Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Is Growing 35 different tomatoes this year too many?

I really appreciate all of the suggestions I received in the comments on my previous post about what new heirloom tomatoes to try. I really did take them into consideration and choose a number of them to try this year. It has been a really hard decision. Matron's comment said it best with her statement "There are just too many varieties to choose from!!"

Every year while it's cold outside, I like to plan the upcoming garden out on paper and choose what varieties to grow - almost like you would choose what players to have on your team. I want to assemble a championship team like those competing this weekend in The NFL conference championship playoffs. In the NFL they have a 53 man roster, so I should have 53 tomato varieties right? If only I had room for that many. I have narrowed down this year's tomato team to 35 varieties, so let me announce my starting lineup:

A football team consists of different player position groups; lineman, running backs, receivers, defensive backs etc. My tomato team is also arranged in different groups.

All of these are heirloom varieties except for six. The hybrids are designated with an (H) after their name.

First up are the early tomatoes. This is a big passion of mine so this group is heavily represented. They are:

Returning from last year,

  • Siletz
  • Sub Arctic Plenty
  • Orange Blossom
  • 4th of July(H)
  • Early Girl(H)
  • This year's rookie is "New Mountain Princess" from Baker Creek, chosen because it can be ripe in 45 days.
  • The next group is your normal "Red" tomato category which is what has managed to stick around even with the wonderful other colors and flavors added. Also returning from last year:

  • Celebrity(H)
  • Burpee Super Beefsteak(H)
  • Park's Whopper(H)
  • Delicious
  • And the rookie in this category is "Climbing Triple Crop" from Pinetree Seeds because it can grow up to 15 feet tall. Cool!
  • The next position group is the Pink tomatoes:

  • Brandywine (my all time favorite)
  • Pink Flamingo
  • Caspian Pink - recommended by Connie on my last post
  • Mortgage Lifter - recommended by Kelli Simone
  • Omar Lebanese - new this year because it is supposed to produce mammoth 3 to 4 pound tomatoes!

    The Orange tomatoes this year will be:

  • Kentucky Beefsteak
  • Pineapple - recommended by Connie
  • Persimmon - recommended by Throwback at Trapper Creek
  • Garden Peach - recommended by Jen and Janet
  • and Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge, which looks really cool.

    Black/Purple Tomatoes will be represented by:

  • Black Krim - the veteran in my garden
  • Black Brandywine - invited because I love pink Brandywine
  • Prudens Purple - recommended by Happy Girl
  • Japanese Black Trifele - recommended by Patrick and Melinda Are they really pear shaped?
  • Starting for the Yellow Tomatoes:

  • Yellow Brandywine - mentioned by Harmony
  • Dixie Golden Giant
  • Lemon Boy(H) - for my Father-in-Law
  • The Green (even when ripe) Tomatoes this year will be two returning favorites:

  • Aunt Ruby's German Green
  • Green Zebra
  • Small but powerful - The Cherry Tomatoes:

  • Sweet Million(H) - Red
  • Sun Sugar - Orange
  • Aunt Ruby's German Cherry - Green
  • Black Cherry - Black mentioned by Melinda

    Finally, last and least - this year's White Tomato:

  • White Tomesol - the punter on my tomato team.
  • Wow, I'm exhausted now! There you have it - 35 tomato varieties. The re-cap:

  • 28 Heirlooms
  • 7 Hybrids
  • 6 Early Tomatoes
  • 5 Red Tomatoes
  • 5 Pink Tomatoes
  • 5 Orange Tomatoes
  • 4 Black/Purple Tomatoes
  • 3 Yellow Tomatoes
  • 2 Green Tomatoes
  • And a White tomato in a Green Garden!
  • I am also trying 11 kinds that I have never seen and listened to nine of you from my last post's comments. Thank you to everyone who made suggestions.

    So, is 35 too many? Too few? How many different varieties are you going to try? Are you growing more than just red tomatoes? Heirlooms or Hybrids?

    I can never get enough tomato talk!



    That list is impressive. You are blessed to have the space and weather to permit such entries into the contest. I, on the other hand, have only 70-85 days with cool nights. Last year I gave some heirlooms a try, but it wasn't a good tomato year. Because they didn't perform well, I almost tossed them, but will give one plant each another go. My favorites for this region are Cosmonaut Volkov and Rutgers. They never fail to perform. Amish Paste, Super Marmande and Burbank are my new ones to try. Getting another chance are Cherokee Purple, Pruden's Purple, and Glacier. Is that enough?


