The Vegetable Garden

Tomato

TomatoTomato, is today the most popular garden vegetable in America. For many years, however, tomatoes (then called "love apples") were considered poisonous and were grown solely for their ornamental value. Tomatoes are usually easy to grow and a few plants provide an adequate harvest for most families. The quality of fruit picked in the garden when fully ripe far surpasses anything available on the market, even in season. The tomato plant is a tender, warm-season perennial that is grown as an annual in summer gardens all over the continental United States. Spring and fall freezes limit the outdoor growing season.

Varieties

Hundreds of varieties of tomatoes are now available for the home gardener. They range widely in size, shape, color, plant type, disease resistance and season of maturity. Catalogs, garden centers and greenhouses offer a large selection of tomato varieties and choosing the best one or two varieties can be extremely difficult. Evaluate your needs, then choose the varieties best suited to your intended use and method of culture.

Tomato plants fall into one of two types that affect ultimate plant height and cultural requirements. Tomatoes are determinate if they eventually form a flower cluster at the terminal growing point, causing the plant to stop growing in height. Plants that never set terminal flower clusters, but only lateral ones and continue indefinitely to grow taller are called indeterminate. Older varieties are almost all indeterminate. These can be counted upon to produce abundant foliage and to ripen flavorful fruit. They may, however be extremely late in maturing. The first determinate varieties developed had real problems with inadequate foliage cover and taste, but they ripened very early. Newer determinates produce better foliage, may grow taller and ripen fruit of similar quality to modern indeterminate varieties. They still tend to ripen their fruit over a shorter period of time, so successive plantings may be desirable with determinates to keep the harvest coming through the entire season. Determinate vines are easier to control and support during the growing season. Some of the extreme dwarf types are determinate as well as dwarf, producing some truly tiny mature plants.

Guide to Abbreviations

  • A=Alternaria
  • F=Fusarium
  • N=nematodes
  • T=Tobacco mosaic virus
  • V=Verticillium
  • OP=Open Pollinated
  • AAS=All America Selection

First-Early Red (60 or fewer days to harvest)

These varieties have more compact plant growth than the main-season varieties and sunburning of the fruit is a problem in hot weather. The main crop varieties are generally far superior for summer long harvest. First early varieties are better suited for northern areas, where the growing seasons are shorter and the summers cooler. They have small to medium-sized red fruit and are usually not suitable for pruning.

  • Early Girl (54 days; 5 ounces; earliest full size; indeterminate; resistant to V)
  • Quick Pick (60 days; 4 ounces; round, smooth, heavy yield; indeterminate; resistant to VFNTA)
  • Sub Arctic Plenty (45 days to harvest; 3 to 4 ounces; fruit concentrated in center clusters; determinate)
  • Early Cascade (55 days; 4 ounces; trailing plant, large fruit clusters; indeterminate; resistant to VF)

Medium-Early Red (60 to 69 days)


These varieties are intermediate between the extreme earliness of the first earliest and the sounder plant type and production characteristics of the main crop types. Fruit size is improved, as is quality. The real tomato harvest season begins with the medium early varieties.

  • Champion (65 days to harvest; 10 ounces; solid, smooth, large; indeterminate; resistant to VFNT)
  • Mountain Spring (65 days; 9 ounces; globe, very smooth; determinate; resistant to VF)