One tomato plant grown in the garden or a container can produce 10 to 15 pounds of fruit. They are grown in 95 percent of home gardens, making them the most popular plant to grow. Iowa State University Extension has named "Early Girl," "Better Boy" and "Patio" as three of the best varieties to grow, but there are many types of tomatoes to consider.
Open-pollinated or Hybrid
A hybrid tomato seed is cross-bred for specific characteristics, such as length of days to harvest or resistance to a certain disease. Open-pollinated tomatoes hold true to the parent plant's characteristics generation after generation. Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated. To be classified as heirloom the seed must have been saved for 50 years and the tomato must have a history or folklore. "Besser" is a cherry type tomato from the Freiburg area of Germany that was introduced to the U.S. in the 1800s. "Brandywine," "German Green Striped" and "Amish Paste" are popular heirloom tomatoes that can be found in garden centers. There are many online resources for heirloom tomato seeds.
"Celebrity," "Lemon Boy," "Mountain Delight" and "Roma" are popular tomato varieties that grow on determinate vines. Determinate vines have been genetically modified to specific characteristics such as vine length. They typically grow 5 feet tall. Some small varieties such as "Patio Princess" are bred to grow no more than 2 feet in height. Determinate tomato plants are popular for limited-space gardens and container gardens because they do not need to be staked. Determinate tomatoes such as "Pik Red" and "President" set their fruit all at the same time and harvest lasts for two weeks.
Many of the best tomato varieties grow on indeterminate vines that can reach 10 feet or more in length. "Big Boy" has been a popular variety since its introduction in 1949 by Burpee Seeds. "Early Girl," "Better Boy" and "Big Beef" are indeterminate vine favorites. Indeterminate tomatoes blossom, fruit and come to harvest progressively throughout the growing season. The long vine growth makes caging or staking essential on indeterminate tomatoes. "Brandywine," "Stupice" and "Green Zebra" are a few of the best indeterminate heirloom tomatoes.
"Tiny Tim" and "Cherry Belle" are well-known container variety tomatoes. Both grow ½- to 1-inch tomatoes. "Christmas Grapes" is popular for its sweet 1-inch tomatoes that grow in clusters of a dozen or more. "Black Pearl" is a hybrid container tomato with dark purple-brown fruit that that are said to become sweeter when refrigerated. "Yellow Pear" is one of the best small-size heirloom container tomatoes, prized for its bright yellow, pear-shaped fruit.