When it comes to tomato choices, Burpee has something for everyone. Our Indigo series of cherry tomato comes in at 1 ounce and packs a lot of flavor and nutrition! And our popular SuperSauce paste tomato can weigh in at a whopping 2 lbs. (908 g) each. That’s a lot of sauce and salsa! If you REALLY want to amaze your neighbors, why not try the SteakHouse – one of the world’s largest beefsteak tomatoes.
In between those tomato extremes you’ll find dozens of other varieties – red, pink, yellow and orange – in a range of types and sizes. To help you select the right one to grow in your garden, here’s a few tomato traits to look for on the plant tag.
Determinate v. Indeterminate
These tomato classifications can help you understand when and how much a plant will set fruit. Determinate (usually bush-type) tomatoes bear a full harvest all at once and remain shorter. They’re your best choice for patio growing or small-space gardens. Indeterminate types grow long vines that seem to bloom forever. They’ll continue setting fruit until the frost takes them away. If you have plenty of space – or a clever way to stake and cage these titans – go for it!
Days to Harvest
Be mindful of your growing season. In the south, that means planting your tomatoes early before the intense heat overwhelms your plants. In the north, your window of opportunity runs from May through October. Some tomatoes ripen fast (48-59 days), like Fourth Of July or Early Girl. Others need a much longer growing period, and it’s a waiting game for your harvest. Heirlooms like Marianna’s Peace take 80-85 days. Brandywine Red is 75-80 days. Know when it’s safe to grow, and plan your selection accordingly.
If you like ripe and juicy tomatoes to eat fresh, look for Beefsteak tomatoes. Want a firm tomato that holds up to the knife? Choose a Slicer type. Need a snack or salad topping? Cherry, Grape and other small-fruited types are for you. And if you’re planning to can or cook your tomatoes into sauces, salsas and dips, we recommend the Paste or Romas.
Heirloom v. Hybrid
The debate wages on. There’s a wonderful heritage that comes from growing an heirloom tomato. There are so many to choose from; varieties passed down for generations. However, the flavor and satisfaction of an heirloom oftentimes means you give up a high yield or disease resistance. If you live in an area with high-pressure for disease, selecting hybrid varieties will give you a full harvest and help you be more successful against many environmental or soil-borne obstacles.
Some other tips to remember about growing tomatoes: Be sure to plant tomatoes deeper than your other veggies. Dig a hole or trench with just the top 2 leaf nodes exposed. This helps them roote well into the soil. Then, depending on the types we discussed above, let them sprawl, stake them, cage them or trellis them. Then get ready to enjoy!
More helpful tomato-growing tips can be found in our podcast series here. Check them out! And send us your tomato-growing challenges and champions anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.