Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Sure-Fire Tomatoes

by Charlie Nardozzi

By a large margin, more gardeners grow tomatoes than any other home garden vegetable. And why not? After you've tasted the sweet, juicy flavor of a fresh, home-grown, sun-warmed tomato, you'll never be satisfied with the store-bought alternative again.

While tomato plants can be prolific, they can also be impacted by weather, and they can attract diseases, insects, and even critters — I've watched squirrels steal cherry tomatoes! The first step to a successful harvest is to grow reliable varieties that are adapted to your area and offer disease resistance. While regional varieties exist and are fun to grow, most hybrid varieties have been trialed across the country and are the best choice for a beginning gardener or someone looking for a tried-and-true tomato.

Here are some outstanding varieties that should grow reliably anywhere in the country, and suggestions on how to get them off to a good start.

Most Reliable Tomato Varieties

Tomato fruits can be small or large, round or oblong, hybrid or nonhybrid, and they come in almost every color of the rainbow except blue! There are literally hundreds to choose from. The days to maturity are from transplanting into the garden to harvest. Indeterminate plants grow vigorously and need staking or caging. Strong determinate plants also need support, but don't grow as large. All the varieties mentioned below are hybrid.

'Better Boy' (75 days) — This strong indeterminate tomato is a productive, disease-resistant variety that produces 1-pound red fruits.

'Big Beef' (73 days) — An All-American Selections variety, 'Big Beef' produces uniform 10- to 12-ounce red fruits that have an heirloom quality. The indeterminate plants have good disease resistance.

'Celebration' (72 days) — This determinate tomato produces uniform 8-ounce, oblate-shaped red fruits.

'Jetsetter' (64 days) — An early, indeterminate, and highly disease-resistant variety, 'Jetsetter' produces 8-ounce smooth, juicy, red fruits.

'Lemon Boy' (72 days) — This large, indeterminate, disease-resistant tomato produces mild-flavored 6- to 7-ounce fruits with unique lemon-yellow skin and flesh.

'Red Brandymaster' (80 days) — This hybrid cousin of the popular 'Brandywine' heirloom offers the same great looks and taste as the older variety, but has better production and more disease resistance. It produces 1-pound red fruits on potato-leaved vines.

'Small Fry' (65 days) — A strong determinate red cherry tomato, this variety has great disease and nematode resistance. The fruits weigh less than 1 ounce.

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