It has been said that the best garden advice is from ‘over a garden fence’; in other words, from other gardeners. Ask your neighbors, friends and local farmers the names of the varieties they like best. Ultimately taste should be the deciding factor, but there are other considerations too. Is the variety disease resistant? How long does it take to start producing? Does it perform well where I live? Does it grow 12 feet tall or only 3 feet tall? Is the plant ‘determinate’ or ‘indeterminate’? (see part 3 ‘What the H%#@ Does That Word Mean?’).
Are the fruit small and many or large and few? Heirloom or Hybrid? Is it finicky or vigorous if the weather is hot and humid or dry? And most important, how many plants do I really have room for? The latest blogs and magazines offer so many choices . . . but unless you have very large garden and are an experienced gardener, try to keep the number of plants between 2 and 12. If you have the space, choose to plant a few different varieties each year. If one doesn’t do well, you’ll still be able to enjoy the others. Many determinate tomato varieties grow well in containers too, but they will require more attention. Tip: the minimum recommendation space for each tomato plant is 4 square feet in the garden or one plant in an 18” or larger pot.
What are we growing in our gardens? Ted loves Grandma’s Pick for its great taste but also because the plant is sturdy and very disease resistant. It still requires strong support since it grows tall and the fruits are so large. Carol really likes Sunny Boy. It’s a bright yellow salad size tomato on a 4-foot plant. It keeps producing great tasting mild fruit even in the worst weather. Gwen loves Arkansas Traveler “its perfection tomato-fied when you slice it”. And for a meaty plum, you can’t beat Marinara. Maureen loves Amarillo Cherry (think a golden orange version of that sunny yellow tomato that everyone raves about). And Sun Bliss grape “every bite is full of flavor!” Sandy likes Black Truffle. After attending a tomato festival, Black Truffle won the taste test even over Brandywine! The fruit is somewhat pear shaped, very dark red almost mahogany with green shoulders and very crack resistant. And Jim … he’ll love whatever we grow in the trial garden at the shop this year until he has time to plant his own!