Nothing beats a delicious juicy tomato with a little salt and pepper on a hot summer day. A great variety that gives some of the most flavorful, juiciest fruit you can ask for is the Pink Brandywine. This tomato is an heirloom variety that dates from the 1800s and has been in continuous cultivation since that time. Its popularity is undoubtedly due to its enormous fruit weighing over a pound each when mature. Unfortunately, like most large fruited tomato varieties, it is not a heavy producer, but the bounty you receive will more than make up for the limited number your plant produces.
If you want to give this heirloom variety a go, it is easy to find, easy to grow, and really easy to enjoy!
|Common Name||Pink Brandywine tomato|
|Botanical Name||Solanum lycopersicum 'Brandywine'|
|Size||40" - 48" tall, 18" spread|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Rich, well-draining|
|Hardiness Zones||2a-11b (USDA)|
|Native Area||Cultivar, no native range|
How to Plant Pink Brandywine Tomatoes
When to Plant
Growing Pink Brandywine tomatoes is much like growing any other type of tomato. You will want to either start from seed indoors and move the young plants outdoors or buy plants ready to be planted directly into the garden. It was common to hear advice to plant so many days or weeks after the last frost, but this presents a good bit of uncertainty. Ideally, planting should occur when the nightly temperature remains over 50° Fahrenheit.
Selecting a Site
Picking the perfect spot for your tomatoes will help you keep your plants as healthy as possible, so you can get the best, most abundant harvest hoped for from the variety. You will want to find a spot full of sun, with well-draining soil that is slightly acidic and somewhat rich. Rich soil is important, but soil too high in nitrogen will promote ample stem and foliage growth and leave you lacking in the bloom and fruit department.
Spacing, Depth, and Support
When planting your tomatoes, the spacing between your plants and the depth at which you plant them is important. First off, planting a tomato is going to be a bit different because, normally, the general rule is never to plant your plants too deep. You will be going against that here and burying your plant 2/3 of the way down its stem. Tomatoes easily develop roots, and planting this deep will allow the soon-to-be top-heavy plants to get a good amount of support and a quickly developed root system to take up lots of nutrients and water.
The next concern is spacing, which needs to be carefully examined, considering this larger variety's plant size. Giving them 18 to 36 inches of room between plantings is extremely important. Doing this guarantees that each plant will get plenty of air and allow you to examine each plant for issues as they grow. Another option is growing these large plants in separate pots, which requires large pots and a good bit of support.
Finally, as mentioned above, as your Pink Brandywine tomato grows and produces fruit, you will need to support it. You may be tempted to use tomato cages, but these tend to get in the way of pruning, inspection, and harvesting. The best bet is to use a bamboo stake loosely tied along the main stem with a few bamboo stakes lashed in a t-shape to support heavier perpendicular lateral branches.
Pink Brandywine Tomato Care
The most important ingredient to successfully grow Pink Brandywine tomatoes is the sunlight you allow them to receive. Plant your tomatoes in a spot that receives at least six to eight hours of full sun a day to help your plants grow quickly and produce as heavily as the variety allows. If a spot to plant in soil is not available with these conditions, then planting your tomato plants in pots is a great alternative. You can move the pots to the spot that fits the light requirement and still get great tomatoes without the fuss of planting a full garden!
Tomatoes thrive in rich, well-draining soil with a pH of around 6.0-6.8. Boosting the soil with some compost at planting is a good idea if the soil is especially poor. Still, too much nitrogen in the soil will lead to foliage growth over flower and fruit production, the opposite effect you are going for and testing your soil before planting is a good idea to see your baseline to see where you are and if anything should be added at the time of planting.
Right up there with sunlight in importance when growing Pink Brandywine tomatoes, or any tomatoes for that matter, is watering. We loved tomatoes because they are so flavorful and juicy, and that comes from the water they get. Typically each tomato plant should receive one to two inches of water per week. Besides noticing an obvious decline in the taste and quality of the fruit, your tomatoes may end up with cracked skin, which invites all types of pests to ruin your harvest.
Temperature and Humidity
Pink Brandywine tomatoes, like all tomatoes, enjoy warm, humid conditions. The perfect temperature to raise tomatoes is between 60° and 85° Fahrenheit. Regarding humidity, your plants will like moist conditions that do not get too humid. Pollination rates decrease if humidity gets too high and fruit production drops. You want to aim for a humidity level between 65% and 85%.
Tomatoes are very heavy feeders, and you should provide supplemental nutrients for your plants during the growing season. The tricky part is always deciding what fertilizer to add. Testing your soil is a good way to help figure this out, but looking at your plants can give some clues. If they are growing foliage well, but the foliage is a bit yellow, and you are watering properly, this can mean you are lacking potassium. If there is a lack of foliage, there is most likely a nitrogen deficiency. Lack of blooms most likely means a phosphorous deficiency. A good bet for tomato plants is a fertilizer with a higher phosphorous number in the NPK formula followed by a higher potassium number than nitrogen. You can also buy one of the many commercially available tomato fertilizers. One word of warning; it is better to under-fertilize than over-fertilize.
