Favorite Heirloom Tomatoes & Their Characteristics

heirloom tomatoes


I’m craving fresh vegetables from the garden, especially my favorite heirloom tomatoes.  First, I have my tomato plants under the grow lights, and hopefully I will be tilling the garden in a few weeks. I believe the last frost date in Zone 6B is around May 15.  Heirloom tomatoes take up much of the space in my garden. Check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips before you leave.

Why?  Because they have a totally different taste from store brought tomatoes and hybrid tomatoes. It’s hard to describe the flavor of a tomato, it must be experienced. I’m a visual person, so I thought you would like to see the end result of what is being planted in my garden.  Additionally, learn a few characteristics of my favorite tomatoes.  Also, I hope this information will help you make a decision on what tomatoes you want to purchase before you buy from your local garden center.

Before you select your tomato plants, decide how you want to use your tomatoes.  Do you want to use them for sandwiches slices, make sauce, paste or salsa.  Or do you want to use them in salads?  Will you canning them?  I love slicing tomatoes in the summer and just eating them with a little mayo and pepper. Yum! I also make salsa, sauce, freeze them and can my harvest, so I need a variety in my garden.

Here’s a few of my favorite tomatoes.  Lets start with the tomatoes in the picture below:

1. Brandywine Pink (back)  – First, I like this tomato for its color and taste. How often do you see a pink tomato? The Brandywine Pink has a sweet taste, so I use it on sandwiches and as my go to when I want my sliced tomatoes with mayo. I also cut these in cubes for salads and tacos. I grow the Brandywine Red and Brandywine Yellow as well.

2. Hillybilly (center) –  Next, the Hillbilly originated in my home state West Virginia. The color is a mix of yellow and red. It is delicious and has a sweet taste. It slices beautifully. I also add it to fresh salsa or salads.

3. Yellow Beefsteak (center left) –  So, I like the size of this tomato. It’s great for slicing.  The tomato is large and it’s great for thick slices.  Also, I add it to salads and salsa. I have a mixture of beefsteak seeds, so I don’t know if I’m going to get red, yellow, orange or green. It’s always nice to see what the end result is in the garden.

4. Brandywine Yellow (center right) –  This tomato has a better taste that the
Brandywine Pink, but it doesn’t produce as many tomatoes and it’s the last tomato plant in the garden to produce fruit. If you find that you like this tomato, you may want to double the amount of plants in your garden and stalk them well. They produce fruit up to 2 pounds each. Very pretty in salads or slices.

5. Cherokee Purple (front center)  – This tomato has beautiful deep burgundy color. The flavor is bold. This tomato is what home gardening is about, and no home kitchen garden is complete without at least one plant.

 

6.  Amish Paste (Heirloom) – This is the tomato that I use for sauce. It’s a plum tomato that is meaty. I also use for salsa. Be warned, this plant grows hardy amounts of fruit that will topple your cage if not heavily stalked.

 

 

7. Better Boy (Hybrid) – One of the most popular if not the most popular tomato in the garden. This is the slicer of all slicers and great on burgers. Nice medium size tomato that you can’t go wrong planting.

 

 

8.  Early Girl (Hybrid) – Another kitchen garden favorite.  As result, I plant Early Girl because it produces early and it’s a great slicer.  Early Girl is perfect on burgers as well as my go to for tomatoes and mayo.

 

9. Paul Robeson (Heirloom) – Last, this tomato is called the luxury tomato. It is named for Paul Robeson who was considered elegant, renowned, and charismatic. I think this is my favorite tomato.  I remember the first time I tasted this tomato, I fell in love.  Because the taste is indescribably delicious, it will have a place in my garden if no other makes it way in.
Heirloom tomatoes are not know for their beauty, but their taste.  The crack and have other blemishes, but the tast remains superior.  I hope that you found my list of favorite heirloom tomatoes beneficial.  You may also like:  10 Benefits of Vegetable Gardening.
 
 
 
 

How To Grow Bigger Tomatoes

kitchen gardening, growing tomatoes, gardening

Over the years, I’ve gardened by trial and error. I’ve become successful with growing tomatoes, garlic, onions, beans, pepper, squash, zucchini, and watermelon over the years.  These items are the staple of my garden for the most part. Today I’m going to share how I’ve managed to achieve large, beefy, and juicy, tomatoes. Some of my heirloom tomatoes weigh up to 1 – 2 pounds each.  Check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips before you leave. Here are the steps that I take to grow big, juicy tomatoes:

 



1.  Tilled garden soil –  It all starts with your soil. I row garden on a 20 x 30 plot, so I till my garden and I till deeply. Many gardeners use the lasagna method, turned soil method or raised beds because they don’t require tilling. I garden as my grandfather did, so I’m old school.   Before the garden is tilled, I add in manure, which can be purchased from your local garden center.


2Organic compost – I use only organic material in my garden. This is composted leaves that took about 2 years to break down completely. Many gardeners call it Black Gold. I mix the compost into the soil before placing my tomato in the hole and side dress the plant with a nice helping of this compost. If you don’t have organic compost use dried, crushed eggshells in the hole before planting along with a dose of manure. The eggshells provide calcium.

gardening


3.  Plant deeply
– I remove the bottom leaves from the plant. Only the top leaves should be exposed as shown above.  You want your plant to have deep roots, so the deeper you plant the better.

