Tomatoes Tomatoes Tomatoes

If you hadn’t guessed already, this post is about tomatoes. More specifically, all of the tomatoes I will be growing in 2015. Every year I go through the same thing: I pick out a million tomatoes I want to grow (because I just want to grow all of the tomatoes), then realize I have a small yard which cannot accommodate growing that many tomatoes, so I cut the list back to something I believe is manageable, start the “manageable” amount of tomatoes in the house, then panic when planting time comes because I have 35 tomato plants and only room to comfortably grow 20. Same story every year – you think I would learn. But somehow I always manage to find places to put the tomatoes – sometimes not ideal places, but I’ve somehow seemed to make it work.


So I wrote previously about the seeds that I ordered around the beginning of January. All of those seeds have now arrived and I’m excited to get them started in the upcoming weeks and months. But I do have several other seeds that were already in my collection that I’ve added to the big list, so I thought I would go over everything in a bit more detail.

I’ve tried to limit the number (not very successfully) of indeterminate tomatoes that I grow just because they take up quite a bit of growing space. Indeterminate tomatoes generally do not produce all of their fruit at once and always need to be staked and supported so the plants do not fall over from the weight of the fruit. They are best planted with lots of space between the plants, but I do not always follow this rule. I’m sure my indeterminates would produce better if I gave them the space they truly deserve, but I seem to do alright with them regardless. They also appreciate a bit of a pruning throughout the season, although again, I don’t do much pruning on my tomatoes because I’m kind of lazy and neglectful. I usually give them a little pruning near the end of the season so the sun can reach the fruits and help them ripen a bit on the vines. The other reason I’m a bit hesitant to planting more indeterminates is that since our season is significantly shorter than many (US zone 3), most of the tomatoes are brought indoors to ripen. It’s good because I can enjoy fresh tomatoes garden until almost December but it kind of sucks not to be able to eat the majority of them sun ripened and straight from the vine.

Here are the indeterminates I will be growing this year:
Blue Gold Berries – I have not grown this one yet, but last year was my first year successfully growing a blue variety tomato and now I am obsessed (the taste it unlike any other tomato). Plus I’d never seen a blue/yellow variety so of course I was all over this.
Purple Bumble Bee – I have not grown this but I buy similar looking tomatoes at the farmer’s market during the winter and I really enjoy them. This one was described as ideal for farmer’s market sellers, so I’m pretty confident it will be exactly what I think it is.
Pink Bumble Bee – I grew this one last year (you can read about it here) and was a bit torn on whether I should grow it again or not, but I’ve decided to give it another chance in hopes that I’ll like it more this year.
Sunrise Bumble Bee – I guess I was attracted to the Bumble Bee varieties this year!
Blue Beauty – This is one of the prettiest tomatoes I’ve ever seen and I’m hoping it will be similar in taste to the indigo rose. I usually don’t bother with the larger variety tomatoes since they require such a long growing season (and I’ve never had one ripen on the vine) but I really couldn’t resist with this one.
Green Grape – I grew this one last year and loved it (you can read about it here), so I’m interested to see if it will be as successful this year.
Chocolate Cherry – This would be my second year growing this one as well (you can read about it here). It is fairly similar in look and taste as the black cherry but I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to grow so I just put them both on the list.
Blondkopfchen – This was one of my favorites last year (you can read about it here) – it produced teeny tiny yellow tomatoes that were really tasty and a lot of them did ripen on the vines outside. I also like the name because it is fun to say.
Blue Berries – I tried to grow this last year but squirrels murdered the plant when it was just a baby, so I’m giving it another go. Are blue tomatoes the new green tomatoes for me? Perhaps.
Pink Pear – This was another that was murdered by the squirrels last spring so I’ll try it again this year. I’ve got to start devising a plan for those wire domes I was going to construct in order to keep the squirrels away from my little seedlings.
Indigo Rose – This was hands down one of my favorites from last year (you can read about it here). This one seems to be more of a semi-determinate as the plant doesn’t get overly big, but still larger than a determinate (I think my plant last year was between 3-4 feet tall). The tomatoes took forever to ripen though which was the only downside. Another thing I loved about this tomato is that the leaves were a beautiful blue/green so it made for an overall stunning plant.
Black Cherry – I’ve grown black cherry for quite a number of years now and it is always really good. I do get a few tomatoes every year that ripen on the vines outdoors.
Green Zebra – This is another that I’ve grown consistently for a few years and is the tomato that got me totally hooked on green varieties. The plant is very disease resistant and produces lots of fruit.

