Wild Men on the North Fork

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Varieties and Sources, part 5: Tomato to Watermelon


Tomatoes were first grown by Native Americans. Because they are members of the nightshade family, many Europeans thought tomatoes were poisonous, though early colonists learned otherwise. Thomas Jefferson was an avid grower, developer, and consumer of tomatoes. The earliest variety of tomato that we know about is the Yellow Pear. It was around in the 1600's. Today, tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown in American gardens, and there are thousands of varieties. A surprising number of varieties 'originate' from Europe, as the Europeans have taken to this vegetable whole heartedly.

Many other members of the nightshade family are also edible, including the ground cherry, the husk tomato, the tomatillo, and the garden huckleberry. If you grow these other nightshades treat them just as you would a tomato.

Tomatoes thrive in heat, and moderately rich soil. We see evidence that tomatoes do not like too much nitrogen, and will yield more foliage than blossoms when over-exposed to nitrogen. Tomatoes are prone to blossom end rot, particularly paste and plum tomatoes. Bone meal will prevent blossom end rot, by supplying calcium without burning the plants. A more economical treatment may be powdered milk. Tomatoes drink a lot of water when it is very hot, yet do best when they have good drainage. Some tomatoes may need some shade during the day. Many tomatoes thrive in yards where they get less than a full day of sun. Tomatoes are set out as plants in the spring when all danger of frost is past. For Wyoming watch for short season varieties that are resistant to disease and wilt. Do not plant longer season tomatoes. You will only be disappointed. For main tomatoes (not paste) we plant about half indeterminate and half determinate varieties. Indeterminates will outperform in a hot summer (2006) and determinates will outperform in a cool one (2004, 2005).

Links: University of Illinois Extension, Tomato History, Tomato Problem Solver, Planting Tomatoes with Legumes, Tomato Art Festival,

Soils: Prefers moderate manure and/or fertilizer. Really prefers well drained soil.

Companions: Beans, Corn, Melons, Pumpkin, Radishes, Squash, and Other Nightshades

Germination: 98 percent when soils are 59 degrees. This one loves cool soils.

Group: Nightshade (Lycopersicon esculentum) Other Nightshade: Egg Plant, Pepper, Potato, Garden Huckleberry, Tomatillo

Blossom end rot: can result from lack of calcium in soil. Till bone meal into the soil, or use powdered milk. But the most likely cause is either: (1) too much water around the roots. Lighter watering and better drainage is the cure; or (2) because of hot weather the plant is simply processing too much water. Add calcium to the soil in the forms of bone meal or powdered milk. Pick when just turning color, and at season's end pick green. Tomatoes don't need the sun, they ripen just fine indoors. Do not let tomatoes freeze.

Planting: Set out after all danger of frost is past.

Click Here To See Our Tomato Support System

Click Here To See How To Trim Tomatoes

Click Here To See The Tomato Family Tree

= Rated for Taste
= Rated for Production

Main Crop Indeterminate Tomatoes:

