Top Tomato Tips
As far as garden crops go, tomatoes annually rank as the top home garden crop in North America, year after year. As you plan your garden this spring, here are a few things to consider when choosing which varieties of tomatoes to plant.
Length of time your tomato plant produces fruit:
Determinate types grow to approximately 2 to 3 feet, set fruit and then ripen that fruit, generally maturing in a month or two. Once the fruit ripens, no more new fruit will grow. If you want to continue picking tomatoes over several months, you will want to choose an indeterminate variety. They continue to grow tall, usually more than 5 feet, and produce fruit until frost.
How you plan to use your tomatoes:
Most determinate varieties are also referred to as paste tomatoes, such as Romas. These characteristically ripen with a few weeks and make great sauces, working well for canning and freezing.
Indeterminate varieties will continue to provide fresh fruit from early July to fall. Some of these varieties are also known as slicing tomatoes, which taste delicious on a BLT or chopped for fresh salsa. They are typically larger and juicier. On the other hand, while smaller in shape, cherry tomatoes also indeterminate. They are the perfect addition to toss in a fresh garden salad.
Don’t be afraid to include both in your vegetable gardens. If you aren’t sure which variety of tomato you are buying, most brands will indicate determinate or indeterminate on the tag of the live plant, or will print it on the seed pouch.
Determinate Varieties of Tomatoes
- Grow up to 4′
- Have a round, full shape
- Will thrive in tomato plant containers
- Will grow and ripen all fruit at or near the same time
- Makes a good choice for canning and preserving
- Rarely requires staking
Indeterminate Varieties of Tomatoes
- Will grow very tall, many times over 9′
- Can be referred to as Vining Tomatoes
- Will continue to grow throughout the season
- Most plants require staking and/or caging
- Need more soil than is available in most tomato containers
- Most of the Heirloom Tomato varieties you find will be indeterminate
Tomato variety by region:
Choose a variety that suits your climate best. Certain varieties, like cherry tomatoes, do well in short growing seasons in cooler climates, while others can better withstand the heat in Southern regions.
Growing tips for your tomato plants:
- Plant in a sunny spot with at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day.
- Don’t crowd your plants so the sunshine can reach their lower leaves and use high quality garden soil or potting soil.
- Plant deep – a little deeper than the way they are positioned in their temporary container you purchased them in. You can go all the way up to the leaves.
- Water consistently, giving them 1-2 inches of water per week. Uneven watering can cause blossom-end rot.
- Cover the ground with mulch to minimize weeds and keep the soil moist.
- Use fertilizers recommended for tomatoes. If there is too much phosphorus, your plant might look green and full, but it will produce few or no tomatoes. Miracle-Gro offers great options to help with this.
- Plant some companion plants, such as basil and marigolds, to keep insects away.