We help you choose the best kind of tomatoes to grow based on for your situation – whether that’s home garden, balcony or farm.
When it comes to growing tomatoes, there are so many varieties to choose from and it can be hard to know where to start.
Whether you are bottling, value-adding, selling or eating fresh, there are a vast selection of colours, shapes, and flavours to choose from.
This is our guide to help you choose the best variety of tomato for your home garden, balcony or farm.
Choosing the best tomatoes for your situation
If you have a sunny windowsill, a backyard, a front step or a small farm, you can grow tomatoes, and there’s a method and a variety to suit every situation.
You just need to work out what factors you have to work with and then find a cultivar and a growing method that’s right for you.
Big or small?
Big tomatoes are heavy tomatoes. While this might seem obvious, until you’ve held a fully laden tomato vine of beefsteak tomatoes, you may not realise just how heavy they can be. This is fine if your growing space has the infrastructure to deal with such a vine – very sturdy trellises or a strong over-head pole to tie them off. If you don’t, it’s best to consider varieties with smaller fruit.
Smaller-fruited tomatoes are also great for kid-friendly gardens, as they are easy to pick off the vine, unlike some larger varieties, which must be picked with care to avoid damaging the vine.
Bush or climbing?
Most bush tomatoes will ripen over a short period, which can be excellent or a headache, depending on what else is happening in your house that week. Climbers will give you a smaller but steadier stream of fruit.
Climbing tomatoes are also great for making the most of limited growing space, as they use the vertical plane to maximum effect, and can climb over two metres if allowed to do so.
Heat and light
Two things that tomatoes love are heat and light, and both are essential for a good crop. A minimum of six hours of direct sunlight on the plants is recommended.
In temperate climates, planting them in the warmest part of your garden will definitely help – a growing space that faces the equator is ideal.
Tomatoes also love heat, so in colder climates it’s common to grow them in a greenhouse, which traps any available heat inside. A sunny indoor porch or a sunroom is also a great place to grow tomatoes if you live in a cold climate.
Do you have a small garden bed with a sunny wall behind it? Rig up a trellis and grow climbing tomatoes. Or a sunny balcony but no ground space? Grow bush or dwarf tomatoes upside down, or in pots with a stake. Do you have lots of space and are longing for a supply of homemade passata? Plant bush tomatoes in a block.
What about a small vegie patch? Perhaps plant a row of well-trimmed climbers in the centre of a garden bed.
Or do you have no outside space at all, but a sunny window that faces the equator? Plant cherry climbers in pots inside, and twine them as they grow, up sturdy string to the top of the window.
So no matter what your situation, there is the perfect tomato waiting for you. Experiment with multiple varieties until you find which ones work best for you.
Want to know more about what kind of tomatoes you should grow?
In Issue #12 of Pip Magazine, we delve into heritage versus hybrid tomatoes, determinate versus indeterminate tomatoes, and the different groupings of tomatoes.
We also provide an in-depth table which outlines each of the names, types and groupings of key tomato varieties, what they look like, and what they are/are not good for.
Grab your copy of Issue #12 of Pip here.
This is an extract from Milkwood’s book, ‘Milkwood: Real Skills For Down to Earth Living’ by Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar (Murdoch Books 2018), RRP $45.00. Photography by Kate Berry and Kirsten Bradley.