Illustrated Guide to Growing Tomatoes


There's no doubt about it, vine-ripened tomatoes are one of the best reasons to garden. Whether added to a salad or garnished with basil, nothing beats the taste of a succulent tomato ripened to perfection in a home garden. Another advantage of homegrown tomatoes is the unusual cultivars that gardeners can choose from. Plus, you only need a little space to grow an assortment of different tomatoes for special uses -cherry tomatoes are perfect for salads, big slicers are great for sandwiches, and firm-fleshed paste tomatoes are ideal for canning, and freezing.

Choosing the Right Variety

There are hundreds of tomato varieties. From marble-sized cherry tomatoes to juicy salad tomatoes, paste tomatoes, and huge, sweet, beefsteak tomatoes. Illustration courtesy James Keon

When you start considering which tomatoes to grow, you'll find two different types of growth habits - determinate and indeterminate - and three different major fruit types - cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, and paste tomatoes. Disease resistance is another very important consideration. To choose the best tomato for your garden, grow and taste a variety of cultivars. Even if your garden is small try growing at least three different cultivars each year, and make one of them a cultivar you've never grown before.

Determinate tomatoes tend to flower and set fruit all at once and then decline. Many modern cultivars listed as determinate blur the distinction between the types, though, because they produce all the season. Cultivars described as strongly determinate usually are compact plants that require no pruning and minimal staking. So-called vigorous determinates need substantial staking or trellising to hold up the heavy tomatoes they produce. If you prune them back after the first heavy crops of fruit ripen, they will frequently bear a nice fall crop.

Caitlin Moynihan's Garden
2/28/2021 11:39:25 AM

Wow, detailed information. Just what I was looking for!

Gordon Savage
2/26/2021 2:02:13 AM

I wanted to start growing tomatoes in my backyard and knew mother earth news would never fail, but this is more than I expected. Thank you mother earth news for providing gorgeous information!

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