Nothing beats a hearty tomato at mealtime, whether it's sliced to top a burger or used as a tangy ingredient for your homemade salsa. There is little question that homegrown tomatoes are far superior to their supermarket counterparts. Happily for the homeowner or container gardener, they're fairly easy to grow.
Common Tomato Plant Types
There are a wide range of tomato types suitable for growing at home. They come in different sizes, a variety of colors, take up different amounts of space in your garden, yield differing amounts of tomatoes and have different growing times.
Most of us think of "red" when it comes to tomatoes— however, there is not just one type of red tomato. Some varieties of first-early reds, like Early Girl or Quick Pick, grow and ripen rapidly (50 to 60 days), which makes them suitable for colder weather regions with a shorter growing season. They also yield small- to medium-sized fruit, with Quick Pick noted for its large yield.
Main crop reds are your typical tomato plants that do well for ongoing harvest all summer long. These plants grow medium to large fruits and take 70 to 80 days until first harvest. Celebrity is a variety that has a large yield, as does Fantastic.
Extra-large reds are gigantic tomatoes and are a summer staple. This variety don't take much longer than main crop reds do to grow. They don't typically have a huge yield, owing to their large size. The bigger the tomato, the more energy it takes to produce.
Yellow or orange tomatoes can be just as tangy and mouthwatering as their red relatives, although some tend to taste a bit sweeter due to their higher sugar load. Lemon Boy is one variety that has a high yield and Golden Boy sports a fetching golden color and doesn't have a lot of seeds.
Cherry tomatoes are ideal for the gardener who doesn't have a ton of growing space. They do well in containers on your patio. Some, like the Small Fry, do very well in hanging baskets and many yield scads of one-inch fruits that are a perfect salad accompaniment.
Growing Tomato Plants
Tomatoes do best and produce more when they move into your garden as seedlings or starter plants (as opposed to sowing seeds directly into your soil). Adhere to the spacing and depth requirements printed on the care card that comes with your plants. Also consider using mulch if you're hoping to maintain the plant for the entire growing season.
Container plants will need more frequent watering than those in the ground, but both types must be attended to with your watering can more frequently during dry spells. Some tomato plants are bushier than others and won't require staking, while others continue to grow up and out and will need the extra support to avoid breakage or damaged fruit.
Harvest fruits that are firm and evenly colored. While it's tempting to pluck them to ripen on your counter, vine-ripened toms are usually higher quality and tastier. However, when it's hot outside (temps at or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit), check your plants daily and harvest the tomatoes that have started to color, allowing them to ripen indoors for best results.