Plant Sale Tips
Choose the Right Tomato
How do you decide which tomato variety to buy with almost 80 one-of-a-kind heirloom and hybrid tomatoes to choose from? We’re here to help you!
First, you need to decide which varieties will thrive where you live, so we’ve included two site-specific lists: tomatoes that grow well in cooler climates and those that need lots of heat. Next, determine where your tomatoes will be grown. If you are planting in containers, we’ve highlighted some of the best choices for growing in pots.
Now to the fun part: what do you want out of a tomato plant? Our curated lists share some of the best traditional tomatoes choices, as well as unusual varieties for the avant-garde grower.
Ready to choose your tomatoes? Our complete lists of tomato varieties include detailed descriptions and are organized to make shopping easy. Choose from beefsteaks and slicers—perfect for sandwiches; paste tomatoes if your goal is homemade pasta sauce; and cherry tomatoes for a sweet snack or to toss in salads.
So many choices! For your convenience, we have a downloadable shopping list for you to bring to the sale.
For our Cooler Climes Buyers:
- Legend—blight-resistant, adapted to cooler climes, it will be the earliest-maturing slicers in your garden.
- Gold Nugget—developed at OSU – where else for cooler climes? These ¾” golden fruits will mature in only 56 (!) days, continue from early season ‘til frost and have a rich, sweet flavor.
- Black Sea Man—a hardy Russian heirloom that grows particularly well in cooler climes.
- Stupice—a very cold-tolerant, disease-resistant and early tomato with delicious, 3-4 oz. fruits in clusters.
For Hot and Dry Climate Buyers, here are some varieties that need lots of heat
- Box Car Willie—10-to-16 oz. tomatoes with a rich, sweet flavor with just a touch of acid for tanginess.
- Hawaiian Pineapple—the name says it all, these large, yellow, 1-pound tomatoes are sweet and fruity.
- Kellogg’s Breakfast—a classic beefsteak with large orange tomatoes weighing up to one pound.
- San Marzano—a prolific, classic pasta tomato with a long season with enormous, meaty fruits.
For our Buyers who grow in containers.
- Bush Champion II—a beefsteak developed by the Ball Seed Company for small spaces.
- Lizzano—ideal for hanging baskets and containers, a cherry with a non-stop harvest of 1” fruits, perfect for snacks and salads.
- Italian Roma Bush—the best small-space paste tomato around, producing enormous yields.
- Super Bush—bred specifically for small spaces, this beefsteak tomato still has a big, old-fashioned tomato flavor.
For Traditional Buyers, some of our most trusted and much-loved classics
- Bloody Butcher—with a name like that, you better be sensational—high-yielding, dark red and delicious!
- Brandywine Pink—an Amish Classic, some consider the best tasting tomato ever.
- Cherokee Purple—Pre-1890s’ heirloom with a delicious, old-timey flavor.
- Mortgage Lifter— the legendary large (1-2 pounds!), tasty beefsteak on very productive, disease-resistant plants.
- Sungold—positively luscious, apricot-orange cherries borne on beautiful, 15”-long trusses. Eye-candy that you can actually eat in your garden!
For Avant-Garde Buyers, here are some of our unusual varieties
- Chef’s Choice Orange—All American Selections Winner, low in acid with good flavor.
- Italian Red Pear—old Northern Italian stand-by. Huge (8-18 ounce), tasty fruits.
- Orange Paruche—a cherry with superb flavor, disease and crack-resistant and early, early to boot!
- Pink Boar—bred by Brad Gates, a gorgeous tomato with deep wine color and metallic striping.
- Pomodoro Canestrino di Lucca—direct from Italy, a classic pasta tomato that is also great in salads.
- Pink Tiger—showy pink cherry with yellow-orange striping with excellent, balanced flavor.
Growing Tomatoes in Containers:
If you are limited on space, growing tomatoes in containers is a great alternative to planting in the ground. Make sure to choose a sunny spot that gets at least six hours of sunshine a day and follow these tips for a successful growing season.
1. Choose the right variety.
Determinate tomatoes are smaller and bushier and generally do well in containers. Depending on the variety you pick, they still may require staking. If you have less than six hours of sun a day, select either small slicers or cherry tomatoes. See our recommended list here. (this link will go to Choose the Right Tomato article)
2. Plant in as large a pot as possible.
Tomato varieties vary on how large of a container is required. Some determinate tomatoes will do fine in a container that holds as little as five gallons of soil, such as a 14 inch tall bucket from a home improvement store. In general, larger-growing indeterminate varieties will need a 15 gallon pot at a minimum. Remember to add drainage holes!
3. Use potting mix.
Potting mix is formulated specifically for containers and makes the best growing medium. Do not use products labeled “planting mix,” “top soil” or “garden soil.”
4. Amend with nutrients weekly.
Once flower set has begun, fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer once a week throughout the growing season.
5. Water regularly.
In full sun, plants in containers can dry out quickly. Keep soil consistently moist and water regularly, as often as once a day. Earlier in the day when the weather is cooler is ideal. Make sure to water at the base of the plant to keep foliage dry and healthy.
Still have questions? Master Gardeners will be on hand during the Great Tomato Plant Sale to help you choose the best tomatoes and other vegetables for your growing conditions.