The Pryor Times

June 22, 2013

Tomato terms, tips and types


— Pryor Times



Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable in home gardens across America; most gardeners agree nothing tastes better than a home-grown tomato.  It’s important to understand common tomato terms, often seen on tomato plant tags and the basics of growing tomatoes…. the more you know the better you’ll grow. Now through mid-July, you can plant extra tomatoes for later harvests in fall, often right up to frost dates if you protect them overnight or harvest them green and ripen them indoors.

Tomatoes need the right combination of good soil, water and heat. Use transplants, like Bonnie Plants, they’re faster than starting from seed and easier to grow. Transplants offered in biodegradable pots are planted directly in-ground, preventing transplant shock and saving millions of pounds of plastic from landfills. Find a sunny location (at least 6 hours of sun) with good drainage, and if you plant tomatoes each season, it’s a good idea to rotate the spot in the garden where you plant them.

Tomato plants are classified as either indeterminate or determinate. Indeterminate plants grow all season, continuing to bloom and produce fruit as long as weather conditions are favorable. (Bonnie Better Boy, Bonnie Original, Early Girl, Sweet 100, Sun Sugar)

Determinate plants are the compact bush type, like Better Bush, they grow to a certain size, set fruit, and stop growing, bearing fruit all at once. This type of tomato is popular with gardeners who like to can and make sauce. (Better Bush, Bush Goliath, Patio, Roma, Solar Fire, Sweet and Neat, Husky Red).

Tomatoes are often designated by the terms early, middle and late, which refer to when the fruit will be ready to harvest. Early season tomatoes are the first to ripen, late season are the last to ripen and middle season types fall somewhere in between. Planting some of each type is a good strategy for enjoying ripe tomatoes throughout the summer.  

Heirloom tomato - Any tomato that is at least fifty years old and is not a hybrid, like “Mortgage Lifter”, this heirloom tomato got its name because a mechanic in West Virginia who developed the variety made so much money selling the seeds he paid off his mortgage! (Arkansas Traveler, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, German Queen, Mr. Stripey)

Hybrid tomato - A tomato bred by crossing varieties. Hybrids offer better disease resistance, higher yield, and other improved traits. (Juliet, Bonnie Original, Big Boy, Summer Set, Tami G)

If you’re temperatures are rising, and most are, choose a heat-set tomato variety that’s able to set fruit in high temperatures compared to many other varieties. You might try Arkansas Traveler, Florida 91, Husky Red Cherry, or Super Sweet 100.