Tomato Plants for
the Home Garden

Choosing the best tomato plants for the home garden can be simple or involved.

Here's an example of the choice being simple.

Years ago, a friend bought "Better Boy" tomato seedlings. The plants loved the garden and produced delicious, disease free tomatoes. A match made in heaven.

Admittedly, finding a variety of tomato that grows healthy and produces well, can be the mainstay of a tomato garden for years. That's what commercial growers do. Don't mess with success.

A favorite Florida garden tomato is the "Beefmaster" beefsteak type tomato. Beefmasters like sandy garden soil and make a nice fat slice tomato sandwich. If the stomach speaks, listen!

So what can be involved in choosing a tomato plant?

Some gardeners are never satisfied or they have a run of bad luck trying to find the right tomato plants.

A run of bad luck can be; a favorite tomato variety dies from disease every time they are grown.

After a long season of preparing and orchestraing the best garden ever, that dream tomato turns out to have the consistancy of grainy mush or looks just like the picture on the package, but tastes horrible.

That's when the adventure begins. Getting involved is just another way of saying educate yourself.

A few seasons of failed attempts to find tomato nirvana, can result in wasting years of effort.

Make an effort to learn a more about tomato plants. It will pay off in the longrun.

The following information will help in choosing the right tomato plants.

Tomato Plant Varieties is an understatement.

There are so many colors, shapes, sizes, flavors and textures, it's mind boggling.

If there was one perfect tomato plant everyone would be growing them. But, variety is the spice of life.

Narrowing down the field, so to speak, gets pretty simple. Here are a couple of examples.

A love for tomato sandwiches will lead to the beefsteak type tomato for it's size and taste. A big slice of this tomato can nearly cover a slice of white bread.

For a great tomato sauce, the standard is the Roma or Plum tomato varieties. These varieties have a number of different selections. There are a number of fine Hybrid tomatoes in this variety.

Looking for an authentic Heirloom variety from Italy? Try the "San Marzano" tomato. This variety comes from the base of Mount Vesuvius. The Originals were grown in soil rich in volcanic ash. Since there are no volcanos in Florida, the soil became a question.

Discovering the way to compensate soil conditioning is found in the Beefmaster Project. Narrowing down the choices in tomato plant selection by considering Hybrid or Heirloom tomato plant varieties.

Hybrid and Heirloom tomaotes, what they are and the differences are a good place to start.

Tomato plants started from heirloom seeds are considered "original" plants. Heirlooms have not been genetically altered by man, other than helping with natural selection.

The heirloom seeds are handed down from generation to generation.

Heirloom types of tomatoes are very interesting. There are too many colorful, unusual shapes, sizes and names to list here.

Authenticating Heirloom types of tomato plants is very difficult. There are varied opinions as to which tomato varieties are truly heirlooms.

The age of lineage seems to be the main citeria. Some say the tomato's origin must date back at least one hundred years.

Others believe anything dating before the end of World War II. The reason for this is due to the prolification of hybrid tomatoes after 1945.

Hybrid tomatoes are tomato varieties that are the engineered result of combining the best traits from two or more types of tomatoes.

The process is very involved. Here is a link that is very detailed regarding the process. Creating hybrid tomatoes.

The bottom line is, using the size of one tomato and the taste of another you can combine the genetic qualities and create a totally new tomato variety such as the beefsteak.

Planting seeds taken from hybrids will not produce the same tomatoes or plants.

Planting Hybrid seeds from one tomato can produce a number of different tomato plants with tomatoes of varying size, shape and health.

Here's a common example of making a hybrid. Perhaps a variety is absolutely delicious but is vulnerable to just about every disease, simply hybrid it with a tomato variety with strong resistance characteristics.

Disease Resistance. The choosen variety may show one or more letters in bold such as "VFN". If the selected variety doesn't show any resistance letters, check with the grower or seed producer, or go on the internet to your State's Agricultural website.

The later is a good place to check and find out which varieties have had great success in your area and which have not.

