Central Sierra
University of California
Central Sierra

Tomatoes for flavor, for food and for everyone

A wide variety of tomatoes can be grown in the garden.
Tomatoes are the No. 1 garden crop in America. Everyone who has a summer garden grow tomatoes. There are more blogs, forums, tweets, and garden club and café talks about tomatoes than any other garden vegetable. Tomatoes are used in so many recipes, and can be preserved so easily into so many products it just makes sense to grow them in your garden. The garden lore about growing tomatoes successfully abounds. And the really good new . . . the failure rate for tomatoes is pretty darn low. You may not get as many as you like but you will get some pretty much guaranteed even with the low yielding heirloom varieties.

The really hard part about growing tomatoes is trying to select the variety for your location, the preferred size of your tomato fruit whether it is a small, medium or large, a paste or slicing type, red or yellow or orange or striped, or to select for plant size and growth habit, such as suitable for containers or should make the priority disease resistance? Or should you just choose whatever the nursery has in stock? 

The first consideration for variety selection should be climate. There are three basic tomato growing zones in California. Zone A is the coastal area of Santa Barbara south; it includes the coastal foothills,  and mountain ranges from San Diego though Marin Counties and the foothills surrounding the Central Valley, Napa and Sonoma Valleys.  These areas are typified by summer daytime temperatures are warm but below 95F. Zone B are the inland valleys and high and low deserts.  This area has daytime temperatures that regularly exceed 95F.  Zone C are the intermediate central and northern coastal areas; cool coastal valleys from Santa Maria north to the Oregon border and include the SF Peninsula. These areas have cool to moderate summers with evening temperatures in the 45-55F. While many varieties have been evaluated for their climatic adaptations, many have not so keep that in mind when selecting your varieties.  Examples of each are in the table below.

Zone A

Zone B

Zone C

Not yet evaluated

Sungold Cherry

Sungold Cherry

Sungold Cherry

Brandywine

Ace

Ace

Carmelo

Beefmaster

Better Boy

Bush Champion determinant

Patio Hybrid

Lemon boy

Floramerica Hybrid VFFNASt

Floramerica Hybrid VFFNASt

Bingo VFT

Roma

Supersteak

Early Pick Hybrid

Champion Hybrid VFNT

Goliath Hybrid

Early Girl Hybrid VFF

Shady Lady

Dona

Green Zebra

Jackpot Hybrid

Early Bush 76 VF

Stupice

Green Grape

Whopper Improved

Celebrity

Legend

 

Next is to decide how big you want your plants to grow. Determinant or “bush”  varieties are those that grow to a given size (about 3-5 ft) and bear most of their fruit within about 4-6 weeks.  If you like to can your produce, a determinate variety would be best since you harvest most all the fruit in a narrow window. 

Indeterminate tomato varieties grow and set fruit all summer until they are killed by the frost.  This type is good if you have the room to stake or trellis them and want a continual harvest.  I like to plant some of each.

The last thing to evaluate in selecting varieties is disease resistance. One disease that really has become a problem in many gardens is tomato spotted wilt virus.  (see picture, left).  This disease is transmitted by thrips and causes the fruit to spot and become corky.  Look for resistant varieties if you have noticed this problem on your tomatoes in the past.  Fletcher, BHN444 and BHN1021 are resistant varieties and good quality fruit.  For more information on management of Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus, go to UCIPM Website.

For more information on tomato culture and other pest problems, download our free 10-page leaflet Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden.

Posted on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 11:23 AM

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