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It's Tomato Time: 6 Tomato Plants for Your Garden

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No garden veggie is more appreciated than sweet, juicy, home-grown tomatoes. They are a prime summer crop, but you have to get them into the ground soon to hope for a harvest. With so many different kinds of tomato plants available, you aren't stuck with red varieties. Here are six new types of tomato plants with fruits in different shapes and colors that might liven up your tomato patch.

1. Brown Striped Tomatoes

Everybody loves summer, with warm, sunny days, blossoms everywhere and tomatoes ripening in the garden. If tomatoes make you think red-like-ketchup, it's time you expanded your horizons and tomato plan. One to start with is "Chocolate Stripes."

The name comes from the brown stripes running vertically around the orange-red fruit, guaranteed to get attention. In fact, some think this tomato looks like a tropical fruit. But it's more than a pretty face. Gardeners rave about how prolific the compact Chocolate Stripes tomato vine is, although it stops at about 5 feet. The fruit matures at 75 days, with sweet flesh that is always rich and juicy, never mealy. These tomatoes grow big, sometimes up to a pound each, making excellent slicing tomatoes for sandwiches and equally delicious salsa.

2. Canary-Yellow Cherry Tomatoes

Yellow tomatoes are milder in flavor than red ones, and the "Blondkopfchen" (little blond girl) variety is especially sweet. It's an heirloom from eastern Germany that produces golden cherry tomatoes. These are indeterminate tomato plants, so they get to 5 feet and are quite leafy. But they are in a class of their own when it comes to production. You'll get hundreds of canary-yellow, grape-sized fruit in heavy clusters all summer long. The little tomatoes are absolutely delicious right off the vine, sweet with a lemony edge. This tomato variety doesn't crack and thrives in most climates, including cooler regions.

3. Dusky Purple Fruit

"Cherokee Purple" tomato plants are heirloom varieties discovered and passed along by Native Americans of the Cherokee tribe. With a sweet, rich flavor, Cherokee Purple fruit are consistently ranked sky-high in taste tests around the country. And, the tomatoes are a pleasure to look at, with dark, dusky purple-pink skin and scarlet flesh, perfect for slicing. The vines are vigorous, so be sure to provide adequate staking or caging. Consider a little tomato plant pruning for larger fruit.

4. Green on Green

Almost every tomato starts out green, but only a few finish green, and "Green Zebra" is a stunning example. This unique tomato plant produces oodles of half-pound fruit that are an astonishing mix of greens. The base color is yellow-green, the vertical stripes are forest green and the flesh is gorgeous emerald. Green Zebra is a determinate vine tomato, meaning that you won't have to do much tomato plant pruning since it remains relatively compact. The flavor is mild, and the tomatoes look splendid in salads or salsa.

5. Black Tomatoes

You'll never find tomatoes more eye-catching than "Black Krim." They aren't black-as-night, but the half-pound heirloom fruits mature into a blackish purple color. These are vining plants that require staking or caging, but you'll get lots of the distinctive, meaty tomatoes all summer long. The variety comes from the Crimea region, also known as Black Russia, which seems appropriate for these charcoal-colored fruit. Beloved by European gardeners for the mild/tart flavor, Black Krim tomatoes make a splash in your garden and on your table.

6. Tomato Companion Plants

Companion planting is all about selecting neighbor plants that work well growing beside each other. Fortunately, most garden veggies are good companion plants for tomatoes. Some companion plants reputedly boost the tomato plant's vigor, others improve flavor, while some head off pests and diseases.

While little scientific research has been done on these claims, gardeners swear by companion planting. You have nothing to lose, so why not give it a try? Here are a few to start with:

  • Amaranth to help repel bugs
  • Borage to keep tomato worms away
  • Chives and parsley to improve flavor
  • Garlic to keep spider mites away
  • Basil to assist vigor
  • Stinging nettle to bump up taste
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