Though paper garden catalogs are not as plentiful as in years past, many of you are finding that your mailboxes contain these dream packets. If not, a quick internet search will yield a plethora of seed companies to peruse. Ask anyone who has a vegetable garden what the first crop that comes to mind is and it is often tomatoes.
Tomatoes come in two types. The determinate type is suited to canners and freezers because the crop comes in all at once over 4-6 weeks. Indeterminate types continue to grow and produce a crop spaced out until disease or weather stops them. These are best for fresh table use.
A group that has been around for a while that many readers may not have heard of are the ISI types, or Indeterminate Short Interval types. That means it continues to produce over a long period but has short intervals between nodes or leaves. That makes it is a compact plant suitable for smaller gardens or pots. Look for this designation in catalogs for a manageable size plant.
It is frustrating that often the description will simply be denoted determinate or indeterminate and will not specify which are ISI. Look for key words within the Indeterminate group like dwarf, compact, short. Those are likely the ISIs. (Be aware that they use those same terms for some of the determinates, too.)
Look for any letters following a hybrid name to see what their disease and nematode resistance is. Generally, the more letters, the more strains they are resistant to. V= Verticillium, F=Fusarium, N=Nematode and you sometimes see other letters denoting even more disease resistance.
In the past, smaller plants usually meant small fruit. Early attempts at larger fruit on a small plant led to some disappointing flavor. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have larger fruit, more disease resistance and that old-fashioned flavor?
As our gardens reduce in size, keep watch for new developments on the market. Some of the old dwarfs are being returned to market as well as breeding efforts for improvements using the heirlooms as parents. It will be interesting to see what breeders bring to market on the horizon.
Here are some tomatoes that you might want to research; some hybrids and some heirlooms: Park’s Beefy Boy, Damsel, the Husky series, Adelaide Festival dwarf, Barossa Fest dwarf yellow, BrandyFred dwarf, Dwarf Andy’s Forty, Dwarf Firebird Sweet, Dwarf Catydid yellow, New Big Dwarf, Burpee’s Quarter Century, Rosella Purple, Miracle Sweet, Large Barred Boar, Daniel Burson, Patio, Husk Cherry Basket. Other ISI tomatoes may be listed with just a number after the ISI.
Stay tuned, you tomato lovers!