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Trick to tasty tomatoes, the variety By Sharon Dowdy

Tomatoes are the most commonly grown vegetable in backyard gardens. They are also one of the most difficult to grow, according to a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension expert.

“When it comes to growing tomatoes, it’s best to plant twice as many plants as you need because of all the insects and diseases out there,” said Wade Hutcheson, the UGA Extension Coordinator in Spalding County. “If they all survive, there will be more to eat or give away.”

An avid gardener, Hutcheson’s experience helps him offer firsthand advice to both novice and advanced gardeners in his area.

There are a lot of decisions to make when it comes to growing tomatoes, he said.

“First you have to decide whether to grow your tomatoes from seeds or from (small plants),” he said. “Then you need to decide whether to grow determinate or indeterminate varieties, or both.”

Determinate varieties produce all of the fruit at one time and are a good choice for use as canning tomatoes. Indeterminate varieties bloom and produce fruit all season.

Start seeds 4 to 6 weeks ahead of planting time. Sets can go out once all chance of frost has passed, and soils begin to warm up.

Tomato growers can also select from a large array of available varieties. While buying small plants may be easier, purchasing seeds gives gardeners the widest selection of varieties.

Hutcheson offers this opinion on a few tomato varieties he has grown:

  • Big Boy and Better Boy. These tomatoes are tasty, but not highly disease resistant.
  • Early Girl. This variety produces early, but isn’t as tasty as Big Boy and Better Boy.
  • BHN 444. While these tomatoes aren’t very flavorful, they are very resistant to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus and other diseases.
  • Brandywine. This plant is good overall, but it fruits late in the season.
  • Rutgers. This tomato variety is Hutcheson’s overall favorite. It’s very flavorful and acidic.
  • Personally, Hutcheson has had bad luck growing heirloom tomatoes. “I tried several varieties and they did terrible,” he said. “I didn’t like my results at all but can’t wait to try them again.”

    For more information on growing tomatoes and other garden plants, contact your local UGA Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 or check out our vegetable garden publications online at www.ugaextension.com.

    (Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

    Tomato plants
    Tomato plants

    Tomatoes can be grown from seeds or sets. Sets are small plants that can be bought in various stages of grown as shown.

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    Tomatoes can be grown from seeds or sets. Sets are small plants that can be bought in various stages of grown as shown. Download Image
    County agent
    County agent

    UGA Cooperative Extension agent Wade Hutcheson speaks from personal experience when he teaches classes on how to grow tomatoes in a home garden. Hutcheson's personal favorite tomato variety is Rutgers.

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