Mortgage lifter tomato plants

Mortgage Lifter Tomato Care – Growing Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes

If you’re looking for a flavorful, large, main-season tomato, growing Mortgage Lifter may be the answer. This heirloom tomato variety produces 2 ½ pound (1.13 kg.) fruit up until frost and includes a delicious story to share with fellow gardeners.

What are Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes?

Mortgage Lifter tomatoes are an open pollinated variety which produces a pinkish-red beefsteak-shaped fruit. These meaty tomatoes have few seeds and mature in approximately 80 to 85 days. Mortgage Lifter tomato plants grow 7- to 9-foot (2.1 to 2.7 meters) vines and are indeterminate, meaning they set fruit continuously throughout the growing season.

This variety was developed in the 1930’s by a radiator mechanic working from his home-based repair shop in Logan, West Virginia. Like many depression era home owners, M.C. Byles (aka Radiator Charlie) was concerned about paying off his home loan. Mr. Byles developed his renowned tomato by crossbreeding four large-fruited varieties of tomatoes: German Johnson, Beefsteak, an Italian variety, and an English variety.

Mr. Byles planted the latter three varieties in a circle around the German Johnson, which he hand-pollinated using a baby’s ear syringe. From the resulting tomatoes, he saved the seeds and for the next six years he continued the painstaking process of cross pollinating the best seedlings.

In the 1940’s, Radiator Charlie sold his Mortgage Lifter tomato plants for $1 each. The variety gained in popularity and gardeners came from as far away as 200 miles to buy his seedlings. Charlie was able to pay off his $6,000 home loan in 6 years, hence the name Mortgage Lifter.

How to Grow Mortgage Lifter Tomato

Mortgage Lifter tomato care is similar to other types of vine tomatoes. For shorter growing seasons, it’s best to start seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last average frost date. Seedlings can be transplanted into prepared garden soil once the danger of frost has passed. Choose a sunny location that receives 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Space Mortgage Lifter tomato plants 30 to 48 inches (77 to 122 cm.) apart in rows. Place rows every 3 to 4 feet (.91 to 1.2 meters) to allow plenty of room for growth. When growing Mortgage Lifter, stakes or cages can be used to support the long vines. This will encourage the plant to produce larger fruit and make harvesting tomatoes easier.

Mulching will help retain soil moisture and reduce competition from weeds. Mortgage Lifter tomato plants require 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm.) of rain per week. Water when weekly rainfall is not sufficient. For the richest flavor, pick tomatoes when they are fully ripe.

Although growing Mortgage Lifter tomatoes may not pay off your home loan like they did for Mr. Byles, they are a delightful addition to the home garden.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of six features on the science of food, running daily from March 30 through April 6, 2009.

Famous for their taste, color and, well, homeliness, heirloom tomatoes tug at the heartstrings of gardeners and advocates of locally grown foods. The tomato aficionado might conclude that, given the immense varieties—which go by such fanciful names as Aunt Gertie’s Gold and the Green Zebra—heirlooms must have a more diverse and superior set of genes than their grocery store cousins, those run-of-the-mill hybrid varieties such as beefsteak, cherry and plum.

No matter how you slice it, however, their seeming diversity is only skin-deep: heirlooms are actually feeble and inbred—the defective product of breeding experiments that began during the Enlightenment and exploded thanks to enthusiastic backyard gardeners from Victorian England to Depression-era West Virginia. Heirlooms are the tomato equivalent of the pug—that “purebred” dog with the convoluted nose that snorts and hacks when it tries to catch a breath.

