Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How to Choose Which Tomato Varieties to Grow in your Garden

With an estimated 25,000 tomato varieties, it can be intimidating to choose which ones to start and grow in your garden.

But by asking yourself these few simple questions you can figure out which tomato varieties will work for you.

Do you want to pick tomatoes all at once (for canning, freezing, and drying) or throughout the summer to enjoy with meals?
Determinate tomatoes produce fruit for a couple of weeks and then fade out. They are a good choice if you want to preserve quantities to use over the winter. Indeterminate tomatoes, on the other hand, produce fruit throughout the season, often until frost, and provide a steady supply of fresh tomatoes for your kitchen table. A mix of determinate and indeterminate tomato varieties means you can have tomatoes now, enough to preserve, and plenty to eat later, too.

Do you prefer a particular size or shape of fruit?

Beefsteak tomatoes are the biggest fruit, used for slicing and sandwiches.
Globe tomatoes are the most heavily commercially-cultivated fruit. They are used for eating fresh as well as canning, freezing, and drying.
Paste (or Roma) tomatoes are thick-walled fruit used to make sauces.
Cherry and grape tomatoes are the smallest fruit and are used for salads and snacking.

Do you want early, mid-season, or late fruit?

Tomato varieties mature anywhere from 48-95 days. By checking a tomato’s “days to maturity” number, you can choose those that ripen quickly along with those that take longer. A selection of different varieties means you can harvest fruit all season long.

What is your weather like?

Some tomato varieties flourish in heat and humidity, while others grow particularly well in cooler areas. Maximize your crop by choosing varieties that are known to thrive in your climate.

Do you have time to monitor your plants throughout the summer?
Disease-resistant varieties stay healthier during the season and require less intervention. Heirloom tomatoes (or “open pollinated tomatoes”) have a reputation for producing flavorful, consistent fruit that is true to seed, but heirlooms often considered more vulnerable to disease than hybrids. Hybrid tomatoes are a cross between two genetically different tomato varieties, often bred to be resistant to one or more diseases. Look for tomato disease-resistant codes on hybrid seed or seedling packets, specified by capital letters:
V=Verticillium Wilt
F=Fusarium Wilt
T=Tobacco Mosaic Virus
St=Stemphylium (Gray Leaf Spot)
TSWV=Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus

About the Author
Kathy Widenhouse is a contributing writer for Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC and owner of Tomato Dirt (http://www.tomatodirt.com/), a leading source for information on growing tomatoes and using them.

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