Garden Clippings for Feb 24, 2018
Tomatoes continue to be the most popular plant in the veggie garden. But there is a bewildering array of varieties to choose from. How do I make the best choice?
To untangle the confusion in tomatoes, consider their taste and texture, growth habit, disease resistance, and days to maturity.
Taste and texture: Read the description on the reverse side of tomato seed packages and most will use words such as flavourful, sweet, tasty, rich, or mild. Tomatoes are indeed tasty, particularly if they are fresh picked. Greenhouse grown tomatoes, selected for their appearance, ease of shipping, and longevity will have less emphasis on flavour.
If you are a rookie tomato plant grower, I would recommend not worrying too much about flavour. Once you have grown tomatoes for a few years, you will begin to find your favourites. Plant a few varieties and keep written notes evaluating your success. Keep in mind that some tomato varieties such as Roma (paste) and Pink Ponderosa (low acid) are grown for their specific characteristics.
Growth habit. Tomato plants will be labelled as indeterminate or determinate. Indeterminate grow taller and will likely require support. They will also ripen and continue to produce new plants until frost. Determinate tomatoes grow more bush-like and will generally have a shorter ripening season. Determinate tomatoes don’t need support, although many growers will provide a tomato cage to keep fruit clean and easier to pick. If you are growing tomatoes in a container on the patio be sure to choose determinate varieties.
Disease resistance: Since tomatoes are often troubled by soil borne disease, many varieties are labelled with a V or F, indicating resistance to Verticillium and Fusarium wilts. Less critical for Sarnia Lambton area are varieties labelled N for certain nematode issues and T for Tobacco Mosaic virus. If you choose not to pick varieties that are disease resistant, it may be helpful to plant your tomatoes in a different location each year.
Heirloom tomatoes such as Bonny Best, Beefsteak, Brandywine and Old German are faithful performers that have been handed down from previous generations. While these varieties may not be as disease resistant and high yielding as new hybrid types, they are known for their great taste. The seed from heirloom tomatoes can be harvested and kept for future crops.
Days to harvest. If you are an impatient gardener, choose a tomato with a short growing season. Patio hybrid tomato, Beefsteak and most Cherry or Grape tomatoes can often be harvested within two months of planting outdoors. Later varieties that keep on producing until frost may require close to 90 days before they can be picked. In Southwestern Ontario we have a longer growing season and days to harvest is hardly an issue. But folks who live in cities such as Ottawa, Thunder Bay or Calgary will want to choose tomatoes labelled with shorter harvest time.