Picking the proper tomato varieties for your garden

By Gregg Eyestone

The garden catalogs are enticing with their pictures of all kinds of plants. In particular, the tomatoes look delicious. Descriptions claim that they all are the best. The weather this coming season will be a big factor in determining the best.

There are many factors to consider when selecting which tomatoes to grow. I suggest you plant several varieties each year. A starting place is to obtain the recommended vegetable list from K-State Research and Extension on line or at the local office. Varietal trials are conducted to create this list.

Grafted vegetables are becoming common and popular. They likely will be more productive than non-grafted vegetables. Research from K-State has shown an increase in yield from 30 to 120 percent for tomatoes. The additional expense of grafted vegetables may be worth it if you have limited space or farming for a living.

Tomato varieties vary in their tolerance of diseases and environmental conditions. The modern tomatoes have genetics to resist many types of diseases. Grafted vegetables assist with the health of vegetables creating the increase in production. There are differences in the varieties abilities to produce fruit in high temperatures and fluctuating soil moisture.

Recent work has been in tomatoes for increased health benefits. Some varieties have higher levels of beta carotene or lycopene over others. It may not be necessary but it won’t hurt.

Indeterminate varieties require a sturdy tall support to keep the fruit off the ground. Many gardeners like these types to have an extended crop over the growing season. Semi determinate varieties are more compact plants that still produce an abundance of fruit with an average growing season. A shorter support is required.

This is a good time to order vegetable seeds to be sure you get the varieties you want. Starting your tomato plants doesn’t need to begin until mid March. Good seed starting mix and florescent lights will make for healthy transplants. Area retail outlets will have grafted and transplants for your garden as well.

I’m looking forward to the gardening season. Time will tell how my Florida 91, Taste-Lee, Plum Regal, and Tomatoberry tomato crop will turn out.

You can find out more information on this and other horticulture topics by going to the K-State Research and Extension website at www.ksre.ksu.edu and you can contact Gregg Eyestone at the Riley County office of K-State Research and Extension. Gregg may be contacted by calling 537-6350 or stopping by 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan or e-mail: geyeston@ksu.edu.

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