ASK THE GARDENERS
Q Our community has a contest each year to see who can grow the largest tomato. Since I am relatively new at gardening, I thought you might know of varieties that have especially large fruit. While we know of several good large fruit varieties, we turned to Fred DuBose's excellent book ``The Total Tomato'' (Harper & Row, New York) to pick from a listing of 41 large-fruiting varieties, five that have been known to produce fruit weighing up to 2 pounds or more. We ourselves have had much success with Better Boy, Beefmaster, and Supersteak. All three are resistant to Verticillium and Fusarium wilts, as well as being resistant to nematodes. In catalogs, you find that designation as ``VFN'' after variety name.
Better Boy is listed in the catalogs of 24 United States seed companies and those of three Canadian seed companies. Beefmaster is sold by 17 US companies and three Canadian. Supersteak is available from W. A. Burpee Seed Company, Warminster, Pa. 18974, and from W. H. Perron Company, Laval, Quebec, Canada H7V2T3. Two others that have consistently huge fruit, but no VFN resistance, are Abraham Lincoln (found at Grace's Gardens, 10 Bay Street, Westport, Conn. 06880, and R. H. Schumway, PO Box 777, Rockford, Ill. 61105) and Ponderosa, a variety dating back to 1891. It is listed with 17 US seed companies. We grew this one years ago, but find the hybrid VFN varieties do better in our area. Q We have been trying to germinate some pepper seeds on our windowsill, but they just don't seem to sprout. We've tried twice, 10 days apart, but in spite of the fact that they are fresh seeds we haven't a sign of a sprout.
You probably do not have enough heat. Pepper seeds do not germinate well unless the temperature is 75 to 85 degrees F., constantly, day and night. If you need to add water, it should be warm to the touch, otherwise it cools off the planting medium. Q I was told that flowering kale and flowering cabbage are the same thing -- they differ only in the degree of frilliness. Is this true? When should seeds be started?
They are listed separately in catalogs, but technically they are both Brassica oleracea, whether they are the ornamental type or conventional garden varieties. Kale is B. oleracea, cultivar acephala; cabbage is B. oleracea, cultivar capitata (meaning ``headed''). Commercial bedding plant growers sow seeds 4 to 6 weeks before sale. Home gardeners should sow indoors four weeks before they want to plant them in the garden.
If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115.