Days to


Name - Description Product
Burp 72, Reim 68, Ttom 68, Recommend
Tomande Hybrid VFFNT
- Wonderful taste,. Ribbed shoulders and oblate. Sets heavily. Indeterminate. Grown in 2007-10. We love the flavor of Tomande. Indeterminate. Indeterminates perform well in a warm season and not as well in a cool season. See the Determinate Tomato Section below.Medium Seed Potency
6 to 8 ounces
Bakr 80, Burp 80, John 80, Pine 69, Reim 75, SeedsN 80, Ttom 69, Recommend
Black Krim -
Dark deep red with green shoulders, indeterminate. We grew this in 2003-2018. We will grow it in '19. This may be the best tasting tomato we grow. Note: 2008 was very cold, and this altered the taste of Black Krim. It retained its sweetness, but lost its acidity. From the Baker Creek Seeds Catalog: "Dark red-purple fruit, rich sweet flavor. One of the best. It always places high in tomato taste trials. It's very juicy. An heirloom from Russia with very unique-looking, large fruit. I really like the wonderful flavor. It's popular at many markets on the West Coast; also a favorite of many fince chefs. Indeterminate. Indeterminates perform well in a warm season and not as well in a cool season. See the Determinate Tomato Section below. High Seed Potency ...Heirloom***
6 to 16 ounces
Burp 59, Jung 64, Park 57, Pine 60, Reim 57, SeedsN 57, Ttom 57, Vrmt 60, Recommend
Early Girl VFF,
developed by Burpee, the most popular tomato in American gardens, early and hearty. Hint: grow alongside a bigger variety to maximize the size of Early Girl. Indeterminate. Indeterminates perform well in a warm season and not as well in a cool season. See the Determinate Tomato Section below. Grown again in 2013 to see how it stacked up against our favorites. It was not as early or as productive.
4 to 6 ounces
Park 65, Reim 65, SeedsN 65, Ttom 65, Recommend
Whopper Improved VFFNT
, a nice large tomato, developed by Park, Whopper is a standard for large tomatoes - indeterminate Indeterminates perform well in a warm season and not as well in a cool season. See the Determinate Tomato Section below.
8-12 ounces
Reim 85, Ttom 65, SeedsN 70, Recommend
Goliath - VFFNTASt
, Winner of our 2000 tomato trials, and grown every year since, big plants with big fruit, good flavor, superb! Goliath and Early Goliath are steady and dependable producers. Flavor is not as good as other varieties. Indeterminate. Indeterminates perform well in a warm season and not as well in a cool season. See the Determinate Tomato Section below. High Seed Potency
10 to 15 ounces
Reim 58, SeedsN 58, Ttom 58, Recommend
Early Goliath - VFFNTASt
, Big plants, earlier, with big fruit. Possibly a better tomato than the original Goliath. Seems to resist wilt better than the original. Goliath and Early Goliath are steady and dependable producers. Flavor is not as good as other varieties. Indeterminate. Indeterminates perform well in a warm season and not as well in a cool season. See the Determinate Tomato Section below. High Seed Potency
10 to 15 ounces
Burp 73, John 70, Reim 73, SeedsN 73, Ttom 73, Big Beef Hybrid VFFNTASt, AAS Winner, Some consider Big Beef to be the best tomato yet developed. Grown in 2010, a cold year, and it was a flop for us. But it is very popular with other gardeners across Wyoming. So, you may want to trial this one. Indeterminate. Indeterminates perform well in a warm season and not as well in a cool season. See the Determinate Tomato Section below. 8-12 ounces
Burp 65-75, Atlas Hybrid - From the Burpee Catalog: "First-ever beefsteaks for porches and decks in warm, sunny conditions everywhere. Pick big, tasty beefsteaks right outside your door! First-ever beefsteaks for porches and decks in warm, sunny conditions everywhere. New bushy, compact ‘Atlas’ plants easily shoulder their bountiful loads of one-pound tomatoes. This vigorous, neatly growing paragon of the patio combines modern performance with old-time flavor. Fruits deliver unsurpassed balance of sweetness and acidity. Semi-determinate plants."

Atlas performed well enough in the 2018 season that we will grow it again in 2019. Indeterminate. Indeterminates perform well in a warm season and not as well in a cool season. See the Determinate Tomato Section below. ...Heirloom***

1 pound
Jung 64, SeedsN 64, Buffalo Steak - From the Jung Catalog: "(VFNT) Meaty with very few seeds. Vigorous vines produce high quality fruits averaging 6 ounces or more, with superior flavor, a meaty texture, and very few seeds. Excellent for slicing off slabs to top your favorite sandwiches. Indeterminate plants are very productive and are quite disease resistant. Indeterminate" Buffalo Steak performed well enough in the 2018 season that we will grow it again in 2019. 6 ounces
. . . . .
Varieties We Rate as Failures: Goliath Bush (18), Skyway Hybrid (17), Rebecca Allen (17), Brandy Boy (17) Defiant (16) Super Sauce (13) First Light (09), Marmande (08), Country Taste (08), Ultimate Opener (07), Delicious (grown by Stella in 2010), Bloody Butcher (10), Rose (10), Big Beef (10), Corona (11),
Varieties We Rate as So-So: Prudens Purple (12), Tigerella (12), Cour di Bue (11), Pink Icicle (11), Pantano Romanesco (11), Anna Russian (11), Homestead (11) Buckbee's 50 Day (09), Ultrasonic VFT(07), Early Cascade, Big Boy, Cherokee Purple, Brandy Boy Hybrid, Gold Medal, Old German, Big Zac
Varieties Bill Simpson Rates as Failures: Ultimate Opener (08), Moskvich (08), Campbells (10), Marglove (10)
Varieties Bill Simpson Rates as So-So: Tomande (08), Marmande (08), Siberia (04), Jet Setter (04), Early Goliath (04),

Main Crop Determinate Tomatoes:


Bill Simpson is the gardener who really turned me onto Determinate tomatoes. He invited me out to his place to see what he was doing in his garden. I was surprised by the fact that he planted nothing but Determinate tomatoes, and also by how heavily those plants produced.

