Tomatoes, Tomatoes Everywhere!
Updated: Apr 9
What would life be like without tomatoes? Just the very smell of a tender, first tomato leaf transports me to hot summer barbeques and dripping tomato sandwiches. I'm ready!
Every summer one of my children picks the first tomato they find, which is inevitably green, and I patiently tell them once again how tomatoes must turn red. After which they'll be checking the plants daily, and soon come pounding into the house red-faced and breathless, with a squished tomato for Mama to see.
Which tomato plant is best for you? With so many new types regularly appearing on the market, it can be daunting to wade through them all as well as decide which ones are best for your garden. There's no such thing as a bad tomato-in my book at least! - but you'll definitely benefit from sitting back, sipping a cup of coffee or tea, and diving into a few varieties with me.
Firstly, Determinate or Indeterminate. Just remembering which is which kept me puzzled for many years! Now I just tell myself, "INdeterminate will be INto everything around it", and I can keep them straight. Heirloom varieties are classically indeterminate. A favorite heirloom of mine is the Polish Linguisa, this lush, large-leaved plant bears elongated, juicy fruit, and is super flavorful. They are also excellent keepers. Back when I had time to try experiments like this, I wrapped all my extra Polish Linguisa tomatoes at summer's end individually into newspaper, placed them in a cool dry place and ate off of them for months as they ripened. It was wonderful to put off buying store-bought tomatoes!
You can't beat a Brandywine for Summer sandwiches and burgers! Brandywines are delicious, deeply ridged and asymmetrical heirloom tomatoes that grow up to 2lbs in size. As they have a longer maturation period, you'll want to give these a good head-start in your greenhouse or indoor growing space. Pruning the suckers that grow between the main stem and branching leaves is very helpful when growing aggressive, indeterminate tomatoes like the Brandywine. Staking and caging is also a must, and you'll be glad you did when the huge fruits begin to weigh the plant down. It'll be worth the extra work when you bite into that succulent hamburger resplendent with thick tomato slices later on!
For those of us who don't have a large garden space, or time restraints which keep us from being able to grow higher-maintenance tomato types, be encouraged. Enter the determinate tomatoes! Many determinate types can successfully be grown in large planters, 2 gallon pots are sufficient for this purpose. I highly recommend the Patio Tomato variety, developed specifically for patio gardening. This hardy little guy grows to produce a host of medium-sized tomatoes, with excellent shape and flavor. Scrumptious on sandwiches and in salads, they are a super option for the busy or limited-space gardener. A tomato cage is still recommended to keep them happy on windy days. Another good container option is the Tumbling Toms, a cherry type which is so well behaved it can be grown in hanging baskets. These plants will tumble over the basket and produce prolific, sweet fruits very reliably throughout the summer months. A 12 inch basket is a good size to grow Tumbling Toms in. Remember any tomato plant will require up to 8 hours of sunlight daily, regular feeding and watering to produce well.
Early Girl rates high in my book of determinate tomatoes as well. My husband's family grows this high-producing fruit in their market garden. Super sweet tomatoes grow early on from these disease-resistant plants, and they are easy to maintain with a little pruning early on in the season.
On another note, it never hurts to side-dress your tomatoes with aged compost or manure, remembering they don't prefer an overly high pH level. We also spray the foliage of our tomato plants with a copper spray in early summer to prevent blight, this is very effective and well worth the time invested. Water your tomatoes at the base of the plants early in the day to also help prevent blight and disease spreading.
So which type of tomato will you grow this summer? It's decision time!