I grew six varieties of tomatoes this year. Here is my appraisal of their performance in my garden.
I usually plant indeterminate tomatoes. This type of tomato will continue to grow and produce fruit until frost (or disease) kills the plant. The other type, determinate tomatoes, produce many fruits over a few weeks, then stop. The trade-off between these two types is in how many tomatoes they produce vs. the amount of space they require. You can read more about this at gardenweb.
The biggest problem I’ve had with my tomatoes this year was blossom end rot, which you can read about in this fact sheet from Cornell University.
left to right: nectar, garden gem, garden treasure, speckled Roman, Corleone, and Polish linguisa tomatoes
In the photo above, I’ve placed the tomatoes in the order in which we were able to harvest ripe fruit from each variety. I tried to select representative examples, i.e. not the largest or best of each. You can see more examples of these tomatoes in photos in two earlier posts from this summer here and here.
‘Nectar’ is a cherry tomato. It is very sweet and it produces many fruit. The vines have grown up and out of their tomato cage, spreading across their neighbors. This variety hasn’t had any problems with disease and it is still producing fruit. Earlier, some fruits were damaged or removed by wildlife, similar to ‘garden gem’ (see below).
I had to obtain ‘garden gem’ seeds directly from the developer, Harry Klee; you can read about that in this post. The tomato in the photo is a little smaller than average for this variety. These produced heavily for about a month, then stopped; Prof. Klee says they are semi-determinate and should produce for five to six weeks. There are some green tomatoes on the plants now, so we should once again harvest ripe tomatoes in a week or so. This variety produced ripe fruit almost as quickly as the cherry tomatoes, they have good flavor, and there have been no disease problems. The only problem we had with this variety was that small animals or birds, probably chipmunks, were nibbling on the fruit earlier in the season.
‘Garden treasure’ seeds also came from Harry Klee. Some of the fruits were considerably larger than the one in the photo. They ripened fairly early for such a large tomato and they have the best flavor of all six varieties. They had a few problems with blossom end rot and cracking, but have been relatively trouble-free.
The last three varieties are all paste tomatoes. I grow these because they work equally well fresh or cooked and they won’t turn a sandwich into a dripping mess. The first is ‘speckled Roman’, which is more striped than speckled in my opinion but I like the effect. We lost a lot of fruit to blossom end rot this year. Flavor is typical for a paste tomato, i.e not a lot, and the plants have produced a moderate amount of fruit.
‘Corleone’ is probably the most expensive vegetable seed I’ve ever purchased; they cost about nine dollars for ten seeds. These plants also are growing out of their cage and over their neighbors. The fruits have thick skin and not a lot of flavor, but they also have had no problems and the plants are heavy producers.
The last variety to produce ripe tomatoes this year was ‘Polish linguisa’, not because they are such a late tomato but because all of the earliest tomatoes of this variety succumbed to blossom end rot, which hit them the worst. More recently, we’ve been harvesting a lot of large fruits. The flavor is quite good. This tomato is an heirloom variety, i.e. an open-pollinated variety (as opposed to a hybrid cross) that was developed many years ago. You can read more about this topic in Epic Tomatoes, a book I recommend in my Resources page.
Update: This fall, after I wrote this, a disease that I suspect is a form of blight infected all my tomato plants. This disease shows up every year. It starts on leaves at the bottom of the plants and works its way up. Extended rainfall seems to help it spread. It can damage fruits if it reaches them. I suspect the disease comes from the soil, so this year I added straw mulch around the tomato stems in addition to the garden fabric that I always use to try to keep dirt from splashing onto the plants. I don’t think this really helped. More information about blights can be found at the Tomato Dirt site.
This year, although the blight apparently infected all the plants, ‘speckled Roman’ and ‘Polish linguisa’ were the worst hit while ‘Corleone’, ‘garden gem’, and ‘garden treasure’ were the least affected.
We’ve now had three mornings when the temperature went below freezing. We covered the tomato, pepper, and eggplant the first two times that we had frost warnings, but around mid-October we decided to pick all the fruit and let the plants die when the predicted low was well below freezing. It was too cold, and the days are getting too short, for fruit to grow and ripen well. Many of the green tomatoes that we picked will ripen in the house, although they won’t taste as good as if they ripened on the plant.