“The irony of all this,” says Steven Tanksley, a geneticist at Cornell University, “is all that diversity of heirlooms can be accounted for by a handful of genes. There’s probably no more than 10 mutant genes that create the diversity of heirlooms you see.” But rather than simply debunking a myth about the heirloom’s diversity, Tanksley’s deconstruction of the tomato genome, along with work by others, is showing how an unassuming berry from the Andes became one of the world’s top crops. Genetics work will also point the way to sturdier, more flavorful tomatoes—albeit hybrid varieties whose seeds cannot be passed down from generation to generation but must be purchased anew by growers each season.*

New World Discovery
The cultivated tomato is a member of the nightshade family that includes New World crops such as potato and chili pepper, which spread around the world after Christopher Columbus brought them back to Spain in the 15th century.* But whereas scientists have uncovered a wealth of archaeological evidence—including microscopic starches on pottery shards that point to the taming of many crops from the Americas as far back as 10,000 years ago—the record is blank when it comes to the tomato.

Known scientifically as Solanum lycopersicum, the modern tomato seems to have its wild origins in the Peruvian Andes and may have been domesticated in Vera Cruz, Mexico—an agricultural hot spot. Primitive varieties still grow throughout the Americas. All told, botanists call some 13 species “tomatoes” and consider an additional four to be close allies. One might assume that one of these known wild species became today’s cultivated crop, but that’s not the case: the Mother Tomato has never been found. The closest relative is the currant tomato—Solanum pimpinellifolium—which, based on genetic comparisons, split from today’s tomato some 1.4 million years ago.

So researchers like Tanksley have to work backward, crossing tomato varieties and species in order to understand how various genes influence shape and size. Once isolated, Tanksley later inserts those genes into other tomato varieties to make his case with a dramatic transformation.

Size and shape drive the selection
Tanksley concludes from his analyses that, in their effort to make bigger, tastier and faster-growing fruit, our ancestors ultimately exploited just 30 mutations out of the tomato’s 35,000 genes. Most of these genes have only small effects on tomato size and shape, but last May in Nature Genetics Tanksley and his colleagues reported that they found a gene they dubbed fasciated that bumps up fruit size by 50 percent.

It was probably the single most important event in domestication. The first written record of tomatoes—from Spain in the 1500s—confirms that this mutation, which enlarges tomatoes by producing compartments known as locules, existed back in the same yellow tomatoes that gave Italians the word pomodoro, or golden apple. A cherry tomato typically has two compartments filled with seeds and jelly, whereas a Jumbo Red can have up to eight locules. This gene, along with another size-governing gene called fw2.2, which Tanksley identified 10 years earlier, was the key step in making tomatoes a dietary staple.

Besides size, tomato farmers also selected for shape. To discover those genes, Esther van der Knaap, a Tanksley alumnus now at The Ohio State University, says she went straight for the heirlooms, which exhibit a range from the Jersey Devil’s small, chili-pepper shape to plump, cracked beefsteaks known as Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter. “I just went to catalogues and ordered everything that had a cute shape,” she says.

She plucked a gene called SUN from one heirloom tomato and inserted it into a wild relative. As a result, the tiny fruits bulged like pears, a remarkable makeover that made the cover of the journal Science last March. SUN’s effect dwarfs that of another shape gene called OVATE—yet another Tanksley discovery—and both seem to have been nurtured in Europe in the last several hundred years to ease mechanical harvesting and processing.

Weak and Wimpy
The selection of these traits has taken a toll on the heirloom’s hardiness: They are often plagued by fungal infections that cause the fruit to crack, split and otherwise rot quickly. Wild plants must continuously evolve to fend off natural pathogens, points out Roger Chetelat of the Tomato Genetics Resource Center at the University of California, Davis. But in their quest for size, shape and flavor, humans have inadvertently eliminated defensive genes. As a result, most possess only a single disease-resistance gene.

Perhaps that’s the price to pay for a good, flavorful fruit? Hardly, Chetelat says, because the heirlooms’ taste may have less to do with its genes than with the productivity of the plant and the growing environment. Any plant that sets only two fruits, as heirlooms sometimes do, is bound to produce juicier, sweeter and more flavorful fruit than varieties that set 100, as commercial types do.* Plus, heirlooms are sold ripened on the vine, a surefire way to get tastier results than allowing them to mature on the shelf.