 

natural garden fertilizer, gardening

4.  Provide natural fertilizer – Coffee grounds are an excellent natural fertilizer for tomato and pepper plants. I mix a few tablespoons in with my organic compost, above, and side dress around the entire base of the plant. Coffee grounds attract earthworms, which are great for aerating the soil, and keeps away snails and slugs which are detrimental to your plants. If you don’t have organic fertilizer, purchase Miracle Grow tomato fertilizer and spread around the base of your plants.

gardening, tomato gardening

 

5.  Weed Control – I use straw or leaves that I’ve collected during fall around my plants to keep weeds down and to retain moisture. Keeping the weeds under control is important, you don’t want them taking energy away from your plant.
gardening, companion planting
6.  Companion Plant – I use marigolds between my tomatoes and pepper plants. They’re great for pollination, which your plant needs to produce healthy fruit.
 
gardening, gardening weeding
7.  Proper Spacing – You will need to reach around your plants for care and harvest so make sure you give each plant adequate space. I create paths between my rows by layering newspaper or cardboard boxes that have been broken down. I cover the newspaper or cardboard with leaves or straw. This also reduces the amount of time that I spend weeding too.
8.  Water and fertilize regularly – Add 2 teaspoons of Epsom Salt to a gallon of water and give your plants a good drink when you initially plant and regularly thereafter.  Be sure to water at the base of your plant only, you don’t want garden soil splashing on it. You can use a spray bottle to spritz the foliage of your plants with the Epsom Salt mixture too. Also works with peppers.  I found CVS Epsom Salt on sale last season for half price, so I purchased several cartons.  It will make enough spray to last through several growing season.
I hope you find my tips on growing bigger tomatoes helpful. Try them, and you will grow bigger and juicier tomatoes too. Be sure to subscribe to my blog for additional gardening tips and posts and follow me on social media.
 
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How To Stake Tomato Cages

staking tomato cages

 

The majority of the tomatoes that I grow are heirloom, which grow tall and become heavy. Because of the height and weight of the vines, I stake my cages down so they can support the plant and fruit once it is produced.  A flimsy tomato cage won’t do with these type of plants. Learned that lesson the hard way.   Before you leave, check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips. 

 

staking tomato cages

 

Some of my plants have grown 6 – 7 feet tall, and have gotten heavy enough to topple my cages. Once this happens, it’s hard to pull the vines up without damaging them. My tallest cage is 5 foot, so they need some help in keeping them steady and strong enough to support the weight of the tomatoes on the vines.  My best and most sturdy cages were purchased from Tractor Supply. I went back to purchase more the next season, but they no longer carried them. As sturdy as they are, they still need to be staked.

Here’s my staking method.  Simple and budget friendly:

  • I purchased 6 foot fence stakes from Lowes.
  • After planting the tomato plant and placing the cage over it, I push 2 stakes deep into the ground directly beside the cage.
  • I tie the cage to the garden stakes with garden ties. You can purchase the ties from your local garden center. I buy the rolls. You will need them to tie up your tomato vines once they start growing.
  • For the heavier cages I used two stakes, but for the lighter and smaller cages I use 1 stake depending on the type of tomato I’m planting.
  • It’s important that you stake the cages when you first plant your tomatoes; otherwise, you risk damaging the roots of your plants.

The cages in the picture below, blue, red, light green and yellow, were purchased from Lowes. Pretty colors, but not the same quality as the ones from Tractor Supply even though they were the same price. Last year, I used the smaller cages for my hybrid tomatoes. Hybrids don’t get as tall or as heavy as heirloom tomatoes, but I still suggest supporting them. A strong wind can topple these cages and more than likely will damage your plant.

 

staking tomato cages

 

This is a picture of one of my heirloom tomato plants. You can see how thick the vines are on this plant. You can also see why it’s important to support the plant early. If you don’t want to spend money on garden ties, cut up old stockings or tee-shirts into strips. Any soft material will work.

 

stalking tomato cages

I planted 10 tomato plants last season, and found 3 volunteers. This is one of my volunteer tomato plants, below, before I staked, caged it and removed the weeds growing around it. This one needed support to keep it from leaning too. I’ve decided to leave my volunteers in the garden. If they produce I take the tomatoes to the local food bank.  They appreciate fresh garden vegetables in the summer. This year I made a pledge with Ample Harvest to take tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and zucchini to the food bank.

The dressing around this volunteer is from my homemade garden compost. It is so dark and rich it is unbelievable. This is why they call it Black Gold. Decomposed leaves make this compost Black Gold.  You can follow the link below if you would like to learn more about my Black Gold.

 

If you’re using containers for your tomatoes, I would recommend that you use a 4 – 5 foot garden stake to support your plant.  Local garden centers have them for a few bucks.  If you’re lucky enough to have bamboo around, cut a bamboo pole and use it in your container for support.

Stay tuned for my post on How To Grow Bigger Tomatoes next week. What are you planning to grow in your garden or containers this season?

If you like this post you may also like:  How To Make Garden Compost