It’s that time of year again -- time to plant those summer starts! Each plant has it’s fans, most notably roses, peonies and other such traditional blooms. We are incredibly fortunate to have a dynamic event for the tomato lovers in all of us -- Tomatomania®. It’s located at Cornerstone Sonoma and is THE place to go!
Which variety is right for you and how to plant them so you get the most from each plant? There are some tried and true faming tips and proven tips I use in my own garden:
The amount of space you have to grow your tomatoes will help to decide the varieties you want to plant. Additionally, the way you want to harvest, all summer long or all at once?
Tomatoes are incredibly resilient as long as they get enough light and heat. They can be planted in the ground or in pots on your deck. I have personally grown over 35 different varieties in 15 gallon pots and they all do well.
Dwarf varieties stay very compact reaching only 2’ tall and have a more manicured appearance. This is great for small spaces and pots. Determinant varieties are great for container gardens they only grow 2-4’ tall and produce all of their fruit at once. This allows for a single harvest and more compact form. Indeterminant varieties are my favorite because they keep growing until first frost creating vines up to 10-12’ long. It also spaces the harvest over a longer time.
It is possible to grow tomatoes without any support; the harvesting is more difficult and they will take more lateral space.
The vines can be trained vertically up a fence. As you can see in the photo here, my home garden turned into a jungle last year. The indeterminant varieties were dwarfed only by the titan sunflowers that reached 12’ tall.
If you have rows, this tip we found from commercial farmers was great, called Florida Weave. Check out this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vT0aGhOtgYU) to see it in action. The advantage of this method is it allows support but also at the end of the year the natural fiber twine and plants can go in your compost bin. The less plastic the better.
Metal stands, are these great and come in many different sizes and shapes. They allow for the plant to grow up and be supported in three dimensions. We use a combination of both for our home espaliers.
Fruits of Your Labor
Just like with wine preferences, we all have different palettes and like different flavors. Selecting the right varieties for your garden is personal.
At Tomatomania® this weekend, a large banner displayed 462 different varieties of tomatoes on it. Each person walking up tried to find their favorite tomato. Surprisingly no two person had the same tomatoes.
Here’s a few of my tried and true for the Sonoma Area:
Cherry Tomatoes – small bunches of fruit.
Spoon – Pictured here this little currant sized tomato packs a lot of flavor and is quick to ripen with it’s small size. I plant this every year now.
Black Cherry – Cherry tomatoes are great for their sweetness. This earthy and purple tomato is my favorite. Although second in line is the Snow White which has a light apricot flavor.
Paste Tomatoes - more meat and less water
Amish Paste – These are just amazing, the flavor, texture and size were perfect for everything from Salsa to Tomato Paste. This variety was bred specifically for this purpose and it shows.
San Marazano which is an Italian variety that has gained popularity. This has a rich complex flavor and is used in chili because it can stand its own with all those spices.
Pears and Hearts – Shape also maters
Japanese Black Truffle – This is one of my favorite to dry; the flavor is refined and they are easy to slice for the drying racks. Fresh they are just as delicious and I will always plant these.
Hungarian Heart, these are the perfect balance between the dense meaty paste tomatoes and the big watery slicers. The flavor is still strong but there’s a juicy factor you can’t resist for a BLT.
Slicers and Dicers – Those big beautiful heirlooms
Pineapple – This is one of our all-time favorites; the color, flavor and production is just amazing. Last year we had a couple 1lb fruit off our plant.
Blacksea Man – Delicious, the green center and black exterior is just amazing. The flavor is fresh, sweet and earthy.