Best Tomatoes to Grow for Farmers Markets
Are you planning on selling tomatoes at the farmers market this summer? Now, is the time to get your seeds or plants on order. When choosing your tomato cultivars, it’s important to know your best performers, because a variety that performs well one year may not the next, seasonal conditions can have a significant impact on the performance of a cultivar. Consider diversifying by planting several different varieties. How do you choose the best performers?
How to Diversify for Success
A good approach is to plant several hybrid varieties, which will be your mainstay because they consistently produce high yields with their vigor and disease resistant qualities. Be sure to include heirloom tomatoes as a part of your mix, for that incredible flavor, and they will attract customers looking for that “great tasting tomato.” Consider growing herbs to bundle with tomatoes; it is an innovative way to add value and set yourself apart from the competition. Growing cilantro, parsley, and basil are all easy to grow and pair well with tomatoes, making wonderful tasting, sauces, salsas or pestos. Hand out free recipes to your customers for additional tomato ideas, exceed their expectations, and they will keep coming back to your stand.
Indeterminate vs. Determinate
Ever notice when you plant tomatoes that some will bear right up to the time of frost and others will die off mid-summer, well there is a reason for this phenomenon. Most tomatoes are either determinate or indeterminate. If you planted a tomato classified as determinate, they bear all their fruit within a few weeks and wither away. Indeterminates will continue to bloom and bear fruit all season up to frost time. I plant mainly indeterminate tomatoes to have the longest possible harvest season, except for Celebrity tomatoes.
Hybrids vs. Heirlooms
Tomatoes are either hybrids, and heirlooms also called open pollinated. A hybrid is created by crossing two different varieties to produce an offspring with the desired traits of both parents, and they are known to be more productive than heirlooms. Heirlooms are very popular coming in a variety of cultivars, grown from seed that has been passed down from generation to generation, you can plant the same seed over and over, and the offspring will be the same. People plant heirlooms for their superb flavor. They may not be as disease resistant or high yielding as hybrids but are worth their efforts, you can easily sell them for a premium over hybrids, offer a few taste samples, and they will sell themselves.
Keeping Your Plants Healthy
Keep your plants healthy, fertilize with organic matter, eliminate weeds, and protect them from diseases. Warm, humid days in early summer can create conditions causing blight; an excellent disease preventative is a blend of Epsom salt and water, mix two tablespoons to a gallon of water and spray on your tomato plants in the early morning or late evening, avoid spraying when it is hot. Spray a couple of times early in the season at two-week intervals, starting when tomatoes plants are about 14 inches tall, and this will help the plant build resistance to diseases. This formula works well on other disease sensitive plants like roses and peppers too.
Protect your Plants from Frost
What do you do if you just planted your plants and now there is a frost warning? Your tender plants will need protection from frost, tomato plants are very sensitive to freezing temperatures. Here is a simple way to protect them, make a hot cap. You take two newspaper pages, and place them into a large bowl, then put the bowl over the tomato plant. Next, build up dirt around the sides of the container to hold the newspaper in place, lift the bowl up, leaving a self-made hot cap in place. Afterward, you can safely leave it on the tomato plant for several days, remove it, or cut out an eight-inch circle for the plant to pop through, leaving the sides in place, this is an ideal way to protect young plants from the cold spring winds, you can keep them around the tomatoes for 1-2 weeks.
Best Hybrids to Plant
Hybrids will be your high yielders and should be your backbone, plant a higher percentage of them over heirlooms. Here are my recommendations, these have performed well in my garden.
Big Beef, an indeterminate, is my number one choice for reliability consistent high yields in all weather conditions. I have grown it for many years; it can produce up to half a bushel of tomatoes per plant. There will be plenty of beautiful crack free tomatoes, that are medium to large, with excellent resistance to diseases.
Celebrity a determinate, is another favorite, mainly because of its ability to produce high yields of beautiful looking tomatoes about two weeks earlier than other hybrids.
Country Taste is an indeterminate hybrid, a reliable producer of large steak type tomatoes; they are firm and juicy type tomatoes, that will give you a long season with above average yields of large tomatoes.
Other good hybrid choices are Champion 2 and Better Boy, both have excellent disease resistance qualities and will reliably produce high yields of attractive looking tomatoes.
Top Heirloom Choices
Marianna’s Peace an indeterminate heirloom variety that produces heavy yields of great tasting tomatoes late in the season. What I like about this one, in late August when a lot of my tomato plants seem to winding down, this one is just getting started with an abundance of large beautiful tomatoes.
Ananas Noire heirloom indeterminate, also known as “Black Pineapple” has the most delicious flavor, producing high yields of medium to large tomatoes. They will please your tomato connoisseurs with their fantastic taste, and beautiful colors of green and pink revealed in the flesh when sliced. They are great for someone looking for an unusually good tasting heirloom.
Virginia Sweets indeterminate bicolored heirloom produces lots of gorgeous dark yellow and red colored tomatoes that have delightful tomato flavor. They are even more beautiful when sliced displaying lovely streaks of red in the bright yellow flesh, and they are sure to draw praise from your customers.
One More Favorite
Flaming Burst open pollinated indeterminate cherry type, it has a super sweet flavor that won’t stop, it is a stunning producer with early yields of beautiful yellow color pear-shaped tomatoes, bearing an abundance of thin-skinned crack free fruit, producing loads off tomatoes well into fall. Tip: Right before frost pull them up and hang them in your garage, to enjoy them for several more weeks.
Have a Successful Farmers Market
Have a successful farmer market this year, diversify your tomato plantings with a good mix of hybrids and heirlooms. I plan to plant all of these varieties this year, plus a couple of new ones, and who knows next year I may have a new favorite. If you are interested in acquiring any of these varieties mentioned here, visit online Totally Tomatoes, they have one of the largest selections of hybrids and heirlooms in the business, they are reasonably priced, with fast shipping. I buy all my favorites there, and I am always tempted to try something new. Have a successful farmer market this year and make some cold cash.
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