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BONNIE’S GARDEN – Tis the Season, to Plant Tomatoes

By Bonnie Pega
Bonnie's Garden

Tomatoes are native to the Americas, like peppers, and were grown by the Aztecs who called the fruits “tomatl”—meaning “plump thing with navel.”  Tomatoes are botanically berries, believe it or not!

I get a lot of questions about different tomato varieties so here is a brief description of the ones we’ll be carrying this year.

  • Beefmaster:  Meaty and flavorful fruits can weigh up to 2 lbs.
  • Belgium Giant:  Sweet-flavored fruits average 2 lbs. or more.  Heirloom.
  • Better Boy:  Well-known for its disease-resistance and reliable harvests.
  • Big Beef:  ¾ lb. fruits on disease-resistant vines.
  • Big Boy:  Large smooth red fruits with good flavor.  Bears heaviest in mid-summer but will continue to bear until frost.
  • Black Cherry:  Sweet cherry tomatoes with pretty burgundy fruits.
  • Black Krim:  10 to 12 oz. fruits, set well even in the heat.  It has a rich flavor with an almost salted undernote.  Heirloom.
  • Brandywine:  Exceptionally sweet and rich—a consistent winner at taste trials.  Large beefsteak-type fruits.  An Amish heirloom.
  • Carolina Gold:  Sweet low-acid tomato with ½ lb. fruits.  Determinate.
  • Celebrity:  A favorite for canning and freezing, Celebrity produces a large crop over a short period of time.  Good flavor and disease-resistance.  Determinate.
  • Cherokee Purple:  Sweet, rich, almost smoky flavor.  One pound burgundy fruits.  Heirloom.
  • Early Girl:  A reliable early tomato with 4 to 6 oz. fruits.
  • German Johnson:  An heirloom from North Carolina and Virginia.  Meaty one pound pinkish-red fruits with few seeds.
  • Golden Jubilee:  Mild and sweet low-acid fruits with fewer seeds.
  • Goliath:  Good flavored 1 to 2 lb. fruits on disease-resistant plants.  Heirloom.
  • Grape:  Long productive vines with clusters of meaty bright red fruits.
  • Juliet:  A grape-type tomato with prolific vines and sweet crack-resistant fruits.
  • Lemon Boy:  Bright yellow ½ lb. fruits are mild and sweet.
  • Mortgage Lifter:  Large meaty red fruits, reaching up to 2 lbs.  Heirloom.
  • Pink Girl:  Mild, juicy ½ lb. fruits are crack-resistant.  Disease-resistant.
  • Roma:  Popular for canning and sauces because of the flavorful meaty fruits.  Determinate.
  • Rutgers:  Rutgers has been around since the 1920s and is popular for productivity and good flavor.  Determinate.  Heirloom.
  • San Marzano:  A mild meaty Roma-type tomato, particularly good for sauces. Heirloom.
  • Sun Sugar:  Delicious golden-orange cherry tomatoes on very productive, disease-resistant vines.  Tomatoes are sweet and fruity in flavor.
  • Supersonic:  ½ lb. fruits are meaty and flavorful on vigorous vines.  Disease resistant.
  • Super Sweet 100:  Clusters of sweet red cherry tomato on very vigorous disease-resistant vines.
  • Whopper:  Productive disease-resistant vines with ½ lb. fruit.
  • Yellow Pear:  A sweet pear-shaped 1 to 2-inch fruit.  Heirloom.

A few things to keep in mind—if you had a disease on your tomatoes last year, DO NOT plant another tomato family member (peppers, eggplants, tomatillos) in that spot for at least three years—or they’ll get it again.  You can plant cukes, squash, etc., just not tomatoes or tomato relatives.

Tomatoes love full sun.  Anything less and your fruit production will diminish.  A good tomato fertilizer will help with productivity.  I like Tomato-tone because it has extra calcium which helps to prevent a disease called Blossom-End Rot (Yes, you can use it on ALL your veggies.)

There are determinate and indeterminate tomatoes.  An indeterminate tomato is a vine that will continue growing and producing all the way until frost. A majority of tomatoes are indeterminate.   A determinate tomato produces a larger crop at once so it is a good choice for canning, freezing or saucing, but generally will not produce all the way to frost.  They are usually smaller bush-type plants.  I have marked the determinate varieties above.

Whichever variety you pick, you’re growing the quintessential American fruit—well, berry!

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4 thoughts on “BONNIE’S GARDEN – Tis the Season, to Plant Tomatoes

  1. Looking for your recommendations for container planting besides possibly cherry types. There are more compact “patio” varieties but are there newer compact varieties?
    thanks

  2. I haven’t planted a “container” or “patio” variety in years. I simply select the right sized container (16″ to 18″ in diameter) and put a tomato cage in there. I grow ANY tomato I want in pots on my deck (I do have raised beds but LOVE having tomatoes on my deck where I can grab one when I’m sitting in my rocking chair.)

    I usually grow a Cherokee Purple and a Sun Sugar on my deck–by the way, most cherry-type tomatoes are PROLIFIC growers–vining 8 to 10 feet.

    You don’t need to limit yourself to a two to three foot tall “bush” tomato. You can grow any tomato you want in a container, if it’s the right size, and if you put a support in there.

  3. Cucumbers do beautifully in containers. As always, in containers, be sure to use potting soil–not garden soil. With cucumbers, they’ll perform best if you put a trellis in with them to climb up–and because they make tendrils, they climb well. Squash, on the other hand, you can try a “bush” squash, but vining squash don’t work as well–they have hollow stems and the weight of the fruit tends to pull those stems down over the edge of the pot and they can break off. They don’t make tendrils so also don’t climb well.

    On the other hand, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants all do quite well in containers–just be sure the container is large enough to accommodate the roots.

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