Tomatoes! We are planning for a very saucy summer

I love eating tomatoes, growing tomatoes and cooking with tomatoes. There is no better taste, than a tomato from the garden that had an opportunity to ripen under the warm summer sun. In fact, I consider myself to be a tomato snob enough to not buy grocery store tomatoes. We grow enough to indulge during the growing season and also can to enjoy later in the cold months. So needless to say, by this time of the year, I am planning like crazy.

Last year, Paul and I turned our upper (zone two) garden space into a tomato forest. We wanted to optimize our production to avoid buying boxes of tomatoes for processing. We worked our butts off and planted 30 tomato plants. We spent months caring for them, pruning off all unnecessary leaves or weak suckers, watering them and of course, hoping that the frost or blight or whatever it would be that season, would stay away from our plants. We were successful! Tomato virgin soil with bunny manure and plenty of mulch did the garden good! We produced and weighed 180 pounds of red beautiful fruit! This of course is not counting all the tomatoes that did not make it out of the garden (it’s hard to resist). We exceeded our goal and were very pleased with our harvest. Stocking the pantry with tomato sauce from homegrown tomatoes was an incredible accomplishment.

Rotating gardens on a small plot is difficult. Part of planning is to avoid growing the same vegetable/fruit in the same soil. Its recommended that two years are given for soil rotation. In our gardens, that is impossible, since we pretty much rotate between two gardens. Heavy fertilizing, mulching and disease prevention are keys for success in a small garden.

We hope to recreate the tomato forest this year as well. We got some new varieties of tomatoes and are so excited to get the party started. I usually plant a ridiculous amount of starts, beginning in February (for us and to share with our family and friends at our annual open house). It is so much work-planting seed blocks, watering, transferring to pots, hardening them off in a heated greenhouse–but I love every step of the way. Paul and I spend the best quality time together while moving the seed blocks into pots.

Here are some of the varieties we plan to plant this year.

Indeterminate vs. determinant tomatoes

Determinant tomatoes are genetically programed to have limit on growth, flowering and fruit production. These tomatoes tend to fruit at once and are ideal for small and container gardens.

Indeterminate tomatoes continue to flower, produce fruit thought the season, tend to be bigger plants and require a bit more effort to maintain (prunning/steaking).

The Spruce provides a good bullet point list comparing the two types of tomato plants

Determinate: 

  • Smaller plant with controlled growth
  • Fruit ripens fairly early in the season
  • Produces a lot of fruit at once; ideal for mass canning
  • Plants usually die by midsummer, freeing space for other plants
  • Requires little staking or caging
  • Excellent for containers
  • Can be integrated into flower beds

Indeterminate: 

  • Large plants with sprawling growth
  • Fruit continues to ripen early to late in the season
  • Fruit continues to produce up until frost
  • Plants require strong support
  • May work for large containers, but in-ground planting is better
  • Well suited for large, dedicated vegetable beds

We prefer to have a variety of tomatoes and stick with the indeterminate varieties as many are heirloom and colorful. We simply de-head the plant (cut off all flowers and main stalk) in August, to give the already formed tomatoes a change to ripen. This method really works for us.

Cherry tomato: we only get one variety a year since only one of our children will eat tomatoes and we prefer big tomatoes.

Gold Rush Currant: a beautiful cherry tomato with heavy trusses of 10-12 yellow round fruits that mature early. This plant is very vigorous. First and last to fruit. (This is an indeterminate tomato and fruits 75-80 days from transplant date.)

Slicing tomatoes: these are ideal for salads, sandwiches and just eating. These are my favorite varieties! We devour them as is, on sandwiches or in salads. A combination of all of these colorful varieties with freshly made mozzarella and basil from the garden drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar is not only beautiful but delicious.

Black Krim is a beautiful purple-red-black beefsteak tomato that is full of flavor. (70-90 days post transplant)

Whittemore Heirloom: considered (by Seed Savers Exchange staff) to be the best tasting tomato. We have yet to try it, but its beautiful large pink beefstake tomato. Hardy blemish free tomatoes are known to get up to 1 1/2-2lbs per tomato. (80-90 days post transplant)

Red Zebra: another first for us, we are big green zebra fans, so getting red zebra made total sense. Its unique beautiful stripes brighten up any dish and are known for a slight acidic-tart flavor. (75-80days post transplant)

Mortgage Lifter (Halladay’s): although a famous beefstake tomato, its a newbie on our homestead. It’s a Kentuky family heirloom since 1930. This tomato is try number 25 in production of the best 1-2lb pink and meaty beefstake tomato. (80-90 days post transplant)

Hillbilly Potato Leaf: honestly, chosen based on the name. Its a new one for us. Beautiful large orange-red-yellow tomato that are full of flavor and are known to be abundant producers. (85 days post transplant)

Green Zebra: fairly new variety produced in 1983 and has very sweet, zingy flavor. (75-80 days post transplant)

Brandywine: we haven’t grown this type of tomato in a few years. Its very prolific and dependable deep red tomato full of flavor. (80 days post transplant)

Sauce/Salsa/Cooking tomatoes: We generally grow 15 of such plants, however we plan to increase those numbers. My children can survive on pasta with meatballs.

Salvaterra’s Select: winner of 2017 tomato tasting in the paste division (I so want to be a part of a society that has tomato tasting contests). These tomatoes are known to have firm meaty texture, sweet tangy flavor and less seeds–all criteria for a perfect salsa or sauce tomato. (70-80 days post transplant)

Amish Paste: In my experience, this is hands down the best paste tomato ever. Large meaty tomatoes with few seeds shaped like a heart to a round plum. These roast very well and make phenomenal sauce! (85 days post transplant)

Federle: A new to us paste tomatoe. Very productive and flavorful average 7″ long paste tomatoes. Excellent for canning, pickling and salsa (they stay firm) (85 days post transplant)

Speckled Roman: another new tomato on the homestead. I chose this because its pretty and meaty and we make a lot of sauce. It’s known to be a very productive variety of 5″ plum red plum tomato with yellow speckles.

I am super excited to get these in the soil blocks in a few weeks. What tomato varieties are you planting and why?? We have a few favorite places for seeds. Seed Saver Exchange is one of them. They have an amazing selection and their seeds never disappoint. I highly recommend their seeds!

Currently, we are unable to post pictures in this blog 🙁 we are working on solving this issue. Please check out the FB page for images of all these beautiful tomatoes.

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