With a tomato variety already in mind, find out if the plant variety matches up well against the most common tomato plant ailments in your vicinity.

There are a number of diseases common to tomato plants. Here are quick descriptions of the most common.

Let's start with the good old Beefmaster. This hybrid is resistant to "V" "F" "N".

"V" indicates resistance to Verticillium Wilt.

"F" indicates resistance to Fusarium Wilt. Both of these conditions are caused by fungi developing in the root system and eventually traveling up through the whole plant.

"N" is for Nemetodes. These are actully small insects that can inflict severe damage on tomato plants.

There are others such as "TSW" Tomato Spotted Wilt,

"A" Alternaria which is Early Blight.

"T" Tobacco Mosaic Virus that can be induced by have contact with tobaco. and

"FF" which is Fusarium Wilt- Race 1 and 2.

There are more, but these are the most common.

Choose plants with resistance to diseases known in your region.

When plants are the unfortunate recipients of some type of disorder, Go to Tomato Problems page for more information and quality links for assistance. Here is a list of popular tomato plants, showing varieties and resistances, if any.

The Size of the tomatoes to grow is important, but also consider the size of the actual plant.

Gardeners unaware of the potential size of the tomato variety selected could run into space problems in the garden.

There are two basic types of tomato varieties regarding plant size. The difference in size, as well as growing style should be considered in the garden plan. The styles are Determinate and Indeterminate.

DETERMINATE style tomato plants grow in a more compact bush form and generally produce most of their crop all at one time.

Harvesting will consist of two to four harvest pickings in a short period of ripening. When the last harvest is finished the plant won't produce anymore and can be pulled up.

This variety can be planted early and when finished producing, another plant can be planted to allow for a second crop. This method will provide a second harvest in the later stages of the growing season.

These are good plants for someone that wishes to get invovled in canning.

For personal use, the plants would provide too many tomatoes at once, unless your intention is to give them away to family and friends. Bush tomatoes are best staked or grown in tomato cages.

INDETERMINATE plants are of the vine variety.

Clusters of tomatoes grow along the stem and will produce throughout the season.

Constant tomato production in various volumes is possible with this type tomato plant.

The down side of the indeterminate is the support system and up keep. A taller more supportive structure than used on the bush tomatoes is required.

Certain varieties in favorable conditions can grow to unimaginable sizes. A perfect example is the Beefmaster Project

Last on the list of choosing tomato plants for the garden, is Growing the plants.

If the variety of choice is in a pot at your local garden center, great!

Get the information you need for continuing in the "planting" section.

Seeds are the alternative. Growing tomatoes from seed is a pretty easy task.

All that is needed are some inexpensive pots (try using plastic cups), some seeding soil, seeds and a little time.

Buying packs of seeds and planting directly in the ground is a method used by some gardeners with good results. It is preferred to start with a seedling first to insure that good healthy plants make it to the garden.

Seeds of tomatoes from a great crop last year are even better.

But knowing if they were hybrid tomatoes is very important.

Don't undertake a de-hybridization garden adventure that won't guarantee a tomato the same as the parent.

If the variety is an heirloom, use the seeds of a healthy tomato from the strongest plant. Here's how to prepare the seeds.

Taking seeds from a tomato is a little more involved than opening a pack of seeds.

The gel sacks have to be seperated from the seeds.

Placing the seeds, including gel sacks, into a container with a little water if necessary (dry tomatoes), cover and allow to ferment, stirring once a day for about three or four days.

Pour off the liquid, seperate and dry the seeds in open air on a paper plate. Save the dried tomato seeds in small paper envelopes and store in a cool dry place.

Got an idea of which tomato plants will be best for the garden?

Before planting them get the dirt on the right soil to make Tomatoes grow.

Best soil for the best Tomatoes

Planting the tomato plants is next.

Planting Tomatoes

Want to start a garden? This Heirloom Tomato based Garden will demonstrate step by step landscaping and gardening information in our Victory Garden Project Series

Looking for great tomato Recipes? Check the Everything Tomatoes Recipe List