Picking the Right Tomato Seeds for Your Garden

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If you are planning on growing tomatoes from seed this year but don’t know where to start, here are a few things you should keep in mind.

Should I Use Heirloom or Hybrid Seeds?

Hands down, heirlooms are better! Think about it, back in the day people saved the seeds of their favorite tomato varieties not only because saving seeds was the frugal thing to do, but heirloom tomatoes have always tasted better than the hybrid varieties seed companies and stores were selling. Sure, some varieties of heirloom tomatoes might look a little funky, but you can taste the difference, trust me. Why else would your local farmer’s market or grocery store sell heirloom tomatoes for double, if not triple, the price of those plain-Jane Roma tomatoes with the shiny glow?

How Much Space Will I Need to Grow Tomatoes?

If you have a traditional garden plot this really isn’t an issue, but if you live in an apartment or are limited on space, knowing whether your tomato seeds are determinate or indeterminate is crucial.

Basically determinate tomato plants are smaller (about 3 to 4 feet) and typically ripen over a period of a few weeks. Indeterminate tomatoes bear fruit all summer long. Indeterminate tomatoes can reach as tall as 6 to 12 feet and require a lot more space and support as well.

Canning or Eating Fresh?

Some varieties of tomatoes are just better for certain things.

Take canning, for example. If you plan on growing tomatoes so you can whip up a batch of homemade tomato sauce or salsa to fill your pantry or to give away to friends around the holidays, then you’ll want to look for varieties that hold up to canning.

Personally, my favorite canning tomato seeds are Roma, Ace, Speckled Roman and San Marzano. The meaty textures of the tomatoes and their fairly uniform size make them great candidates for canning.

And for eating fresh? My all time favorite heirloom tomato is the Cherokee purple, followed closely by the green zebra tomato, beefsteak and Brandywine tomatoes for their unique flavor and amazing colors. And let’s not forget all those delicious cherry tomato varieties for salads and snacking too.

What tomato seeds will you be growing in your garden this year? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.


All photos courtesy of Mavis Butterfield

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