Lots of people, even experienced gardeners, think growing tomatoes requires a lot of space and a bunch of (sometimes quite tall) tomato cages or stakes. After all, some indeterminate varieties—those that continue producing fruit until frost—can get to 12 feet or more. Even determinate, or “bush” tomatoes, which tend to produce most of their fruit all at once, can grow to four or five feet high.
But even if you’re an apartment-dweller, or you don’t have a large yard, don’t worry. There are dwarf tomato varieties that do just fine in containers, some as small as five gallons. The goal for dwarf tomato breeders like Craig LeHoullier (the NC Tomatoman), whose website is a one-stop-shop for everything tomato-related, and Patrina Nuske Small is to produce fruit that has the same delicious flavor of heirloom varieties on a far more compact, more manageable plant. More information on the Dwarf Tomato Project (and the Open Source Seed Initiative, which helps ensure that these varieties remain widely available) can be found on its website. Another great resource for information on these unique tomato plants is Tatiana’s Tomatobase.
Most of these dwarf varieties exhibit indeterminate characteristics, in that they produce fruit till frost and have a wide range of flavors. They tend to have one central, thick stem, with darker leaves that have a unique wrinkled look to them. Some varieties can still get fairly tall, and you may find that as your dwarf tomato starts setting fruit, you’ll need to stake the plants—they can get fairly top heavy at the height of production.
If you want to give a few of these varieties a try this year, check your farmers’ markets to see whether any of your local producers are selling dwarf tomato seedlings at their stands. These seedlings have the benefit of being acclimated to your area’s climate.
If you wish to try growing a few dwarf varieties from seed, check out these seed companies—they specialize in heirloom, open-pollinated seeds:
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.