To many Hoosiers, summer in Indiana has not arrived until they harvest their first garden tomato. Whether growing just one plant or a whole garden full, few can resist the temptation to eat that first ripe, juicy tomato before it reaches the kitchen. Several tomato varieties flourish in Indiana and with careful planning, you will have tomatoes ready to harvest from the end of June to well into the fall.
The vine varieties of tomatoes, called indeterminate, produce fruit throughout the growing season. Indeterminate tomatoes usually require staking or some sort of support to keep the fruits off the ground. Consider varieties such as Brandywine, German Queen, Cherokee Purple and Oaxacan for slicing. Grow varieties like San Marzano and Roma for sauces.
Indeterminate tomatoes need full sun and plenty of water, at least 1 inch every week. Watch for disease and insects, correcting any infestations quickly. A layer of compost and mulch provides nutrients to the growing plants, reduces weeds and conserves water. Plant tomato plants up to the first leaves, giving them deeper roots to help survive the hot Indiana summer and stabilize the plant.
Determinate tomatoes grow in a bush-like form. The smaller-sized plants make an excellent choice for gardens in Indiana with limited space. Determinate types produce one large crop of tomatoes. Some determinates are the earliest to produce fruits. Varieties to choose from in Indiana include Silvery Fir Tree, Siletz, Siberian and Rocket. Determinates have similar growing requirements to indeterminate tomatoes, except they do not usually need any support system.
Do not plant tomatoes anywhere near black walnut trees, which grow naturally throughout much of the state. The chemical in the trees damages, and can kill, tomato plants. Rotate your tomato plantings yearly, and avoid planting in succession with other members of the family, such as potatoes, to prevent disease.
Some tomato plants have very small fruit. Cherry, grape and currant tomatoes make prolific additions to the Indiana tomato garden. Clusters of fruit cover the plants. Small tomatoes generally have a sweeter flavor than larger varieties. It's possible to grow several varieties in Indiana, including Peacevine, Gold Currant, Yellow Pear, Tocan and Snow White. Both determinate and indeterminate varieties perform well. Grow small-fruited varieties using the same methods you would for any other tomatoes. All tomatoes fruit abundantly when supplied with fertile soil and the correct conditions.