I’m trying all new determinate varieties this year. Determinates are pretty ideal for people with not a lot of growing space or for people who container garden. They generally do not need to be staked or supported as the plants only grow around 2 feet tall, if that. Determinates usually produce all of their fruit at the same time as well. I like determinates because they always seem to start producing ripe fruit sometimes months before any of the indeterminate varieties. I usually end up throwing basil seeds in the bottom of the determinate pots in order to maximize space, but also because basil and tomatoes have a bit of a romance going on.

This year I’ll be growing these determinate varieties:
Gold Nugget – I’ve grown this before and I will admit that I am not overly crazy about it, but my husband really likes them. The good thing about them is that they are one of the earliest producers so I will not complain too much.
Koralik – I have not grown this variety but it was recommended somewhere (I can’t remember where).
Golden Bison – I think this one was also recommended to me – I’ve been on the hunt for a determinate yellow that I will really enjoy so the pressure is really on for this one to perform well.

I have started growing a number of tumbling and dwarf varieties the last couple of years – these are both a type of determinate tomatoes but I figured I would separate them as I like to consider them under their own categories. These tomatoes are pretty much ideal for me because I can put them almost anywhere and they will perform well. A few years ago I was watching the best cooking show ever (Jamie At Home) and he was talking about growing these cherry tomatoes in old spaghetti sauce cans. At the time I thought it was BS because the cans were fairly small and there was no way I thought a tomato plant would thrive in those conditions. But what I didn’t realize at the time is that he was actually growing dwarf varieties. Silly me. Last year was my first year growing a dwarf variety (Red Robin) and I actually ended up putting multiple plants in to a 12″ terra cotta pot (of course with basil seeds sprinkled in the bottom of the pot) and the plants thrived. I’m going to experiment with some smaller pots this year – I’ll just need to be diligent about watering them really well daily. With tumbling varieties I kind of do the same thing except I stick them in with other determinates (I’ve been known to grow up to 3 tumbling tomatoes in a large planter with another determinate and basil – crazy, I know!). Tumbling varieties are ideal for hanging baskets or trailing over the edge of a pot. If you are going to stick them in a pot with other tomatoes, just ensure that the pot is heavy and sturdy enough to hold the weight – I learned the hard way last year when we had a heavy windstorm that blew some pots that may have been a bit top heavy right off the deck.

Tumbling varieties I will be growing this year:
Tumbler – I’ve grown this one for about 4 years. It is the earliest tomato to produce fruit in my garden.
Ditmarsher – This one is new-to-me this year and I first read about it on You Grow Girl.
Pearly Pink Orange – I’ve also never grown this but found it on my search for tumbling varieties. It is actually supposed to be just pink, so who knows where the orange came from, but I guess I will find out for myself.

Dwarf varieties I will be growing this year:
Red Robin – This plant produced so many fruit last year for such a little plant.
Adrina – I found this one when searching for dwarf tomatoes so growing it will be a total experiment.
Hahm Gelbe – Another one I read about on You Grow Girl as well as heard about on her podcast. I’ve been on the search for seeds for a couple of years and was very excited to finally get a hold of some. – Lime Green Salad – Again, one I first read about on You Grow Girl and I’m most excited for the crinkled leaves.
Yellow Pygmy – I will admit that I chose this one based on the name and if it turns out to be a good tomato it will be a total plus.

So that’s the tomato list for this year. I’m unbelievably excited for the growing season this year and hopefully I’ll have lots of good things to report back on these tomatoes. And I’m also curious to see how I can tetris all of these plants in to my small garden! Are you trying any new varieties this year? I’d love to hear about them!

Tomato seed sources (I am not associated with or compensated by these companies, I just love and support the work that they do in preserving rare and heirloom seeds): Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Tatiana’s Tomatobase, Heritage Harvest Seed, Seed Savers Exchange, West Coast Seeds, Urban Harvest

2014 Tomatoes Part One

If I were ever told that I had to choose only one plant to grow in my garden, I would choose tomatoes. And if there is any plant that I have a weakness for when it comes to new-to-me varieties, it is tomatoes (although peppers are now at a close second place). In the dead of winter when all I can do is sit wrapped in a wool blanket staring endlessly at my snow covered yard in a deep depression (I’m exaggerating a bit), I turn to the seed catalogs and websites and try to find ways of justifying tomato seed purchases. I know I don’t need any more seeds. I have more seeds than I could ever really grow in this space. But still, the excitement of trying a new variety outweighs rationality and I end up buying more seeds.