So breeders feel confident that getting germ-beating genes back into heirlooms won’t harm the desirable aspects of the fruit. Modern breeding has resuscitated grocery store tomatoes with an influx of wild genes; in the past 50 years, researchers have bred back some 40 disease-resistance genes into commercial crops.

Restoring Heirloom’s Health
Now, Monsanto wants to do the same for the heirloom. In 1996 a tomato breeder and former Tanksley student named Doug Heath began a pet project at Seminis VegetableSeeds, a Monsanto subsidiary. After 12 years of traditional breeding with the help of molecular markers, he has created a new rainbow-streaked tomato less prone to cracking and also endowed with 12 disease-resistant genes. The original plant, Heath explains, had defective flowers, which is one reason why it set only two fruits compared with the 30 he gets from his new variety. He claims he is also able to maintain a comparable flavor and sugar profile even on productive plants. It turns out that the heirloom’s defects are neither quirky nor cute, just an accident of a single-pronged breeding strategy left over from the dawn of genetics.

Heath’s new plants may be available to home gardeners next year and on commercial markets in the next three to five. “I see them as coming to a pinnacle,” he says of the Rainbow and two other varieties he has improved with modern stocks.

But will heirloom adherents appreciate the look-alikes with hybrid seeds? “There will be a contingent of people,” he says, “who will believe these are poor imitations of the originals.”

*Note: These sentences have been altered since publication.

Mortgage Lifter 3.0 – 26 Plant Hydroponics Grow Tent

The Mortgage Lifter produces HUGE amounts of plants and veggies; more than before!
Dimensions: 5’D x 9’W x 7’T (Now bigger than ever!)

Shipping: $345 (Allow 2-3 weeks for building, testing, and arrival to your shipping address)

Grows 24 pounds of dried plant matter per year!

The Mortgage Lifter produces enormous harvests for growers by using complex processes that yield plants faster and stronger than most any other system! This beast might be complicated to create but it is very easy to use. You won’t need anything other than plants. We provide the rest!

Although we recommend the 26 site, you have a choice on which kind of hydroponics system you want in the Mortgage Lifter. We recommend the 12 site only if you plan on growing gigantic plants.

Find out why the Mortgage Lifter is so popular amongst customers!

  • The Mortgage Lifter now uses the popular Gorilla Grow Tent which means you get tons of extra features including the ability to raise the ceiling of the tent from 7 feet up to 10 feet at will!
  • Dual 600w grow lights and Lumatek digital, dimmable ballasts
  • Choose from 26 site or 12 site hydroponics systems. (We recommend 26 site)
  • 6 by 24 inch phresh carbon filter
  • Speedster inline fan system
  • Dual 6″ Hurricane fans
  • 50′ of Thermoflo SR Ducting
  • 10 outlet power strip
  • Three 6″ circulation fans
  • Analog Dual and Single timer
  • pH testing kit
  • TDS Meter
  • Thermometer/Hydrometer
  • Net Trellis
  • Instructional DVD and written instructions
  • 3 Year “No Hassle” Warranty!
  • And much more! (Too many items to list!)

Optional Upgrades:

Co2 – This will increase production by 25%. Most people get the Co2 simply for faster growth. The bucket system is versatile and can be moved around but runs out after 6 – 12 months. At this time, you would have to purchase a replacement bucket from our site at a discounted rate. The tank system is built in. You get everything (wiring, guages, ect..) but you have to purchase the tank separately since we are not allowed to ship tanks via mail.

Air Purification – The Ozonator literally zaps out odor molecules from the air by combining with the scent molecules. It is a highly advanced system.

Water Filtration – The RO 200 water filter purifies water to 99.999% purity. This will help with plant health.

Eye Protection – The Amethyst sunglasses protect your eyes from the lighting system.

Nutrients – You will get a 4 month supply of nutrients but the upgrade will give you an additional year of high quality nutrients. The germination pack is great to help germinate seeds. The 24/7 nutrient meter tests how much nutrient you have in the water.

Note: All upgradable features are luxury addons and are not needed to grow from start to finish. The stock system provides everything except for the plants.

