is provided by an in ground lawn sprinkler system. Watering schedule is between 6:00am - 8:00am for 30 - 45 minutes as needed on Thursdays and Sundays only. A garden hose will be used in addition to the sprinkler system for deeper water penetration when necessary. Here's an irrigation point to remember. When using wood chip mulch, depending on the type wood, the chips will absorb a considerable portion of the water. This is good for insulating the plant's root system from the heat. Although, when using a very thick application of mulch, it's very hard to determine how much water is actually getting to the root system for uptake. Test water the plot for a specific period of time. Wait one hour allowing the water to find it's way through the mulch. Choose an area between the plants so the root system is not disturbed, This shouldn't be a problem with seedlings. Pull away the mulch and dig out the soil about a foot deep. If the soil is not saturated, adjust your watering time accordingly.

Mulching:
After the beefmaster tomato seedlings had taken hold and were about a foot high, about 2" of eucalyptus mulch was addded. When the plants were about 3' tall another 2" of mulch was added. More will be added later as needed.



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Beefmaster Tomato Project Update: 2 Months

The watering program along with the mulch is working fine. The plants are growing faster than expected. An 8' high x 6' wide "H" shaped stake was added on the fourth week and the plants are now nearly as high. Are we looking at at future tomato giant in the middle of a drought? The stake and plants were tied to the fence, so the Beefmaster plants and stake wouldn't fall. Allowing the tomatoes to vine on the ground would be a disaster. Lots of blooms and green tomatoes are on both plants. So far the Plants are strong and free from pests and disease. This is common at this early stage. The newly formed tomatoes do appear to be different in shape. It's too early for a size comparison.



Beefmaster Tomato Project Update


Beefmaster Project - 4 Month Update


Beefmaster Project - 5 Month Update

Beefmaster Project - 6 & 7 Month Update


Looking for more Gardening details? Follow the Victory Garden Project Series. Step by Step building a garden from scratch. Details, Tips and shortcuts and more will be discussed and demonstrated. The good, bad and ugly of gardening. When it's all done a garden sanctuary capable of feeding the family year after year.


Looking for great tomato Recipes? Check the Everything Tomatoes Recipe List