By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning writer and owner of Tomato Dirt, a leading online source of for growing tomatoes in the home garden.
How should you choose tomato varieties to grow in your garden? You’ve got plenty of choices … an estimated 25,000 types of tomatoes to choose from.
Whether you’re starting a vegetable garden for the first time or you have been growing tomatoes for decades, the question of how to choose what types of tomatoes to grow is an important one. This is a great opportunity to experiment and compare varieties.
There are at least three factors to consider.
Your location is the most important consideration as you choose tomato varieties. The types of tomatoes that grow well in Houston, Texas are different than those that grow well in Bristol, England.
Know the basics about your gardening zone: is your growing season short – perhaps just 3 months long? Or perhaps can you grow tomatoes all year long, in two separate seasons. Maybe your climate is hot and humid. Or you may have cool nights and dry days.
But keep in mind that rainfall, humidity, soil content, wind, and topographical factors vary drastically within gardening zones. In fact, your immediate location is a microclimate unto itself and can differ from a garden that is just 10 or 20 miles away. That’s why it’s to your benefit to study the types of tomatoes offered at local garden centers. Talk with the personnel and ask what tomatoes they grow in their home gardens. Contact your local extension and ask for information about the tomato varieties that are most suitable for your area.
In doing so you’ll accumulate a lot of valuable information in the form of a personalized list of types of tomatoes to consider for your garden – varieties that have proven to do well in your immediate area.
Use that list as a starting point as ayou consider two more factors.
Most gardeners don’t grow just one tomato variety (unless they grow a single container tomato) but several types of tomatoes, depending on available space.
How much room will you devote to tomatoes?
If you have lots of space in the garden, you may want to lean towards indeterminate tomatoes because they put out leaves, branches, and fruit until frost.
In contrast, determinate tomatoes flower and fruit within a few weeks and then stop production and growth, so they are good choice if you have a small garden.
(This article explains the difference between indeterminates and determinates.)
Bush varieties are best for containers because they take less room both horizontally and vertically.
How do you plan to use your tomatoes? If you want to eat a handful right off the vine or float them in salads, then grow cherry tomatoes. Maybe you want large tomatoes to use in sandwiches, so you go with beefsteaks. If you want to dry tomatoes or make sauce, then consider plum varieties. Or if you’re planning to can tomatoes then choose determinate varieties, which ripen within a short time allowing you to put them up at once.
And if taste is your primary consideration, you may favor heirloom tomato varieties, which are widely considered to be more flavorful than hybrids. (Check our our favorite source for heirloom tomatoes.)
Beyond function and taste, maybe you just want reliable plants that are disease resistant, prolific, and produce tomatoes all season long. If that is the case, give careful thought to hybrid tomato varieties, which have a reputation for consistency, productivity, and longevity. (Browse hybrid tomato varieties.)
More about Choosing Types of Tomatoes
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