Mortgage Lifter versus Other Grow Rooms

In order to get good quality hydroponic crops and abundant yields, growers need the kinds of products that are made to facilitate success for anyone, from a beginner to a professional grower. If one doesn’t get the right hydroponic grow kit, many kinds of hydroponic or greenhouse gardening projects won’t stand a chance.

Height adjustable grow tent – Our grow tent designs give you the stability and endurance of actual grow room setups—height adjusting apparatus can allow you to set up this grow tent for very tall plants, to accommodate bigger harvests and yields. Because of the large interior area and good climate support that this tent provides, your hydroponic crops will have a chance to maintain health to maturity. Thick walls and insulation help make this tent a more efficient protector for hydroponic or greenhouse crops, keeping out pests, outside light, and other hazards. With good, durable, fire safe equipment you can rest easy about the various kinds of fire, flood or electrical disasters that are associated with inferior equipment.

SuperPonics kit – Our variety of SuperPonics designs help growers to set up innovative gardening systems that will employ the best means of getting water and nutrients to plants. Double top feed and deep water culture systems enable better plant access, and non-clogging features help to prevent solids from blocking the reservoir. Using Mortgage Lifter systems with SuperPonics means utilizing multiple plant feeding methods for a safer and result, and SuperPonics systems are full of automated features and easy-to-use, enabling large, vibrant harvest up to five times bigger than plants grown with a single hydroponic feeding method. This, in addition to the full variety of accessories and plant growth helpers that come with the system, will enable you to create the kinds of hydroponic projects that end up producing abundant harvests. Want the best? Grow with the best.

Lighting – Experienced growers know that good grow lights are the cornerstone of the grow area. With our closed loop air cooling lights, the environment of the grow area is kept separate from the grow light cooling system. This helps to make lighting more efficient and protect plants from burning and other negative outcomes. It also helps growers to control carbon dioxide much better, so if you need to add carbon dioxide to your grow environment, you can better maintain necessary levels with this closed loop lighting system. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this kind of closed loop lighting, along with good air handling equipment, but many basic hydroponic kits lack of these very fundamental elements.
In addition to great grow lights, our setups use superior ballasts. The Lumatek ballasts in these kits feature dimmable technology and reliable lighting to get the full light spectrum to plants at all stages of growth. Match your gardening needs to your electrical output to save on energy bills for your hydroponic projects, and rest easy knowing that your grow lights will maintain a consistent output throughout your grow cycles.

Besides just providing safe and reliable lighting, thick glass reflectors and other equipment also help to encourage plants to grow compact and tight, with vitality and robust smell and taste. Yo-yo lift systems allow for versatility with these efficient and super professional kits. Don’t settle for imitations or knockoffs that may not provide the same benefits for your hydroponic system.

Other Elements – In addition to the above, our kit uses the following kinds of accessories to help plants grow better
Phresh Carbon Filters – these innovative carbon filters have a charcoal fitting that helps to filter out unwanted smells from the grow area and provides plants with a ‘neutral’ environment for growth

Trellis System – our trellis system helps support plant growth in the ways that many crops need while they are making their way upward within a grow tent or other space – the trellis also helps with light distribution for plants

Active Air Internal Circulation Fans – fans that are well-placed and well-designed will help plants to get the quality environment that they need. Air flow provides oxygenation and helps to eliminate mold or mildew while also helping growers deal with pests.

Hurricane in-line Fans – these powder coated, high-performance fans are UL listed and specially designed for the most sophisticated greenhouses and grow rooms.

Automated Results – these kits include timers and other automating equipment that help you to lower requirements for labor and maintenance and get plants to maturity with less time intensive work and supervision. While some kits can require growers to stay involved each day, these designs can allow for up to a week of automated growth at a time, which is a big benefit to growers in planning their lives during operating plant cycles.

