Melinda's Gardening How-To: The Right Tomato

Melinda's Gardening How-To: Right Tomato

So many choices and so little time.


That’s often the challenge that gardeners face, especially when it comes to selecting the best tomato varieties for their containers and gardens. 

Start with the end in mind.  Do you want to grow tomatoes for slicing, cooking, making sauce or canned and frozen for later use?  Paste varieties like Romas have meaty fruit perfect for cooking while Big Boy and Brandywine are great slicers. 

Consider disease resistance when making your selection.  The All America Selections winners Celebrity and Big Beef are resistant to several tomato diseases while a more recent winner, Lizanno, is a late blight tolerant cherry tomato.

Check the Tag Plant tags are a great place to gather important information.  Here are some abbreviations or terms you may encounter:

• D – Determinate:  These tomatoes grow a certain size and stop.  The fruit tends to all ripen in a relatively short period of time.  Great for containers, hanging baskets or training on short supports or in towers.

• I – Indeterminate:  These tomatoes continue to grow, flower and produce new fruit throughout the season.  Many gardeners pinch out the growing tips in early September to stop the production of new flowers and fruit that is unlikely to ripen before the killing frost. You’ll need tall stakes and big towers to keep these large plants upright.

• Tumbler type tomatoes  -  Torenzo, Lizzano, Sugary and other tumbler-type tomatoes are more compact, need little support and can be grown in a hanging basket.

• V, F, N – Verticillium, Fusarium, and Nematode resistant.  Unfortunately there are several races of verticillium and fusarium.  Consider those resistant to more than one race when possible.

• AAS – Plant with this designation have been tested and selected for their suitability for home gardens.  Winners have improved flavor, growth habit, disease resistance or other quality that makes them better than varieties that are already on the market

• H – Heirloom – the definition varies a bit but most agree it is a variety that has been around for more than 50 years, preserved and kept true to their parentage.

• Hybrids – are the result of breeding programs and selected for uniform growth, fruit production, and other desirable characteristics.

• Days to Harvest – The average number of days from planting until you pick your first ripe tomato.  You may be harvesting sooner in a hot summer and later during a cooler season.


A Few Favorites to Consider

Take a little time to wander through the rows of tomato transplants. Check the tags for details on flavor, days to harvest and more.  If you get overwhelmed here are a few of the many tomatoes listed by one of their many desirable features.


Big Return on Your Investment

Tolerant of our challenging growing season this big plant produces a bountiful harvest.


EARLY FRUITING: Be the first on your block to harvest a red ripe tomato.  Try one of these:

Celebrity (65 days to harvest, all-round tomato, good disease resistance, AAS Winner)

Champion (65 days to harvest, medium size red fruit) Early Girl (54 days to harvest, small red fruit)


GREAT SLICERS: Big and meaty describe the features most gardeners seek when selecting a slicing tomato.

Beefsteak (80 days to harvest, large meaty fruit)

Big Beef (73 days to harvest, large fruit, old time flavor, AAS winner)

Big Boy (78 days to harvest, large bright red fruit, sandwich-type slicer)

Better Boy (75 days to harvest, one of the most popular and best slicers)

Brandywine (85 days to harvest, large fruit, heirloom)

Celebrity (65 days to harvest, all-round tomato, good disease resistance, AAS Winner)

Cherokee Carbon (80 days to harvest, hybrid of two heirlooms, large dusky purple fruit)

Mortgage Lifter (80 days to harvest, large fruit with award winning flavor)


PASTE TOMATOES: Solid, meaty and low moisture make them great options.

La Roma III (76 days to harvest, large fruit on vigorous, disease resistant plants)

Roma (75 days to harvest, small sized, red plum type fruit) San Marzano (80 days to harvest, small crack resistant)


SMALL FRUITED/SALAD: Small fruit is great for salads, relish trays and snacking.

Juliet (60 days, meaty small fruit, good crack resistance)

Little Napoli (65 days to harvest, bright red, meaty pear shaped fruit)

Moby Grape (75 days to harvest, red, sweet, meaty grape size fruit)

Super Sweet 100 (70 days to harvest, 1-inch red fruit) 


Written by gardening expert, Melinda Myers. Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Gardening How-To with you!