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How To: Select a tomato type to plant

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the March 17 Sunday Gazette-Mail, we gave directions on how to prepare the soil for an in-ground or raised vegetable or flower garden. Now that gardeners have prepared their beds with the right soil and nutrients, here's a summary on how to select the tomato that works best for you.

The information comes from a recent workshop given by John Porter, agriculture and natural resources agent for WVU Extension Service.

With the passing of the April 20 frost date, Porter said, tomatoes now may be planted through early June.

Tomato transplants can be planted much deeper than most other plants -- 1 or 2 inches deeper than if they were growing in the pot.

Plants should be in a location that gets at least six hours of sunlight daily.

Mulch to keep down weeds, to conserve water and to keep the soil from splashing up on the plant -- the main defense against blight. Keep water off the plant's leaves, stem and fruit.

Plants should get the equivalent of one inch of natural rainfall a week with a deep watering once or twice a week.

Indeterminate plants

Indeterminate tomato plants grow continuously throughout the season, producing fruit as long as the plants are healthy. They work well in small spaces. As they grow taller, they can be staked. Plant indeterminate varieties 18 inches apart. Some of the most popular varieties are:

  • Beefsteak, a slicing tomato, takes 80 days to mature. Seeds can be saved for future planting.
  • Better Boy, also a slicer, takes 75 days to mature; is resistant to verticillium wilt (V), fusarium wilt (F) and nematodes (N). (Many catalogs and plant descriptions list a letter code for the common diseases and insects that can harm the plant; for instance, V for verticillium wilt.)
  • Brandywine, a slicer, 90 days to maturity.
  • Early Girl, a slicer, 75 days, resistance to verticillium and fusarium wilts.
  • Mortgage Lifter, a slicer, 80 days, seeds can be saved.
  • Mountain Magic, a slicer, 66 days, resistance to verticillium and fusarium wilts, alternaria leaf spot (A) and late blight.
  • WV 63, a slicer, 89 days, resistance to verticillium and fusarium wilts and to late blight. Seeds can be saved.
  • Red Pear, a pear-shaped small tomato that is good in salads and can be dried, 70 days.
  • Stupice, a pear or salad tomato, 60 days. Seeds may be saved for future planting.
  • Yellow Pear, 70 days. Seeds may be saved.
  • Amish Paste, a paste or canning tomato with a thick skin used for canning salsas and sauces, 80 days to maturity. Seeds may be saved.
  • Sungold, a cherry tomato, good for salads, 57 days, resistance to fusarium wilt and tobacco mosaic virus (T).
  • Super Sweet 100, cherry, 65 days, resistance to verticillium and fusarium wilts.
  • Sweet Million, cherry, 65 days, resistance to verticillium and fusarium wilts, nematodes, tobacco mosaic virus, and gray leaf spot (St).
  • Determinate plants

    Determinate tomatoes are shorter and bushier and require more garden space. They are easier to stake, but have a limited harvesting period. Plant them 2 feet a part.

  • Celebrity, a slicer, 72 days to maturity, resistant to verticillium and fusarium wilts, nematodes and tobacco mosaic virus.
  • Roma, a paste tomato, 75 days to maturity, resistant to verticillium and fusarium wilts and nematodes. Seeds can be saved for future planting.
  • Viva Italia, paste, 75 days to maturity, resistant to verticillium and fusarium wilts, nematodes and alternaria leaf spot.
  • Growing tips for tomatoes

    Mike Green Jr., of Green's Feed and Seed, was a bit reluctant to give tomato-growing tips, pointing out all the variables and adding, "Mother Nature has a sense of humor."

    When prodded, though, he gave a few tips:

  • Remember to put calcium in the hole when planting. For calcium, you can buy oyster shells or grit (both are chicken feed), or a commercial fertilizer of calcium nitrogen (not very much is needed).
  • If last year's tomato crop had a fungus, disinfect your wood or bamboo stakes.
  • Determinate tomatoes are more compact, thus easier to stake.
  • Fertilize the tomatoes early, before they blossom.
  • After the tomatoes bloom, don't fertilize unless they're severely lacking nutrients.
  • Pinch off the suckers.
  • Reach Rosalie Earle at earle@wvgazette.com or at 304-348-5115.


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