TOMATOES growing in a four-inch pot on a sunny windowsill? It's no longer an impossible dream. A new variety called Florida Petite has been developed for just that purpose.
The little plant grows four to eight inches tall and spreads almost as wide. Its foliage is dark green and the fruit is the size of cherries. The first taste can be expected about two months after seed is planted. Over the course of the ripening period the yield will be about 25 tomatoes a plant.
Since the tomato, not ideally an indoor plant, needs steady sunlight to flower and set fruit, best results will be achieved in south-facing windows or window greenhouses. The new variety will also flower and fruit reliably outdoors in a window box or on a sunny deck or patio.
Florida Petite, the culmination of 10 years of breeding by three Florida geneticists, is the first truly dwarf tomato to appear. Its parent species were two extremely determinate(bush-type) plants, one with yellow, pear-shaped fruit and the other with cherrylike fruit. The seed is available from Gurney's Seed and Nursery Company, Yankton, S.D. 57079; Henry Field's, Shenandoah, Iowa 51602, and Stokes Seeds, Box 548, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. Those who do not have space to start tomato seed indoors will be able to buy plants from garden shops in the spring.
Although Florida Petite is not the first patio-size tomato, it is innovative because it is so small and matures in a four-inch pot. Several other patio-size tomato plants bear cherry-size or somewhat larger fruit, but the plants require larger pots or patio tubs if they are not put in the vegetable garden. Here is a brief review of other cherry-size varieties:
Patio. A strong-stemmed, upright plant, but it still requires staking. The fruit is flavorful, yields are high. From Herbst Seedsmen, 1000 North Main Street, Brewster, N.Y. 10509.
Pixie Hybrid. The plants are about a foot and a half tall, with heavy yields. Early ripening, the fruit has a good, tart flavor. From Burpee Seed Company, Warminster, Pa. 18974.
Presto. The fruit is somewhat larger than cherry size and tasty. Plants are about two feet tall and need staking when grown in pots or in the ground. From Harris Seed Company, 3670 Buffalo Road, Rochester, N.Y. 14624.
Small Fry. A disease-resistant variety, its bright red fruit is cherry size and borne in abundance. From Harris and Herbst. Tomato seed needs a head start indoors and should be planted toward the end of the month. Although seedlings grow fast, allow six to eight weeks' lead time for them to develop.
Tomatoes are warm-soil plants and would be set back if planted outside too early. Both earth temperature and night temperature must be warm, about 60 degrees. If a soil thermometer is not practical, check the oak trees; when they start to leaf out, it should be time. In this region leafing occurs in mid- to late May.
The taste of the fruit from my plant is quite sweet, juicy, and it has a very thin skin.
I plan to try to get more plants from the one I have by taking cutlings, so far I only have one, with three stems in one pot.
Has anyone else grown or had this variety of tomatoes?