Harvesting Pink Brandywine Tomatoes
Harvesting your Pink Brandywine tomatoes will occur a bit later than other varieties you grow. Their fruit should be ready for harvest around day 80 or so after planting. You can tell the fruit is ready by its lack of green spots, shiny skin, supple flesh, and in this specific variety, a pinkish-red color. You are not looking for a tomato red.
To harvest the tomato, do not pull the fruit. Twist the fruit off the vine or cut the stem just above the fruit with a pair of pruners. Remember not to be discouraged if your crop yield is not large. The Pink Brandywine does not produce abundant yields, but the fruit, while not pretty, is hefty and as flavorful as any tomato you have ever tasted.
Growing Pink Brandywine Tomatoes in Pots
As mentioned above, Pink Brandywine tomatoes can be grown in pots. If you decide to grow your tomatoes in pots, you will need to leave plenty of room for root growth, so make sure the pot is large enough to accommodate the plant when it matures. It will also need to be staked deeply; the pot has more chance of tipping over with your plant than your garden! Finally, you will need to water your plant twice as much since the pot will not retain the water that soil in a garden does.
Pruning a tomato plant is an important step to get the energy to exactly the part of the plant it needs to go to produce the most flavorful and abundant fruit.
To start, you will want to use snippers to prune suckers. These small branches grow in the "V" crotches between the main stem and the lateral branches. You may want to save some of these if you are interested in overwintering your plant.
Next, as the season progresses and the last blossoms appear, you will want to top off the plant. Prune the plant off directly above the uppermost blossom or fruit. Doing this will ensure that the remaining fruit develops fully and become as sweet and ripe as possible late into the season.
Most people do not overwinter tomatoes. If growing your tomatoes in pots, it is possible to bring them in and overwinter them in your house in a bright window in a warm location; however, the plant's yield will decrease yearly. Another method that avoids decreased yield is to propagate the plant using cuttings so you have starters ready to go with the same genetic makeup of the plant from the previous year.
How to Grow Pink Brandywine Tomatoes From Seed
While growing Pink Brandywine tomatoes from starter plants is possible and quite easy, it might be difficult to find them. The easiest way to grow this delicious variety is by starting your seeds indoors in late winter.
Starting tomato plants from seeds is an easy, fun, and rewarding project that pays for itself by the end of the summer and usually creates enough plants to share or trade with neighbors or friends. It does not take much other than a sunny window, seed starting trays with a cover, the seeds themselves, seed starting medium, and a heat mat for under the trays to keep your seeds warm while they germinate.
About six weeks before your area's outside temperatures reach a point where you can safely leave the plants outdoors to harden off, you will want to start the process.
- Fill your trays with your selected seed starting medium and moisten the medium until it is damp but not soaked.
- With a pencil or other pointy object, make a hole about 1/8th of an inch deep and place one seed in each one of the seed tray's cells.
- Place the tray on top of the heating mat in front of a sunny window and cover the tray.
- Check daily to ensure the soil remains moist, misting with a spray bottle when needed.
- Depending on the moisture content and temperature, your seeds should germinate in 5-10 days.
- Keep covered until the plants touch the cover, at which point remove the cover and, if possible, let a fan blow on the plants.
- When plants are around 5-6 inches, transplant them into individual pots taking care not to damage roots, and continue to water until transplanted.
- When the temperature outdoors reaches a steady 50° Fahrenheit at night, you can take the plants outdoors to allow them to harden up before planting. If you have a cold frame, this can be done earlier, right after the predicted last frost.
- After a week or so of hardening up, you can transplant your Pink Brandywine tomato plants.
How to Grow Pink Brandywine Tomatoes from Cuttings
- Place the tomato cutting (pruned suckers) in a clean mason jar filled with water in a sunny window throughout the winter. Roots will develop, and the plant will continue to grow.
- Remove the plant every few weeks, rinse the roots in room temperature water, and refill the jar with fresh water.
- As the plant grows, cut the top third off it, submerge it into its jar, and repeat the process.
- In late February, transplant the plants into pots with a good rich growing medium and leave them by a warm sunny window or on a heating pad if available.
- When it is time to move the plants outside to harden off, you will have as many healthy and vigorous Pink Brandywine tomato plants as you want and be ready for a summer of great growth.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
One of the sacrifices that come with the flavor of heirloom varieties is that, at times, they are not as resistant to disease as their modern hybrid relatives. This means that the diseases you normally see on other tomatoes might cause more issues on Pink Brandywine plants. The most common diseases to watch out for are blight, wilt, especially verticillium wilt, and curly top. While diseases can be an issue, carefully keeping an eye out for symptoms and providing good care can go a long way to helping your tomatoes thrive.
Pests are a different story. No matter what you do, you may get an insect infestation, which can wreak havoc on a tomato plant's physiology. When a tomato plant is attacked, it produces a compound called systemin. This strengthens the plant's plant roots and reduces water loss but reduces all other plant processes, such as flower and fruit production. The best defense against pests is early observation. Keep an eye on your plants for pests and remove them physically or chemically before they damage your plants.
"Plant of the Week: Tomato, Brandywine" University of Arkansas Agriculture