NO VEGETABLE IS MORE COMMONLY GROWN by home gardeners than the tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum), but that doesn’t mean you should grow the same common varieties year in and out. More than 100 kinds are available in specialty catalogs as plants these days if you don’t have seeds around to start right now (and I mean right now) for transplanting outdoors the first week of June. Don’t settle for the mundane; sow seed before the end of the month or order plants for delivery after Memorial Day. Want to know which nurseries have a really great selection?
Although ‘Sweet 100’ and its later sibling ‘Sweet Million’ probably dominate the cherry-tomato market, even among these little tomatoes there are outstanding alternatives to be had: ‘Chadwick’s Cherry,’ carried as seed or plants by Bountiful Gardens, is an ample, golfball-size with good tomato taste; ‘Sungold’ (shown, next to two red ‘Sweet 100’ fruits) is tangerine-orange and very tasty. Your local nursery should have this.
For novelty in a salad tomato, try ‘Black Prince’ (mahogany brown and juicy inside) or pink-fleshed ‘Oxheart’. There are better paste tomatoes than the standard ‘Roma’, too, like ‘Super Italian Paste’ and ‘San Marzano’ (both large-fruited).
I have not even scratched the surface, of course. Territorial Seed has more than 80 kinds of tomatoes as plants for mail-order, including many, like ‘Stupice,’ rated especially for their productivity in short growing seasons like mine.
I have long used the cages of all cages (and my other tomato advice). [Update: A tomato breeder suggests that staking and pruning, rather than caging, may be a better choice to help combat tomato disease if you’ve had issues.] More to come, of course, closer to planting time. Promise.