Tomato varieties may be grouped into two types: Bush varieties and Tall varieties.
Bush varieties are as their name suggests (bush-like) and grow to a pre-determined height – they are also known as “determinate”.
Tall varieties are usually known as indeterminate because they grow to any height that you let them grow to! They are also known as “Cordon” because their fruit trusses grow out from the main stem.
This type needs stopping at some point by pinching out the main stem to encourage the growth below, and the tomatoes to mature.
There are many different varieties of bush and cordon types – from small cocktail/cherry size to large beefsteak whoppers!
Short Season Varieties
Perhaps the easiest variety to grow is a cherry variety. These usually produce fruit earlier than the larger ones and have less growing to do to reach full size!
If you live in a part of the world where summers are short and last between June and August (the UK for example), there is a time limit on the amount of growing and fruiting plants can do before cold temperatures halt their growth.
This means that you need to choose a short season variety that produces early.
Tomato Varieties in the UK
Most tomato plants are grown in grow bags and containers with new compost in the UK because the weather, and temperatures,
aren’t good enough to plant directly into the ground unless you are an experienced allotment grower with a tried and tested method!
Disease Resistant Varieties
However, for those who do grow tomatoes in the soil of their garden/greenhouse border choosing varieties with disease resistance is important.
There are many pests and diseases that build-up in the soil from season to season, that can reduce a crop’s yield and weaken tomato plants.
You may see letters following the variety name on your seed packet such as “Roma VFN” which means that the Roma variety is resistant to Verticillium Wilt, Fusarium Wilt and Nematodes.
However, resistance is not the same as immunity – just as blight tolerant is not the same as blight resistant!
Varieties for different areas
I am constantly amazed at how one variety differs from another and not all varieties like full sun either!
Just small variations in weather conditions can make the difference between a great crop and a disappointing one. So finding which variety is best for your area is important for success.
Heirloom/Heritage or Hybrid Varieties
An heirloom has been around for years and its seeds have been saved and passed down the generations because of its particular qualities – taste for example.
A hybrid is a cross between two different varieties with the intention of keeping or encouraging the best qualities of both parents.
After a flower is cross fertilised, the seeds from the tomato it produces are the hybrid seeds. These seeds are only stable (will grow tomatoes the same shape and size) at this stage, first generation (F1).
Hybrid seeds have to be continually created in this way which makes them more expensive.