The Lifecycle of a Garden Tomato

Davin surprised me with this drawing on our kitchen chalkboard this morning.

I know that some of you in the warmer regions have already started your tomato seeds. Around here I still have a month(ish) to go before I will start my first batch of dwarf varieties.

Which varieties are you growing or planning to grow this year?

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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29 thoughts on “The Lifecycle of a Garden Tomato

  1. My tomato seeds are growing strong! I plan to plant them in the garden toward the end of the month. (I live on the Texas Gulf coast). The varieties I’m planting this year are:
    Jersey Giant
    Amish Paste
    Bonnie’s Best
    Cour di Bue
    Some Pink Tomato I can’t remember the name of
    Riesentraube (a cherry tomato)
    German Lunchbox (also cherry tomato size)

  2. Last year I grew 2 fabulous varieties – Black Krim and Tim’s Black Ruffles. They were both easy to grow (I’m not great at growing tomatoes), extremely flavourful, and ripened well in the house. I will grow both again this year. Love the chalk drawings, btw!

  3. Still not sure what my garden schedule is this year, and not sure if tomatoes are in it. But – when I do grow tomatoes again, I have the following:

    Hahms Gelbe
    Indigo Rose
    Anna Russian
    Woodles Orange
    Big Rainbow
    Monomakh’s Hat
    Tsar’s Royal Gift
    Purple Calabash
    Paul Robeson
    Nature’s Riddle

    I have a few other varieties of seed, but these are on the top of my priority list. I found out I might be moving to Tucson late this year or early next year, so I’ll have to see how tomatoes do in that desert heat.

    • I live in Phoenix and have tomatoes in the ground already (crazy, I know!). The seasons are very different here and take some adjusting to get used to, but most varieties go great here when planted at the right time and watered and mulched appropriately! This year I’m growing Black Prince, Brandywine, Sungold, and Romas.

    • Welcome to the desert if you do move, Mathew!

      Short-season tomato varieties work best here, but you can nurse most varieties along well into the beginning of the warmest season by using shadecloth for sun blocking and/or planting in an area that will get some shade relief in the afternoon. Start them as early as you can, keep them potted while they’re developing and able to be moved in case of sudden low temp dips during your hardening-off period (we had a couple of really sneaky cold-punches here this late winter, and anyone with Solanums in the ground vs in a portable pot ended up very sad), and get them in their forever homes as soon as the weather seems to be staying reliably in the 50′s at night. Stay steady with your watering, don’t let ‘em burn, and all will be well!

      Our organic CSA farm grew heat-tolerant hybrids well into the season of 100+ weather (yellow pears and certain varieties of current-sized ones did especially well, although the taste wasn’t the best), but that was with lots of deep irrigation and we still got a fair amount of sunscorch without shade covers – it’s pretty crucial for all tomatoes at a certain point, and most varieties will shut down pollination when the temps regularly climb into the mid-high 90′s, so the focus becomes nurturing the bracts that have set.

      /my two cents as a desert grower

  4. I have so little space, that I may only grow one variety this year. But it sounds so perfect for my personal tomato likes and needs that I think that might be okay. I decided to try the Italian heirloom Red Pear from Franchi seeds. It gets rave reviews and is supposed to be good both for eating fresh and for sauce. If I do a second I might buy one Sungold plant because…well, Sungold. Yum!

  5. I’m trying to stick to under 30 plants this year. So far 20 varieties have made the cut:
    Barlow Japanese
    Big Beef
    Black and Red Boar
    Giant Belgian
    Indian Moon
    Isis Candy
    Livingston’s Perfection
    Orange Jubilee
    Plum Fryer
    Principe Borghese
    Purple Calabash
    Snow White
    Sweet Baby Girl
    White Currant

  6. I haven’t started them yet but may before the week is out. The trouble is I have no growth light so mine always get way too leggy. And since this years tomato plants lasted until almost Jan, I figure starting a month later than usual shouldn’t affect them too badly.

    Cherokee Purple
    Risentraube (free with purchase)
    Black from Tula (my family’s favorite)
    Chianti Rose

  7. these I just ordered
    Principe Borghese
    Gary Ibsens Gold
    Amish Paste
    Black Prince
    Early Annie
    Red Fig
    Wapsipinicon Peach
    Sweet Pea
    San Marzano
    these I’m still waiting to arrive …
    Costoluto Fiorentino
    Silvery Fir
    St. Pierre

    that’s only 22 right … and once I find my binder full of tomato seeds, there’ll be a few more (make that more than a few more) …

    I just want to eat all the seeds right now!

  8. My list this year is:

    Ballad Tomato
    Amazon Chocolate
    Sandul Moldovan Tomato
    Belarus Orange 1 Tomato
    Black Krim
    Caspian Pink
    Red Pear (Franchi)

    And if I get a second bed in the community garden:
    Tim’s Black Ruffles
    Cour de Bue

  9. I won’t plant any until probably late March. While it tends to be fairly mild in February here in Portland, OR, we often get at least one good freeze in March which often sets back spring planting. I also don’t have anywhere inside for starts (at least, that’s safe from cats and clumsy humans). We’ll just deal with it when it gets a little more consistently warm.