Electrical Safety – Our GFCI electrical configurations ensure that growers don’t suffer from mixing water and electricity in hydroponic designs. Growers often worry about how their electrical equipment will interact with reservoirs and other wet areas of the hydroponic grow space – with properly grounded plug-ins, carefully designed and placed electrical equipment, and good quality electrical cords, these kinds of systems help to give growers piece of mind during setup and during every part of a plant cycle.

TDS Nutrient Meter, Nutrients, pH Kit – The range of essential accessories in these kits allows growers to monitor total dissolved solids, pH values and more. Without this kind of observation, many kinds of greenhouse or hydroponic plants can wither and die. Get what you need for growing with our consolidated and high design grow systems.

Support – Instructional materials, three-year warranty, and lifetime customer service. With Mortgage Lifter kits, you can build an abundant plant cycle every time with high quality customer support and great instructional materials that are easy to use. Our systems have attained a top rating from the Better Business Bureau and we stand behind our products 100 percent. Get help from the Dealzer family for all of your growing needs and partner with a top hydroponic retailer with a reputation for integrity and quality.

It’s that time of year again, when seed catalogs show up in the mailbox and the evening activity becomes sitting by the fire dreaming and planning next year’s garden. It is the next best thing to actually working in the garden. Anyway, there are always a multitude of pages devoted to tomatoes. So many to try, so little time. Such an amazing array of sizes, colors, growth habits and juicy flavor notes just make my mouth water. I always have to try a few new varieties along with the old standbys (not to mention the orphans I adopt). Needless to say, my garden will often sport a dozen tomato plants, so I become the neighborhood supplier. Sheesh!

This last season, I decided I had to plant the tomato named ‘Mortgage Lifter.’ Somehow the moniker and lore of that plant had turned into a kind of garden earworm—not to be confused with tomato worm. I am a little skeptical about large tomatoes, and I certainly don’t buy into the hype that surrounds some of them. But, this one, I was willing to give a shot. After all, this is a Tomato With History.

Right off the bat, I will tell you that at this point in my gardening career, I buy tomato plants from a reputable seed company. I am too old to mess around with starting plants indoors. I order for a late May delivery and plant them deep in fertile soil. I usually put cutworm collars around the seedlings and use homemade tomato cages. So, last spring, along with a few others, my Mortgage Lifter was planted and I was wowed right away. It grew strong and sturdy and big! It was my first producer – even before my early bearing varieties, and the tomatoes were, indeed, sizeable! Most were about the size of softball and, I have to say, they gave meaty slices that, to me, tasted just the way I imagine a tomato should taste, especially in the depths of winter. They are certainly not in the same league as Cherokee Purples (sigh) – but they are definitely right up there. Finally, they pumped out pounds of yummy tomatoes all season, right up to the first frost. I was most certainly impressed – the hype is true!

Mortgage Lifter Tomato

So, on to the history. ‘Mortgage Lifter’ is one of the most famous heirloom tomatoes around. A few different stories exist relating how they were developed and who they were developed by. One source claims that the cultivar was developed by William Esther of Barboursville, West Virginia in 1922 and that Esther registered the name in 1932. However, the best-known and best-loved story involves M.C. Byles of Logan, West Virginia, who developed this tomato in the 1930’s. He was known to all as “Radiator Charlie” because he ran a radiator repair business at his home, which was situated at the bottom of a steep hill. When logging or mining trucks laden with goods labored up the hill, their radiators often boiled over and they rolled back down to Charlie’s house for repairs.

Mr. Byles had no formal education, having worked in the cotton fields since he was 4 years old; however, he loved to garden and grow vegetables, especially tomatoes. As it was the Depression, he worried about the mortgage on his house. He decided to develop a tomato that he could sell. He wanted a large, beefsteak type tomato, so he decided to crossbreed four of the largest-fruited tomatoes he could find. He chose a ‘German Johnson’ to plant, and in a circle around it, he planted 3 other varieties: another beefsteak, an Italian variety, and an English variety. He hand pollinated the ‘German Johnson’ with a baby’s ear syringe, and after 6 years of trials, he had what he felt was a stable plant that produced large, tasty tomatoes. In a Living Earth interview with M.C. recorded in 1985, he says that he sold plants for $1.00 apiece (pretty pricey for Depression time) and that people came from as far away as 200 miles to buy the plants. In six years, he made enough money to pay off his $6,000 mortgage, so he called the tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter,’ but tomato-loving folks called it Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter.

