Saturday, March 28, 2015

Selecting Tomato Plants

Garden and home improvements centers as well as big box stores have a myriad of tomato plants available from bright reds, luscious yellows, to black/purples.  Most of the cultivars are hybrids but there are plenty of interesting heirlooms too.  It may be difficult to decide on a suitable cultivar for the home garden.

The hybrids have been cross bred with compatible types in an effort to create a plant with the best features of both parents.  The result may be resistance to diseases, bugs, and pests or it may be the aim for a certain color or size.

The heirlooms are true and tried open-pollinated (non-hybrid) cultivars with high quality tasting fruit with unusual and interesting markings, colors, and shapes.  The seeds have been handed down through generations of growers.

It is also helpful to know the difference between determinate and indeterminate types of cultivars when selecting tomato plants.

The determinate varieties are also known as bush tomatoes growing to a fixed mature size and ripen all their fruit in a short time.  Roma and Celebrity are such examples.  The indeterminate varieties of tomatoes continue to grow throughout the season until killing frost.  They may grow four to six feet tall and require staking.

For our home garden on Back Forty, we selected the following:

Better Boy that is bred as an improved version of Big Boy.  It is supposed to be resistant to common diseases and blossom end rot.  The fruit is extra-large and ready to harvest in 70 - 75 days.

Lemon Boy is a popular hybrid with brilliant colors and intense sweet taste.  Unfortunately it is prone to white fly infestation and spraying with neem oil solution is recommended.

We also selected the bold Black Krim originating in Krim, Russia, a long time ago.  It's an heirloom with flattened reddish black fruit with a salty flavor (we are told).

I couldn't resist selecting the Cherokee Purple, another heirloom, that was first grown in Tennessee and sent to a chemist in North Carolina.  It has thin skin and soft flesh.  It likes warmer temperatures and I may have rushed to set this one out too early.

To complete the selection for now, we choose the Sweetie 100 as our cherry tomato.  This plant is also suitable for a container on the porch.

To plant the tomatoes, dig a much deeper hole than the pot they came in and mix in commercial manure, your compost, Ironite (optional), Calcium Nitrate for good measure to ward off blossom end rot, and regular garden fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 8-8-8 or use specific tomato fertilizer wit trace elements.  Finally, be consistent with watering.

Happy Gardening!
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