  10. I’m so anxious to start seeds. We’re not huge tomato people, so I only do three varieties:
    Speckled Roman
    Mexican Midgit

    I’ve never done them from seed before, so this spring will be exciting.

  11. I’ve already sown some Italian Roma seeds since I’m keeping my garden small this year even though I’m tempted to add a couple of other varieties. North Texas weather is so mild this year, I’m hoping to be able to get an early start despite the unpredictable weather of my area.

    • Our curious young cat’s taste for my tomato sprouts has forced me wait for spring and buy young plants that I can just leave outside, so I have given into my weakness and will now be growing Cherokee Purple, Yellow Pear, and San Marzano tomatoes… and possibly Phoenix… maybe others…

  12. I don’t have tons of direct sunlight, but I can manage a few in large containers. This year I’ll be growing:
    Principe Borghese
    one more, probably Black Russian
    I’m starting mine earlier this year than usual (this weekend), hoping to get a bit of a start on the season. Hope my experiment works!

  13. My seeds got started indoors a little late this year (I live in a lower desert) but the weather during the day has been great so my seedlings get sunshine all day and then come indoors in the evening to weather out the temperature drops. I hope to have them in the soil in 3 weeks.

    I had to scale back the number of tomatoes this year (new garden site and I’m growing some other things I haven’t planted previously…) but I could only manage to “narrow down” to this list…

    Old favorites:
    Black Krim (haven’t grown in a couple years, but really enjoyed them a few years ago – and these were the first tomatoes I learned to save seed with)
    Tlaculula Pink (community garden favorite, you can smell the sugar when you cut into one…)
    Vorlon (super popular with my friends for the dense and complex flavor)
    Morning Sun (this and Golden Sunray were great producers and treats in salads or in making “fresh sauce” as my 70+ italian neighbor called it)
    Golden Sunray

    New varieties for 2013:
    Pink Accordion
    Wapsipinicon Peach
    Yellow Riesentraube
    Mini Orange
    White Queen
    Purple Calabash
    Black Cheery

  14. I’m in Kansas, and we had weeks of over-100 degree temperatures and practically no rain. I saved the seeds of the only heirloom tomato that produced well, but I didn’t write down the name when I planted it. I’m only buying varieties that the catalogue says are heat and drought resistant, including Old Virginia, Stone, Super Sioux, Red House, and Marvel Striped. Anybody have any suggestions for my conditions?

  15. I have an every expanding variety of tomatoes but I’ll probably have 15 vines in the garden and in containers.
    Riesentraube, Chocolate Cherry, Sungold, Super Sweet 100, Roma, San Marzano, Black Krim, Jubilee, Kellog’s Breakfast, Brandywine, Paul Robeson and I’ll plant a Cherokee Purple if I can find another seedling.
    In Alabama where we have 2-4 weeks of 100 deg temperatures, all of these have done well. Not sure about the Riesentraube and Paul Robeson since they are new this year.

  16. I love tomatoes!

    What I Started:
    Red Brandywine
    Indigo Rose
    Buckbee’s 50 Day

    What I Will Start this Week:
    Zapotec Pink
    Cherokee Purple
    Garden Peach
    Maglia Rosa
    Green Zebra
    Salad Peach
    Yellow Pear
    San Marzano
    Amish Paste

    What I’ve Ordered:
    Sungold Hybrid
    Tumbling Tom Hybrid
    Yellow Stuffer
    Mexico Midget
    Cherokee Chocolate (a bonus)

  17. I haven’t actually gone through the seeds I already have, but I ordered two new-to-me varieties from Urban Harvest called pink pear cherry and indigo rose that I’m excited to try. But I won’t be starting any tomato seeds until probably the middle to end of April since there is always a possibility of snow up until the first week of June (groan).

  18. I’m volunteering with a nursery propagator right now and I got some great heirlooms from her:

    - Eva Purple Ball
    - Pinky Tuscadero
    - Pink Honey
    - Frankenstein
    - Taxi
    - Kootenai
    - Indigo Rose
    - Cream Sausage
    - Italian Heirloom
    - Purple Russian
    - Thai Red (exact variety unknown, just origin/color)
    - Iditarod Red
    - Red Cherry (small, like currant in size/form)

    We’re in Zone 9b (Scottsdale, AZ), so they’re mostly in 1 – 5 gallons right now, waiting for their 15-gal forever homes. Love this time of year!

  19. We’re in Toronto and I repotted my seedlings this afternoon and put them under a grow light. For our small urban garden, we prefer cherry varieties because there’s enough for everyone (our family, neighbours and the local critters):

    Black Cherry
    Isis Candy
    White Currant

    Chocolate and Black Cherry are the big favourites of our family and neighbours so I’ve planted all the seeds to spread the wealth. Happy growing everyone!

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