I’ve had several people ask me what types of tomatoes I think are best to plant. There are several factors that you have to take into account when choosing the best type of tomato to plant. First you need to choose a type that grows well in the area you live. The best way to find out what grows best in your area is to ask other gardeners what’s worked for them. Just from experience, I’m guessing you’ll probably get a lot of different answers which could become a little confusing. Things like soil type, sunny or shady location, and growing conditions that change from year to year can vary a lot, even for gardeners that are all in the same area. What I suggest is to make a list of all types recommended and then do some research. You’ll want to think about what you plan to use the tomatoes for, whether it’s canning and making sauces or slicing them for salads and sandwiches, different types of tomatoes vary on how they’re best used. Once you figure out what you plan to do with them, choose the types that best fit your needs from the varieties that do best in your area.
Over the years I’ve always grown a small garden, with the intent to just provide fresh produce through the summer. It wasn’t until we decided to start homesteading and grow enough to preserve through the winter that I really started to pay attention to varieties of tomatoes and their uses. In fact, I didn’t even realize that different types of tomatoes do better in different areas until after the growing season of my first large garden, about 4 years ago. That year I bought several different types of heirloom tomato seeds and planned on just using those varieties. Once I got the seedlings going, I got to wondering if they would do good or not, and decided to buy some Early Girl tomato plants as back up. Then I got to thinking, what if the heirlooms don’t do well at all… so I went and got more Early Girls, just to be on the safe side. I wanted to be sure that I had enough tomatoes that I could at least make a little sauce and salsa. Then, while visiting with mom, I asked her if she thought I’d have enough tomatoes if my heirlooms ended up not producing very well. We both agreed we might need a few more… just to be on the safe side. So she went and got more Early Girls plus a few other varieties that she’s had good luck with…. and that’s how we ended up with 70-some plants that year. Luckily though, I’m glad I did wonder and second guess myself because the heirlooms didn’t produce a lot but the Early Girls sure made up for it.
After that experience I decided that from then on, the majority of what I would plant would be varieties that I’ve had good results with. In my opinion, a good rule to follow is to decide how many tomatoes to plant, then plant about ¾ to varieties that you’ve had good experience with and ¼ to new varieties that you’d like to try. Here are the types I have planted this year…
Early Girl This tomato is one of my favorites, mostly just because it’s reliable; it sets on early and produces consistently until frost. It’s an indeterminate tomato, which means it continues to grow and produce tomatoes along the stems throughout the season, so it can grow to be at least 5 ft or more. Early Girls produce a medium sized tomato, perfect for slicing and adding to salads and sandwiches. It’s one of my favorites to use for canning, all the fruits are uniform size which makes it easier to core and half for processing. I planted 12 of these.
Celebrity I discovered this type last year when I was looking for six packs of Early Girls. At the time, only single packs of Early Girls were available, so I was pondering what to do because buying them singly was a lot more expensive than in the six packs. Someone suggested I try the Celebrity because it had been one that did well the previous year. They said that if I tried it, they bet it would become one of my new favorites. I was skeptical, but decided to give them a try. I’m glad I did because they produced great, and were meatier and more flavorful than the Early Girl. Celebrities are semi-determinate, which means they won’t grow as large as indeterminate, but will grow larger than determinate tomatoes. A determinate tomato will stay smaller and bushy, grow one main crop of fruit that ripens all at once, and then will die off. Celebrities grow fruit that’s larger than the Early girl does, and will produce a main crop that ripens at once, but then will also continue to produce until frost. I really like the Celebrity but still favor the Early Girl because they produce more consistently. I have 12 of these planted.
Champion This is one of my mom’s favorites and is another early variety that produces well. Like the Early Girl, it’s indeterminate and will keep growing and producing until frost. I have 12 of this variety planted.
Sungold This variety produces small, yellow cherry tomatoes that are some of the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. It’s one of the kids’ favorites, they love going to the garden to get a handful to snack on. I like adding them to salads or throwing them in stir fry. This is an indeterminate tomato, produces early and continues until frost. We had one year before last that went crazy producing tomatoes; it grew huge and there were so many tomatoes on it that we couldn’t keep up with picking them all. I planted two of them, which is probably one too many. 😕
- Mortgage Lifter This is an interesting one that I’ve never tried before. It’s an heirloom variety that was developed by cross pollinating several types of tomatoes by a man who then sold the seedlings and was able to then pay off his mortgage. Hence, how it got its name. You can read more about the interesting story in this link, Mortgage Lifter Tomato Story. My mom discovered this type and we thought the story behind it was neat, and the tomatoes sounds like they will be good, so we decided to try some. We got 4 of them, but it sure was tempting to get a few more.
We have 44 plants altogether, which is a few more than I had originally planned on planting. I would eventually like to grow more heirloom varieties, but for now I’m happy sticking with the easier, less risky varieties until I have time to learn more about other varieties.
Are you planting tomatoes this year? If so, what are your favorite varieties?