Of all the vegetables and fruits people grow in their gardens, none provoke more joy—or frustration—than tomatoes. Everyone’s passions come out when the tomatoes come in. It’s no wonder they were once called “love apples.”
Confused? We can help you with everything you need to know to grow your own! Whether it's in your vegetable garden or a patio garden, our tomato starts will get you going. And we have a selection that will make your mouth water with the sweetness of fresh, homegrown tomatoes!
We carry over 200 varieties every year with our peak selection between the last week of April through mid to late May. We will still carry tomatoes into June, but the selection decreases. Here is a quick guide for sorting through the varieties:
Tomatoes that are the result of crossing several plants to obtain certain desirable traits such as flavor, cold resistance, disease resistance, higher yields, etc. Please do not confuse this with GMOs. This is not an issue at your local garden center because there are currently no genetically modified seeds or plants available to the general public. Heirlooms are open-pollinated varieties developed over time and passed from generation to generation. Usually, if such a plant is over 50 years old it is considered an heirloom.
Determinate and indeterminate have to do with the growth habit and when tomatoes come ripe. Determinate tomatoes grow to a compact height and ripen most of their fruit about the same time (a good thing if you are canning). Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow, flower and fruit throughout the growing season. This information is usually on the tag along with how many days to harvest.
Grafted tomatoes are the new plant on the block in garden centers. They are tomatoes grafted to a rootstock chosen for higher disease resistance, vigor and increased harvest. They also can come with 2 different types of tomatoes grafted together. It is important to pay attention to where the graft is because, unlike regular tomatoes, you should not plant them deep and bury the graft. You should also snip off any growth coming from below the graft. This year you will also be able to multi task in the garden with a tomato grafted to a potato plant called Ketchup ‘n’ Fries* – check early for this one as it may be in limited supplies its first
Some of our favorites:
We attempt to keep the classics like Beefsteak, Early Girl, Brandywine, Roma, San Marzano, Sun Gold, Sweet 100 and Sweet Million on our shelves. Plus there are a number of Heirlooms that we regularly carry. More unusual varieties, we may only get in once.
If you have one certain variety in mind, it may pay to have a backup choice when you come into the store. We are bound to have some exciting substitute that you may just come to love. Another strategy, that many of our customers use, is to visit us several times during tomato season until their collection is complete. Usually all of our weekly tomato orders are here by Thursday or Friday. Use our buyer’s lists to pick out a few varieties you think would be best in your garden.
Every year we combine all our standard variety descriptions into one document: Buyer's Guide to Tomatoes.
PLEASE CALL TO SEE IF A “MUST HAVE” VARIETY IS IN STOCK BECAUSE WE CAN QUICKLY SELL OUT. (Inside hint: the best time to shop peak selection is Thursday afternoon through Friday).
You can also download our Tomato Tips Brochure with tips including soil preparation and fertilizing and the most common diseases.
Strategies such as keeping your tomatoes indoors (in full light), pre-warming your soil, and using tunnel row covers can help you get a jump start on your tomato crop. The best time to plant your tomatoes directly in ground is the beginning of May when the soil temperatures have warmed up. However, we offer a variety of products to help you get an early start.
The self-standing Season Starter™ (The Improved Wall o Water) allows you to start your cold-sensitive vine crops 2 months earlier.
Better Reds™ Tomato Mulch Sheets of red plastic that can help warm the soil in the spring and reflect red light wavelengths to help tomatoes ripen in the summer.
Haxnick's Easy Tunnels - Easy Poly Tunnels warm the soil and provide protection against harsh weather and pests for all your early spring crops.
Tomatoes love sun and consistently warm temperatures. Plant in a bed with at least 8 hours of direct sun. Don’t plant too early—temperatures under 55°F can stunt plants, delaying fruit. Late May is generally a good time to purchase and plant. Cover with frost blanket, “wall-o-water”, or cloches when nights are cool. Plastic mulch also helps keep the ground warm.
Plant in rich soil amended with a handful of lime for calcium, lots of compost, and some pumice for drainage. Use a fertilizer formulated for vegetables at planting time, and again when fruits begin to form.
Tomatoes like consistent, even watering for best results. Water deeply at soil level, giving several gallons of water at a time. Drip irrigation also works well. Don’t let the soil dry out completely, but don’t keep the soil wet, either.
Tomatoes do well in large pots. A 10-15 gallon container is usually adequate. Use an organic fertilizer 3-4 times throughout the summer, and keep the containers well-watered.