Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tomato Varieties

Seedlings I've started in the house are doing well so far. Nothing looks too leggy and I haven't seen any critters on them yet (some years there is a whitefly problem). The tomatoes are taller than everything else, but that is normal.

Someone asked me this week what tomato varieties I grow. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t simple, because I grow some different varieties every year. However, I do grow Rutgers and/or Better Boy (usually both) every year alongside other varieties because I know they will do well in my yard, regardless of the weather.

They are both disease resistant and productive, and should be equally successful in other gardens in this area. I can’t say how they would do in other parts of the country, though, in different climate and soil conditions and with different disease pressures.

Anyone in this area (North Georgia) who is new to gardening and planning to buy just a few plants to get started should look for varieties that are disease resistant. Those will have the letters “VFN” and possibly more letters and numbers somewhere on the label. The VFN tag is very important, because the problems they stand for (Verticillium Wilt, Fusarium Wilt, and Root Knot Nematode) are commonly present in soils across the whole region. Using disease resistant plants improves the odds of garden success.

I have grown a lot of different varieties over the years, almost all starting from seed, with varied results. Here’s the list:

Brandywine—the tomato that so many people love, dies in my yard.
Mr. Stripey—dies in my yard.
Glacier—dies in my yard.
Dad’s Sunset—dies in my yard.
Riesentraube—survived in my yard the one year I grew it, but the tomatoes tasted like sugar water (I won’t grow it again).
Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter “VFN”—did well in the drought years, but keeled over, from Verticillium Wilt I think, in last year’s spring deluge (I won’t grow it again).
Heatwave—I planted this one year as part of the later batch that goes in where and when the onions and garlic come out. The Rutgers that I planted at the same time were more productive and tasted a LOT better (I won’t grow it again).
Rutgers—the determinate, meaty canning tomato that I plant almost every year; it is productive and tasty, but most of the tomatoes come at once, so it needs to be accompanied by a longer-producing indeterminate type to make sure tomatoes keep coming in all season.
Roma—widely available paste-type tomato that does well in my yard; I’ve grown it in many different years, but last year replaced it with another paste variety.
Wuhib—paste variety that I grew for the first time last year. It did well in the crazy rains, and I will be growing it again this year. More productive than Roma.
Cherokee Purple—I grew this for the first time last year; it produced well in the crazy rains and was incredibly flavorful. I am growing it again this year. Indeterminate type.
Amish—I grew this for the first time last year. It was not especially productive, but it survived in my yard, the fruits were attractive (yellow with pink swirls), and the flavor was incredible. I am growing it again this year. Indeterminate type.
Gardener’s Delight—a cherry type. This lived in my yard, but the tomatoes all cracked before they were fully ripe (I won’t grow it again).
Sweet 100 and its even more productive relatives—cherry type that has done well in my yard in many different years. Productive and tasty.
Better Boy—widely available indeterminate big tomato that has done well in my yard in many different years. I usually just buy one or two of these at a store instead of growing my own from seed.
Costoluto Genovese—the first few years I grew these, they were from one seed packet from a source that went out of business before I could order more, but I had loved these tomatoes. A few years later, I ordered some from another source, but they were not the same; the fruits were less flattened, less lobed and less tasty. I am trying again this year, with seed from a different source. Indeterminate.
Arkansas Traveler—pink tomato that does well in my yard. Indeterminate. I will be growing this again, but not this year.
Winter Red Hybrid (Burpee)—a long-keeper type that I usually plant in late June. Does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and performs well in my yard. However, this year I am trying a different (non-hybrid) long-keeper called ‘Yellow Out, Red In. ‘
Matt’s Wild Cherry—cherry type that produces a whole lot of very small red tomatoes on a very indeterminate plant; the branches reach about ten feet long by the end of the summer, so it isn’t the ideal plant for a small space, but the flavor of the little fruits is excellent.
Yellow Marble—cherry type that I tried for the first time last year (the seed packet was given to me for free); the fruits were too tart, but the plant was in a container, which could have affected the flavor, so this year I am going to put one in the ground to see how it does, both in terms of survival and flavor.

I’ve probably grown more varieties than are on this list, but these are the varieties for which I have records.

Other varieties grown with great success by friends in this area: Early Girl, Celebrity, and Park’s Whopper.

Tomatoes I am growing this year: Rutgers, Cherokee Purple, Amish, Costoluto Genovese, Chinese, Yellow Marble, Olivette (cherry type), and Yellow Out Red In.

If there is space left after these are planted, I will add one or two Better Boy plants.


  1. Great idea on the rating of tomatoes, and a good future reference for you. Think I may do the same! Love the "dies in my yard" review, we can call it "DIMY" abbreviation added to the variety on the tag, LOL!

  2. We could add "WGIA" for "won't grow it again," but you're right, the DIMY would work for lots of people. What's interesting to me is that what dies in my yard lives in the yards of other people, but most of those yards are not in NW Georgia!

  3. We're in Floyd County, GA and last year I had really good luck with Abraham Lincolns that I got at the farmers' market from a local couple who were selling extras that they had started. The Lincolns produced really well and the fruit was absolutely delicious. So I'm hoping to get more this year and also hopefully will be able to figure out something to keep the birds away from them.

    The Early Girls I bought didn't do well at all.

    Our back yard is in full sun until quite late in the day so it gets really hot. That could be why the Early Girls didn't do as well as the Lincolns.

  4. Supermom,

    Abraham Lincoln sounds like a good variety to try in my yard! I will add it to my list.

    I have never grown Early girl, but the people I know who do grow it use it to get the earliest possible tomatoes. It seems likely that these people have gardens that aren't in the full, blazing sun. Thanks for letting us all know that it didn't do well in your yard!

    Hope your gardening is going well.

    -Amy, NW of Atlanta


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