    In my world Tomatoes, like everything else, have to have a reason to exist and take my energy, time, and money. For me they must meet two criteria. First they MUST taste great. Other wise what's the point? Second they must be something the market wants (the market being first my family and second the folks at the local farmers market where we sell lots of produce. If no one want's them why should I bother growing them? Heirloom Tomatoes are a great philosophical position, but the good ones have already gone on to become the tomatoes we love. What are you going to do with the rest?


    If I had the space I would grow that many or more.

    The Japanese Black Trifele are pretty much pear shaped. I grew them last year, airy plant, smallish fruit and lots of them, Nice taste too.

    Chiot's Run

    That's a lot of tomatoes. I don't even have room for 35 plants. I'm lucky to grow 5 different kinds. I would grow 5-10 kinds if I had the room.


    Hi, I'm new here but I wanted to tell you that yes, the japanese black trifele are absolutely pear shaped and totally delicious, too. That and the black krim were my favorites from last year (I grew 12 varieties)


    I am jealous! I am in Western Australia and have 10 in this year. they are all doing well and are nearly ready to ripen. My all time favourite is tigerella- an heirloom- not sure if it is available over in the States. Tomato planning is so much fun- I am already starting to think about it for next year. My aim this year was to grow 10 varieties and then choose the best ones to grow again next year and add a couple of new ones in.

    Good luck.


    You're nuts.

    In a good way.

    In the past, we (read me, my wife is more sane) have gone overboard in our varierty selection. We're resurrecting our vegetable garden and I hope we will rein in our urges and stick with a several varieties and do them well. We'll use three of our 4- by 8-foot beds for tomatoes. That's 18 plants.

    We will be adventurous and start some from seeds. We'll buy a few seedlings from a friendly backyard nursery man. You've got us thinking about what to plant.


    Not too many, as long as you can pull it off space wise! I used to trial a lot of things in my 1/3 acre garden, but now that I have a smaller kitchen garden I have to be more selective.

    The Conservative Gardener

    Wow, I thought I planted a lot of different got me beat. In my fall garden (I live in North/Central Florida) I planted Early Girl, Black Krim, Red & Yellow Brandywine, Aunt Ruby's Green, Cherokee Purple, Black Sea Man, Grandaddy, and Orange-Strawberry. I actually just pulled the plants a two days ago. Our favorites? Black Krim, Early Girl, Black Sea Man, Red Brandywine.

    I wasn't impressed with Aunt Ruby....maybe because I could never tell when they were ripe! LOL!


    Wow that is quite the list can hardly wait to see your garden this summer.


    In a word: no.

    I'm currently staring at five flats worth of seedlings here under the grow lights, a mixture of tomatoes, peppers, brassicas, flowers, and herbs. Most of what's in the works is tomatoes and peppers - after all, unless you grow it and taste it, how can you know if you'll want to keep it? That's my story and I'm sticking to it no matter how many strange looks I get from the family.


    Wow, what a great list. Who could have too many tomatoes? But one question - where are the sauce tomatoes? San Marzano or Opalka?

    Pink Brandywine is still my favorite. I'll plant 10 or 15 different varieties this year - only two plants of each.

    Lets hope for good tomato weather this year.


    I remember reading in a couple of gardening books the suggestion that 2 plants per person is a good number to grow. I guess you're growing for fewer than 17 people. I guess this advice also dates back to a time when the tomatoes people grew were all red, about the same size and yields per plant were pretty uniform.

    Here in Amsterdam I need to grow tomatoes in a greenhouse, which really limits my available space. I'll probably grow 5-10 this year, but if I had the space I think I would grow closer to 100. I know of other people who grow closer to 2-300 per year. One year I planted 500.

    If you buy food from the supermarket, a lot of resources go into producing it. Chemicals, transportation, etc. In this case it's kind of a shame to waste money and buy more than you need.

    If you grow something yourself, it only comes down to the time you spend on it. You may as well make the best of it! You're not wasting anything but sunshine. Just grow the types of plants you want, the varieties you want in the amounts you want. As long as you have space and time, that's all that matters.

    The problem I always have is this time of year people keep offering me more and more tempting plants, and I have to keep turning them away. If I had the space, I would grow a lot more.


    If you can process them all, you haven't planted too many. I would love to produce enough to not have to buy any all year around but I just don't have the water. It hasn't rained here in many weeks and my tank is empty. It's taking all the water recycling I can manage to keep my beds alive as is.


    Great list! I agree with Alan, if the tomatoes don't taste good (and work well for the purpose I am thinking of) what is the point? I am not planting tomatoes this year, but I think it makes sense to think about the uses that you are going to primarily have for them (e.g. preserves, sauce, straight-up, cooking, etc) and then look for the 2-3 varieties that would suit each of those needs. And if you have the tendency to make more sauce than eat straight, then more of the "saucey" tomatoes!

