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Selecting which tomato plants to grow
Special to the News
By Dr. Chip East, regional Extension agent
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
There are thousands of named tomato varieties available, and deciding on which ones to plant can be fun, as well as confusing.
I suggest planting the tomato cultivars that you have had good luck with in the past, but I also encourage you to try some that are new to you, as well. Extension has conducted many tomato programs over the years and included a tomato taste test as part of the program.
The taste tests are a lot of fun, but one thing that is clear from the taste test is there is no tomato that everyone will like, and no tomato that everyone will dislike. I do not recommend planting your entire garden or field with new cultivars, but planting a few can be fun.
Tomatoes are placed into one of two groups depending on their growth habit.
A determinate plant will grow until a certain point, and the terminal buds will produce flowers instead of more vegetative growth. This plant will produce fruit over a few weeks and pretty much be done.
These plants can produce some fruit later in the season, but not as much as the indeterminate plants. For this reason, many determinate plant growers will plant tomatoes later in the season if they are looking for a later crop.
The indeterminate plants may be more of a challenge to stake, but will produce fruit all season if disease issues are managed properly.
Many people will refer to a tomato as being high acid or low acid, but actually, tomatoes have relatively the same acidity. It is actually the sugar content that varies with different tomatoes.
So, a “high acid” tasting tomato would actually be a low sugar content tomato, and a “low acid” tasting tomato would have a higher amount of sugar. As a general rule, the high sugar content tomatoes are typically the tomatoes that are not red in color such as orange, yellow, purple, etc.
Some tomatoes do not set much fruit in our summer heat. It is not only the high daytime temperatures, but high nighttime temperatures that cause a reduction in fruit set, as well.
Some tomatoes are referred to as heat set tomatoes, meaning they will set fruit even at higher temperatures. Some recommended heat set tomatoes include Bella Rosa, Florida 91, Phoenix, Redline, Solar Fire, and Sun Leaper.
When deciding on what tomato to grow, its disease resistance could be very important. No one tomato is resistant to all the diseases, so you will have to choose resistant varieties based on the diseases that cause the most problems in your garden.
It is pretty common to find tomatoes resistant to Fusarium Wilt (race 1, 2 and 3), Verticillium Wilt, Root Knot Nematodes, and several resistant to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus.
However, it is possible to find a few tomato cultivars resistant to Early Blight, Late Blight, Gray Leaf Spot, Tomato Mosaic Virus, Tobacco Mosaic Virus, Bacterial Speck, Bacterial Wilt, and a few other diseases.
Again, you will not find a tomato resistant to all of these diseases, but you can find tomatoes resistant to one or two and possibly even four of five of these diseases.
The many different uses of the tomato may need to be considered before planting. If you are planning on canning tomatoes, the paste type (Roma type) tomatoes might be an option.
Some recommended paste tomatoes include Granadero, Mariana, Plum Crimson, Plum Regal, and Pony Express.
Lots of good slicing tomatoes are available, and the grape type and cherry type tomatoes are favorites of many, as well.
Some recommended slicing tomatoes with good disease resistance include Amelia, Bella Rosa, Crista, Mountain Gem, Mountain Magic, Mountain Merit, Red Bounty, and Red Defender to name a few, but there are thousands of others available.
Some recommended cherry types are Matt’s Wild Cherry, Mountain Belle, Sun Gold, Sun Sugar, and Super Sweet 100.
A couple of recommended grape types with good disease resistance include BHN 410 and Mountain Honey.
As mentioned earlier, keep growing the ones you have had good luck with in the past, but do not be afraid to try others with desirable characteristics.
Many farmers grow tomatoes in high tunnels and greenhouses, and there are recommended tomato cultivars for high tunnel production and tomatoes for greenhouse production, as well. If you want to try some of the tomato cultivars and you are having a hard time finding them at garden centers, planting seeds may be the best option.
Contact your local Extension Office for more information on recommended tomato cultivars or growing tomatoes from seeds.
It is not too late to plant tomato seeds for the 2021 season. We can plant tomato seeds through July with success.
You will not be the first person in your neighborhood with tomatoes, but you can make a run for being the last one with tomatoes.
If you are interested in a vegetable planting guide that lists recommended planting dates, it can be found on our website at aces.edu or by contacting the Coosa County Extension Office at 256-377-4713.