These tomato plants grow well in hot, fluctuating temperatures
Q: I recently moved to Redding from the Bay Area and I am ordering my tomato seeds. Because this is a much hotter climate, I’m not sure if my old favorites will produce well. Can you recommend some tomato verities that produce well in this climate?
A: For several years Master Gardeners have asked local gardeners to tell us their favorite tried and true varieties of tomatoes to grow for this area. This list differs a bit if the gardeners are in the valley or in the foothills, but the varieties listed below are the ones consistently recommended over many years.
This is not an all-inclusive list and we keep adding to it as we get recommendations from gardeners as there are more than 15,000 know tomato varieties --- and plant breeders are adding more each year.
- Red varieties: Ace, Celebrity, Early Girl, Bush Early Girl, Valley Girl, Skyway, Grand Marshall
- Cherry/plum types: Juliet, Sun gold, Yellow pear, Supersweet 100
- Paste type: Roma, La Roma III, Amish Paste (all-purpose tomato)
- Other: Black Krim, Cherokee Purple (better for foothills), Orange Blossom, BHN 871
Tomato varieties are categorized as either determinate or indeterminate. Many of the tomato varieties on the above list are determinate varieties. These types tend to be less vulnerable to weather extremes, such as the big swings between day and nighttime temperatures we are subjected to in the spring and early summer.
Determinate plants reach a certain age, then flower and set fruit --- regardless of the summer climate conditions. The drawback is that they tend to set and ripen most of their fruit at the same time. Many folks like these varieties if they’re planning on canning or making sauce. Some gardeners like to plant determinate tomatoes a couple weeks a part so they will have plants producing throughout the summer. Determinate tomatoes tend to be more compact bush types and require less staking.
Indeterminate tomatoes will set fruit all summer until frost kills them, but only if fruiting conditions are favorable. The problem with these varieties is often our local conditions don’t become favorable until October. They won’t set fruit if weather conditions are too hot, or the range between night and daytime temperatures is too extreme.
Because they grow all summer and are vining, Indeterminate tomatoes require sturdy and robust staking for support. A well-fed indeterminate tomato can grow 10 to 12 feet tall.
Many of the open pollinated or heirloom varieties tend to be indeterminate. If you choose to grow one of these types, look for ones that say they are “well adapted.” The latter are less finicky about weather conditions.
Master gardeners welcome readers’ recommendations of tomato varieties that performed well for them in North State climates.
The Shasta Master Gardeners Program can be reached by phone at 530-242-2219 or email email@example.com. The gardener office is staffed by volunteers trained by the University of California to answer gardeners' questions using information based on scientific research.