    Ottawa Gardener

    You definitely have enough tomatoes! Salads / sauces etc... at your house can never be dull. I love it! I am interested to hear how the monster 'tree sized' tomato grows. Great post.

    Marc and Renee

    Thank you so much for the comments. I always love hearing what other gardeners have to say. Patrick, your insight is always a real treat.

    Kathy, you are right that I left out the sauce tomatoes - oops, maybe my list will get even bigger. I grew La Rossa and Roma last year for that purpose. Your recommendation of San Marzano and the great picture of them in Mas Du Diable's post about best conserving tomatoes has me convinced to add that one to my list!

    Alan and livinginalocal zone - I appreciate your concern about growing only what makes sense for the end purpose. I do have to say that I enjoy Heirloom tomatoes because many of them have superior flavor, not because of a philosophical position. I do agree with you though that my experimentation with unknown varieties is risky, but I don't really have a market in mind other than my own strange fun. Alan, I should be more practical like you, but I actually get a kick out of strange tomatoes. I know that is weird. As a matter of fact, you've inspired me to explain what I mean in my next post.



    I am glad to see 4th of July back in your list. I was the one that ecourage you to buy it. I too will have it back into my garden. I was really impressed by the flavors of this early variety. They are medium size, but good!.

    My garden only permits a certain amount of plants so I am very limited. Last year I grew 7 tomato varieties which forced me to use 16 spaces in my sqft garden boxes in addition to the tomato area. It was not worth it since tomato plants did not grow as well as the other area so this year I will refrain from planting in the boxes.

    That been said I have to cut down the list of tomatoes from 7 types to 5. Ough!

    So this years I will repeat

    4th of July's (Early Type)
    Pink Brandywine
    Black Krim
    Roma (Plum)

    And decide between:

    Morgage Lifter
    Sweet 1 million

    Since Brandywine and Black Krim are low producers, I might end up doing both Morgage Lifter and sweet million and sacrafice one of the top 4. Or do all six.

    I tried sweet 1 hundred last year and was great, but I want to try to have room to grow sweet 1 million. They claim they are both almost the same but you get more production out of sweet 1 million, however i have to say that sweet 1 hundred produces more than plenty. Every day I pick up a full small zip lock back in late july/August/and early september!.

    I wish I had room to try:

    Black Cherry
    Aunt Ruby's
    Kelloggs Breakfast
    Opalka Tomato
    Anna Russian
    Black from Tula
    German Johnson
    Giant Belgium
    Black Plum

    At this rate of one or 2 per season to try, It will take me about 4 to 6 years!.

    This year I am NOT doing:

    Cherokee Purple (similar to Black Krim) a little blend compared to Black K

    Also, not doing:

    Burpee's Beefsteak
    Sweet 100 (as mention)

    There is just to enough room for anything!

    Marc and Renee

    Hello again Johnnatan! You absolutely were the one who inspired me to grow 4th of July and it was the first plant to ripen.

    I too am switching from Sweet 100 to Sweet Million. I have grown both in the past and do prefer Sweet Million. I did notice a bigger production and what I liked the best was that more would ripen on a vine together in the same spot so you could fill your baggie all from the same vine tip.

    Have you thought about planting an extra plant or two in patio containers? Or grow them as hanging plants? The only drawback here is that you have to water more often.

    Good luck with your garden this year. I can't wait to get started!

    - Marc


    I'm not sure I understand this concept of "too many" when it comes to tomatoes. Who came up with this theory that it was even possible to have too many tomatoes?

    Seriously though it sounds perfectly reasonable to me if you've got the room. And very interesting to me since I hope to watch on the blog!

    I'd personally like nothing more than a gigantic greenhouse I could grow every kind of tomato I can get my hands on, but until I get that I have to keep my growing down to just a few plants.

    I look forward to seeing how yours do!


    Yes, I have consider doing containers, but there is only a little area where it gets full sun and that is where I have the garden (South Side, backyard). The driveway is in the north side so the east side is only 4ft from the 6ft tall wood fence (a horrible house design).

    I did pretty good last year with the sqft garden method. You won't believe how many veggies I harvest in less than 100 sqft of space. But since I am a tomato nut, I use half that sqft for them. Anyways, my tomato list change I am reducing my straberries space by half, and use the other half for tomatoes. Now I have 8 different varieties, and I am growing two plants of each.

    4th of July's (Early Type)
    Black Krim
    Roma (Plum)
    Morgage Lifter
    Sweet 1 million
    German Giant

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