Heirloom Tomatoes


Open pollinated simply means that the plants will produce seeds carrying the exact characteristics of the parents (which means you can grow the same fruit year after year just by saving seeds).

Heirloom is open-pollinated and was grown in an earlier era. Some heirlooms are hundreds of years old, and others originated around the turn of the 20th century.  In many cases, hybridizers have chosen properties like disease resistance and heavy yields over flavor. Fans of heirlooms will argue that many of the best tasting crops come from heirloom plants.

Hybrids are created by cross breeding compatible types of plants in an effort to create desirable characteristics.  Modern day hybridization focuses on improving produce shelf life and transportability.  While plants can cross-pollinate in nature and hybrids repeatedly selected and grown may eventually stabilize, many hybrid seeds are relatively new crosses and seed from these hybrids will not necessarily produce the parent plant.

Determinate tomatoes set all their fruit over a relatively short period, so many are great for canning and freezing. They don’t grow much after flowering starts and tend to be more compact – better for small spaces and pots.

Indeterminate tomatoes flower and fruit over a long season, and plants keep growing larger until cool weather shuts them down. They need room to sprawl and most likely will require sturdy stakes, cages or trellising.


Fish Head/Tomato Growing Project this is a biodynamic method of tomato growing used at SunnysideLOCAL.  Use this method with your “in ground” tomatoes ONLY.

Growing Tomatoes in ContainersCynthia Sandberg, organic farmer and owner of Love Apple Farm, invested several years developing the best way to grow tomatoes in containers.  Her organic growing methods have inspired us at SunnysideLOCAL to take her advice and reap abundant harvests.

General Tomato Information

  • Getting Started     Tomatoes like at least 6 hours of sun/day.  Find a spot in your yard that will provide that.  Dig a hole at least 1 ft. wide by 1 1/2 ft. deep.  Tomatoes have deep roots.  Fill hole halfway with a good quality organic compost, followed by one handful bone meal and one handful 4-6-4 or 5-10-5 fertilizer.  Fill the hole to top with good garden soil and mix thoroughly.
  • Planting       Dig space out of your original hole and bury the new tomato transplant right up to the bottom most leaves.  The stem will grow roots and make your tomato plant much stronger.  Water well.  Tomato plants can reach 6 ft. of higher.  Make sure to trellis or stake to give plenty of support.
  • Watering     In the first month after planting, water young plant every other day until blossoms start to form.  As plants get larger, apply more water in a basin area about 3 feet wide around the plant.  Water between every 3-4 days for about 15 – 20 minutes (more if soil is sandy, less if soil has more clay).  Heavy or over watering decreases fruit sweetness.
  • Fertilizing     Avoid over fertilizing with nitrogen.  This only increases leaf growth, not fruit.  After the initial planting work ½ cup 4-6-4 organic fertilizer into soil when the main stem is one inch thick.  Then fertilized one more time when you begin to harvest tomatoes.  Preparing good soil in the beginning will feed plant as it grows.
  • Possible problems     Tomato cracking and poor fruit set are caused by inconsistent watering.  Find the amount that works best for your plant and stick to a schedule to prevent these problems.  The proper amount of water helps the plant absorb its nutrients from the soil.  If black spots appear on the fruit, this is a result of poor calcium absorption.  Probably made worse by inconsistent watering. Most tomatoes should never be watered everyday.  Container tomatoes in the heat of summer are the only acception.

Enjoy your healthy harvest!


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2 Responses to Heirloom Tomatoes

  1. Sean Starr says:

    Hi, a friend of mine sent me a link to your site over the weekend. Great site, and I would love to come visit you soon. We are located just east of Big Bear in the mountains and are kicking off our community garden this spring.

  2. Ann Walker says:

    Thank you for the advices!

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