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I was born in Guernsey (but now live in Brittany) and our main industry was growing tomatoes although that industry has now virtually disappeared. Growing tomatoes to a Guernseyman is like wine to a Frenchman, it's in our blood! I do not profess to be an expert, but I have picked up a few tips and techniques which work for me.


Monday, 31 May 2010

Tomato types and varieties

Use this link to find out what type of tomato plant yours is:    UPRIGHT OR BUSH

This section will be added to over time as there are so many.  I would also appreciate any recomendations from anyone who reads this blog.  A picture and following information will help. 
Name, Type, Conditions grown in, including indoor or outdoor and type of growing medium.  Area of the country.  Any comments that you want to add.  You can email from my profile.


Tomato Types and VarietiesTomatoes come in two distinct growing types: Determinate and Indeterminate tomato plants. A third type, semi-determinate, is also available but I treat it the same as I would an indeterminate.
The first thing to decide is what varieties you wish to grow.  The tomatoes you buy from the supermarket are chosen for their travelling and keeping qualities, probably grown abroad and fed with inorganic chemicals.  Taste may be factored in some way down the list of their choice.
As you will only be transporting a few yards and keeping for a day or two, you can ignore those factors and concentrate on the taste and ease of growing. Some tomato varieties are better suited to a greenhouse environment and others more able to grow outdoors in our climate.

There are a huge number of tomato varieties to choose from. Some are tried and true standards that produce consistent fruit similar to those that you find in the shops and others a little different. I have yet to see Sungold in a shop but it is one of the most flavourful sweet small salad tomatoes you will taste.

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Heirloom Tomatoes (Heritage Tomatoes)
These are older and often rare varieties prized for their flavour.


Cordon or Indeterminate Tomato Varieties

These tend to be the most grown types, usually tied to a cane or string and the side shoots are removed to ensure that the plant's energy goes into the fruit rather than foliage. When a number of trusses (The plant stalk that bears the flowers and fruit) are set, the plant is stopped to allow the fruit a chance to ripen before the end of the season.
Indeterminate tomato plants grow tall and vine-like with lots of side shoots, although they do not have tendrils to grab onto supports. If left without support, this kind of tomato plant will sprawl all over the ground and be subject to disease and insects. Therefore, they require tall, strong supports and pruning to keep them healthy. To grow them under cover, you will need to build a structure that allows the tomato plants to grow about 6-8 feet tall and longer if you have the room. The advantage to growing indeterminate tomato plants is that they continue to produce fruit until killed by frost. Keeping them under cover will keep them producing longer--I continue to harvest from my indeterminate plants well into November.




Bush or Determinate Tomato Varieties

Determinate tomato plants grow bush-like and usually no taller than about three feet. A tomato cage works well for these, and they require little pruning except for some leaf removal for air circulation. Determinate tomatoes will typically produce all of their fruit at once and then die. These tomato plants work well in patio containers. The advantage to determinate tomato plants is that they require less work and tend to have more resistance to disease. They are self stopping and most of the fruit will ripen over a few weeks.

Semi-Determinate
Some people rename these 'semi-indeterminate' and treat them the same as indeterminates. They are more compact and will grow to about 3 to 5 ft. so will give you a shorter harvest period. You do have to remove some shoots and leave a few at the top to bush out the plant. It is entirely up to you, some people will leave all the shoots on, but I think you get a better crop by nipping a few out. They will need support.



Dwarf Bush or ‘Hanging Basket’ Tomatoes

Unlike the standard determinate varieties of tomato, these are smaller plants usually giving cherry tomatoes and are bred to grow in containers such as hanging baskets. My experience is that they can be very successful.

Tomato Fruit Types
As well as plant types there are quite a number of different tomato fruit types. As a home grower, you can find many different – some weird and wonderful – varieties but the main types of fruit are listed below:

•Standard – the ‘normal’ tomato, spherical in shape and around an inch to an inch and a half in diameter.

•Cherry – just a small version of the normal tomato, often marble sized. Often from dwarf bush types.

•Beefsteak – a large version of the normal tomato. Because of their large size, these tomato varieties take longer to mature and ripen, so really do not do well except in a greenhouse.

•Plum – the firm fleshed oval shaped fruit that you find in Italian canned tomatoes. Tend to have been bred to store well as bottled (or canned) and they freeze well.
•Marmande – large irregular shaped tomatoes. Often very tasty.

•Oxheart – cone shaped fruits, usually firm fleshed and good flavour.

Tomato Colours
Tomatoes come in a range of colours, from deep reds through orange (often described as yellow) to bright yellow with some rarer varieties being striped, green when ripe and very dark.
Colour has little to do with flavour – my favourite tomato, Sungold, is orange but other yellow tomatoes that I have tasted are not very nice, which may or may not be related to the colour

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