I remember sitting down at my kitchen table this last winter and laying out all the tomato seed packets. I currently have around 30 varieties, which by some hardcore tomato-loving gardeners is peanuts in comparison to their stashes. But for me, that’s overkill. Is it going to stop me from buying more seeds this next winter? Probably not. Regardless, I sat at my kitchen table in front of the seeds and realized I was going to need to make some hard decisions. Either, I cut back on the amount of non-tomato things that I grow in order to have more tomato growing space or I cut back on the tomatoes. I went with the latter. I decided to pull out all of the determinate varieties. In other words, varieties that are pretty compact, stop growing at a certain point, and that will ripen pretty much all of their fruit around the same time. Determinate tomatoes are excellent candidates for growing in pots because of their size restrictions and the fact that they rarely need staking. I have a lot of pots and they are easy to kind of stick wherever, so I started one plant of each of my determinate varieties. Easy. Same with the tumbling and dwarf varieties – they are even more compact and I’ve gotten away with planting multiples in the same pot or even sticking some tumbling into hanging baskets with other plants. Easy. Then came the indeterminate varieties – those which require staking and often grow very tall and unruly. They can even benefit from multiple prunings throughout the season. Indeterminate tomatoes can be planted in large pots, but in my experience it is easier to plant them in the ground or a raised bed because of how big they can (and will) grow. So when it came to my indeterminate hoard, I had to make some decisions. I based my choices on a few factors: I wanted to plant each of the brand new varieties I’d purchased and I wanted to plant varieties that I grown before and had good success with. If there was something that I’d successfully grown from seed in the past but it hadn’t produced well or that had something-to-be-desired taste results, it did not make the cut. I also wanted to ensure that I was planting one color of each tomato that I had (I am a sucker for colorful tomatoes!). I started 26 tomato plants indoors (some were multiples of the tumbling and dwarf varieties I mentioned above), but I did lose a few plants to squirrels in the early spring. So altogether I ended up with 16 plants (it was a really bad spring for squirrels).

So that brings me to Part I of my tomato posts. The first three tomatoes that I will be featuring are all indeterminate cherry varieties: Pink Bumble Bee, Green Grape and Black Cherry.


Left to right: Pink Bumble Bee, Black Cherry, Green Grape


Black Cherry

This was my fourth year growing this variety. I would be surprised if there was a year I did not grow Black Cherry – I have always had good results with this variety and Black Cherry is always a vigorous producer and the first of my indeterminate varieties to ripen. The tomatoes themselves are a darkish red/purple, transforming into a darker shade around the stem. I would describe the taste and texture as almost the perfect cherry. The flavor is a mild sweetness with very little acidity. I don’t think I need to say it, but I will grow this again – still a winner.


Pink Bumble Bee

This is a new-to-me variety this year. I chose this variety because I didn’t have a pink tomato and I also love striped varieties. The plant wasn’t a prolific producer (it wasn’t terrible, just not good), but the plant did remain healthy throughout the whole growing season. The striping is a bit hard to notice unless you really look at it and was most evident in the larger tomatoes – it is more of a reddish/pink with orange striping, although distinguishable from Tigerella, which is a different red/orange striped tomato that I have grown in the past. Although none of the tomatoes had an opportunity to ripen on the vines, they were one of the earlier tomatoes to ripen indoors. The taste was good – sweet but with a slight acidity. The texture was okay – not unpleasant but not nearly as nice as Black Cherry. As far as a pink tomato goes, it wasn’t really very pink so next year I might try another true pink variety. I’m a bit torn if I’ll grow this variety again – it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t amazing.


Green Grape

Another new-to-me variety this year. I have only grown one other green tomato variety and I really love it (Green Zebra – but I recently learned this variety was bred by the same fellow who bred the Green Zebra). The tomatoes ripen to a bright, almost neon yellow color with some bright green shading around the stem and you’ll know they are ready when the fruit has a little give when lightly squeezed. The first year I grew a green tomato variety I was very confused as to ripening time, but now I can usually tell just looking at it. This plant produced about as well as the Pink Bumble Bee but did stay healthy throughout the season. Similar to the Pink Bumble Bee, these did not have an opportunity to ripen on the vines but they did ripen inside quickly. I would describe the taste as mild, not very acidic, and with a simple sweetness. The texture was similar to the pleasant texture of Black Cherry. I really liked this tomato and I will definitely grow it again.

That brings my first tomato post to a wrap. I would love to hear about some of the tomatoes that you grow – whether it was a new variety or one that you’ve grown year after year. Let’s talk tomatoes!

Green Grape and Pink Bumble Bee seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Black Cherry seeds from Urban Harvest (although unavailable at this time, but available from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds here).