Tomato Workshop Recap

We had a great turn out for last Sunday's Tomato Workshop. Thank you to all of those who attended, and a big thank you to Casey Campbell who taught us all something new about tomatoes and cheap alternatives to tomato trellising. If you couldn't make it, read below to see what you missed!


Choosing the Right Tomato

Now is the time to plant your tomatoes! But before you put just any tomato plant in the ground, it's good to consider these criteria when selecting varieties and placement in the garden.

Consider the vegetative growth habit

How much space do you have? Do you want one big harvest or a smaller continual harvest throughout the season? How much effort and time do you want to spend on your tomatoes this summer?

Tomatoes varieties are divided into two types. 

 1.     Determinate (bush-type)

  • Grows to a certain size (2 - 3 feet tall) and then diverts energy from vegetative growth to terminal fruit sets
  • Easier to contain
  • Less labor intensive – require less pruning and trellising
  • Fruit sets and ripens at once, yielding one or two main harvests
  • Best for preserving and bulk processing, i.e. salsa, sauce or paste making

2.      Indeterminate  (vining type)

  • Needs continual pruning and stronger trellising and support
  • Will produce fruit until the plant is killed by frost
  • Higher foliage to fruit ratio tends to yield better flavor

Casey recommended these varieties:

Early Girl, Sweet 100, Patio, Celebrity, Roma and San Marzano

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At our Garden City Harvest farms, we also grow:

Purple Cherokee, Black Krim, Sungold Cherry, Muscovitch, Glacier and more!

Consider Seed Type

Are you interested in saving your own seeds to plant next year?

1.      Open Pollinated – plants are pollinated by natural mechanisms, allowing for genetic diversity and adaptation to local conditions from year to year.  Seed will remain true to type if it is not cross-pollinated with other varieties within the same species. Heirlooms fall into this category. Seed can be saved.

2.      Hybrid – Labeled F1 on seed packets, has been bred for specific characteristics, typically disease tolerance and increased fruit production. Genetically unstable, seed will not stay true to type new seed must be purchased every year


Fruit Characteristics & Use

What do you like to eat? What is your primary use? Do you plan to preserve tomatoes in the fall?


Other things to take into consideration:

  •  Days to maturity – consider the short growing season in Montana (look for tomatoes that mature in 60 - 70 days)
  •  Size
  • Color – yellow and orange tomatoes are generally less acidic and more mild in flavor
  •  Texture
  •  Use - Slicers for salads, burgers & sandwiches; paste for processing (they are meatier with lower juice content); cherry or grape tomatoes are great for kids and adults who think the don't like tomatoes...



Tomato Planting and Care

Site Selection

  •  Full sun – 6-10 hours per day (production goes down with each hour of shade)
  • Well drained soil with plenty of organic material
  •  Soil pH – 6.5 - 6.8
  •  Companion Planting

Tomato Companions

Nasturtiums are good companion plants for tomatoes.

Nasturtiums are good companion plants for tomatoes.

o   Marigold

o   Basil

o   Chives

o   Dill

o   Parsley

o   Onion

o   Nasturtium




o   Beets

o   Cabbage

o   Rosemary

o   Fennel



  •  Harden off starts and plant after chance of last frost has passed

  • Choose a mild, cloudy afternoon to reduce transplant shock

  • Space plants 2-3 feet apart to allow plenty of room for mature plants

  • Mix 3-4 inches of compost into hole at time of planting

  • Plant deep so the lowest stems are just above soil level

  • Establish trellising stakes or cages immediately to avoid damaging roots later

  • Water after planting immediately, applying fish emulsion fertilizer is also good for transplants!

  • Spread mulch, if using


Continual Care

  • Water deeply (6-8” soil depth) 2-3 times per week
  • Fertilize at planting and every 2-3 weeks throughout the season with balanced fertilizers or ones higher in phosphorous and potassium. *AVOID fertilizers higher in nitrogen unless you know your soil is deficient
  • Prune suckers and continue to trellis indeterminate plants as plants grow