Now if that story doesn’t inspire you to give it a try, here are the particulars. ‘Mortgage Lifter’ is a fairly disease-resistant (VFN) Beefsteak type tomato. It is indeterminate and bears one to two pound fruit (Burpee says up to 4 pounds!). It is a very productive tomato, often described as pink or red, and is very meaty with few seeds and great tomato flavor. It is not unheard of for the plant to reach 9 feet! There is even one company called Beakman’s that sells Mortgage Lifter Heirloom Tomato Pasta Sauce. And, just to maintain the spirit of this legendary plant, they have an annual small farmer’s competition in which payment of the farm mortgage is the grand prize. Seeds and plants for this variety can be found at just about every gardening source.

Just remember, though his mortgage was paid off, there’s just two things that money can’t buy: true love and homegrown tomatoes.

A bit of an aside. If you love vegetable history and lore, I came across this book, Epic Tomatoes: How to Select & Grow the Best Varieties of All Time, which won the Garden Writers’ Association Gold Award in 2016. It includes information about selecting and growing heirloom tomatoes as well as some of his favorite heirloom tomato stories. The central message of the author, Craig LeHoullier, is “Heirlooms are living things, and, unless they are grown and saved and shared and relished, they’ll go extinct.” LeHoullier co-leads a tomato-breeding project that has succeeded in putting 70 new compact growing varieties in various seed catalogs. This will be the topic of his next book, which he plans to self-publish in the fall. Each of the following companies carry seeds of all these varieties and some seeds of LeHoullier’s full-size heirloom tomatoes.

  • Victory Seeds
  • The Tomato Growers Supply Company
  • Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
  • Sample Seed
  • Johnny’s Selected Seeds
  • Seed Savers Exchange


Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Catalog

Gary Ibsen’s Tomatofest Catalog

Mortgage Lifter Tomato

Product Description

Mortgage Lifter Tomato is an indeterminate heirloom, open-pollinated variety that produces some of the largest heirloom tomatoes you’ll find. This variety dates back to the 1930s in West Virginia. It was developed by a farmer who then sold the tomatoes for $1 each and quickly paid off his mortgage. Mortgage Lifter Tomato produces giant fruit that can weigh between 2 1/2 and 4 pounds. Fruits have a reddish-pink color and have deep lobes characteristic of most heirlooms. These tomatoes have a nice meaty texture and tangy flavor that’s filling and delicious. Use solid structures like our heavy-duty tomato cages to support these large fruits.

Tomatoes are in the nightshade family along with peppers and eggplant. Plants in the nightshade family are susceptible to blossom end rot, which is a result of a calcium deficiency. To prevent or alleviate this problem, apply pelleted gypsum at the base of the plant at bloom set. Tomatoes do best when transplanted, as the germination time can be longer than most vegetable seed. They grow very well in our heavy-duty seed starting trays. Plants should be started 4-6 weeks before the intended outdoor planting date. If conditions outside are favorable, transplants may be planted directly from our 162 cell trays. If conditions are still too cold for planting tomatoes, transplants may be “stepped-up” to 4″ pots to allow more room to grow. Tomatoes can produce heavy fruits and will require some form of support to keep the plant upright. We recommend using heavy-duty tomato cages to support indeterminate varieties like these. This ensures that plants and fruits stay off the ground, reducing the possibility of disease and keeping fruits clean.

Mortgage Lifter Tomato Planting Information

Planting Method: transplant

When to Plant: after last frost

Planting Depth: 1/4″

Seed Spacing: 2′

Row Spacing: 3-4′

Days to Maturity: 70

Disease Tolerance: None

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