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Disease Resistant Tomatoes
There are many types of tomato out there, and the type of tomato you grow can have a huge effect on the success of your garden. When you choose tomato seeds or seedlings to plant, it’s important to consider the type of fruit, resistance to pests, immunity to disease, and water requirements. These are all determined by the variety (or cultivar) that you pick, and basically hardwired into the tomatoes genes.
No matter which tomato variety you buy, make sure to inspect the seedling at the nursery. Choose seedlings with full, healthy green leaves. Avoid any with discoloration on the leaves, yellow speckling, open wounds, or other visible insect damage. If any of the tomatoes you plant are sick or have insect eggs developing on their leaves, these problems can quickly spread to other plants in your garden.
When purchasing starter plants, the ideal plant is 5 to 7 weeks old. The roots of the plant should fill a four-inch container without spilling out of the drain holes at the bottom. If roots are visible, it may be a sign that the plant is too old for planting. Exposed roots are a red flag because they indicate that the plant will have trouble with transplant shock.
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The label on a tomato plant includes a lot of information. One of the most important things to look for is a letter noting resistance to tomato diseases. Some of the common disease resistant strains are labeled as follows:
Some varieties of tomato have better disease resistance than others. Some of the most resistant cultivars for Fusarium wilt and Tobacco mosaic virus include Suncherry and Golden Cherry. There are also varieties resistant to Verticilium wilt, Fusarium wilt, and Nematodes. These include Abraham Lincoln Improved, Roma VFN, Better Boy, Lemon Boy, and Enchantmen. Varieties resistant to both Verticilium wilt and Fusarium wilt include Sunmaster, Sunny, Mountain Pride, Mountain Delight, Daybreak, Mountain Spring, Maya, and Floramerica.
There are even tomato varieties with a broad spectrum of immunity to Verticilium wilt, Fusarium wilt, Nematodes, and Tobacco mosaic virus. These hardy tomatoes include Sweet Chelsea, Celebrity, Miracle Sweet, and Park’s Whopper Improved.
In addition to disease resistance, there are tomato cultivars that have been selected to resist cracking and are ideal for hot weather. These include Sunmaster, Reisentraube, Garden Peach, Livingston’s Favorite, and many others. These tomatoes are sometimes labeled as “Summer” tomatoes or “Hot Climate” seeds.
For more information on disease resistant tomato varieties and some great tomato gardening tips, visit the Missouri University Tomato Tips Site.
In addition to disease resistance and heat tolerance, there are other reasons to choose particular tomato varieties. Some tomato seeds have been selectively bred over hundreds of years, making them very well adapted to certain climates and areas. These heirloom tomatoes (aka heritage tomatoes) carry a lot of tradition and offer the opportunity to connect directly with history. Other tomato varieties offer unique flavors, elevated levels of certain vitamins, or special productivity.
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Our Favorite Tomato Varieties
Some of my favorite tomatoes combine disease resistance with comforting flavors and unusual colors. If you want to try something different, consider one of the following:
Cherokee Puple: This indeterminate tomato vine produces very colorful and large fruit. The plant can withstand dry growing conditions and is resistant to disease.
Big Beef: These big red tomatoes look the way that most people expect tomatoes to look. Yet, this variety has a lot of unseen benefits. It has a strong immune system and is listed as “VFFNA”.
Better Boy: Produces large tomatoes with a deep red color. The vine has lots of leaves that cover the tomatoes and help prevent sun damage. The Guinness World Record for the most fruit harvested from a single vine was set by a Better Boy Hybrid that produced 342 lbs of tomatoes from a single plant!
Celebrity: This determinate tomato doesn’t require staking or tomato cages, but it produces large red fruit very quickly. It is also resistant to alternaria leaf spot, fusarium, verticilium wilt, nematodes, and tobacco mosaic virus.
Lemon Boy: These tomatoes are named for their light yellow color. The variety is resistant to verticilium wilt, fusarium wilt, and nematodes.
Roma VFN: With big tomatoes and very few seeds per fruit, Roma vines are ideal for making sauces and canning. This variety is resistant to verticilium wilt, fusarium wilt, and nematodes.
Beefmaster: Want a giant tomato? The extra large fruit on this vine can reach 2 pounds. The Beef Master Tomato is also resistant to verticilium wilt, fusarium wilt, and nematodes.
Better Bush Tomato: This “VFN” variety is very sweet and flavorful. It produces fruit faster than many other varieties, typically starting about 68 days after transplanting.
Yellow Pear: This variety has a distinctive golden yellow skin and produces pear shaped fruit with a creamy taste. It can grow very tall with proper supports and staking.
Green Zebra: These tomatoes look a bit like watermelons: they are small (even for a tomato) but have have green stripes. Green Zebra plants produce a lot of fruit and the tomatoes have a light citrus flavor.
Sunmaster Tomato: This drought resistant variety is perfect for the hottest climate. It can withstand very high daytime temperatures and starts producing about 70 days after transplanting.
Market Miracle: A heavy producer, this juicy tomato is great for salsas and making sauces. The underripe tomatoes also fry up very nicely to make fried green tomatoes with a less acidic bite.
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