Determinate tomatoes reach a point in their growth when they stop growing vines and leaves and put all their efforts into growing and ripening fruit. Indeterminate tomatoes (which is mostly what is sold by greenhouses) keep growing their vines until they are stopped by hard frost. Indeterminate plants usually grow taller and require staking and support. Determinate plants usually stay quite short (there are exceptions) and need no staking and no trimming at all.

We started growing Determinate tomatoes in the 2005 season with 10 plants. This 2006 season we grew 26 Determinate plants. Our only regrets are that we did not grow more Determinates and fewer Indeterminates. Be assured that next year the count on our Determinate plants will rise again.

One problem with Determinate tomatoes is that, generally speaking, they do not have the great flavor that Indeterminates have. There is a chart in Johnny's Seeds 2006 catalog that clearly illustrates this point. It is for that reason that we probably will never get completely away from planting some Indeterminates. However, careful reading of the catalogs tells me that there are some great tasting Determinates. It may just be a matter of hunting for them.

The best reason to start growing Determinate tomatoes is the fact that their production matches our growing season much better than Indeterminates. Note the chart below. We usually get a cool spell about September 3rd, and our first hard frost about September 22. Most Determinates will have ripened a majority of their fruits on the vine by the time that first cool period hits on the 3rd. But, as you can see, it is a different story with the early Indeterminates. Later Indeterminates will be lucky to have produced very many ripe fruit by the time of our first hard frost.

Days to


Name - Description Product
The Best:
Reim 66, Recommend
Applause Hybrd VFFA
- Determinate. Large fruits, 8 to 12 oz., Rich and satifying flavor, big, early, delicious. Grown in 2008-10. Will grow again in '11. We think Applause is the very best Determininate we have ever grown. In a cool summer (2009) we got at least one 16 oz. fruit off of each plant. Overall tomato production was superb! In 2017 and again in 2018 we had disease problems with Applause. I will be reducing the number of Applause I plant in 2019 to half of what I planted in 2018. Low Seed Potency
6 to 16 ounces
John 74, BHN 871 - From the Johnny's Catalog: "This variety gives high yeilds of attractive golden orange tomatoes." Determinate. BHN 871 performed well enough in 2018 that we may grow it again. It was productive! 10-12 ounces
Burp 73, Bush (Beef)Steak Hybrid - From the Burpee's Catalog: "Meet the best of the staked tomatoes-a standout for exceptional taste, size and quantity. This surprisingly compact (20-24") plant is just loaded with large, flavorful tomatoes. Well-suited for a patios, small gardens and containers, the dwarf plants offer big meaty fruit (8-12 oz.) and early maturity." Determinate. Bush Beefsteak performed very well in 2018. We will increase its planting in 2019. 8-12 ounces
Reim 70, Ttom 70, Goliath Prime Beef - From the Totally Tomatoes Catalog: "70 Days (VFFTSt)-Goliath continues to bring 'Prime' flavors to the table with this new beef-steak type variety! Large fruits are very flavorful, globe-shaped, green shouldered and weigh 8 to 10 ounces. Perfect for salads, sandwiches and more. Determinate/ Goliath Prime Beef performed well enough in our 2018 trial that we will grow it again in 2019." 8-10 ounces
SeedsN 49, Goliath Giant Early Bush - From the Seeds N Such Catalog: "49 days. We’ve all heard it: early tomatoes aren’t very big and bush tomatoes aren’t productive. But ‘Goliath Giant Early Bush’ refutes all these myths! The first new member of the ‘Goliath Series’ I’ve introduced since my Totally Tomatoes days, new ‘Giant Early Bush’ is a week earlier than abiding favorite ‘Early Girl’ and at 14 to 20-oz., as big as ‘Big Beef’, our most popular tomato overall. The taste? That classic, old fashioned tomato flavor that’s both tart and tangy. Technically a semi-determinate with a spread of only 28-in. and a height of 48-in. that’s ideal for the garden or large pots. Requires support due to the weight of the fruits. We will trial this one in 2019. 8-12 ounces
SeedsN 67, Tonopah Hybrid - From the Seeds N Such Catalog: "67 days. From the breeder of AAS-winning ‘Mountain Merit’! A slicer with great adaptability, from Florida’s heat to the Northeast’s cold! Early, big yields of bright red, delectable, 10-oz. fruits from vigorous, determinate plants. Ideal in the garden or in big pots. We will trial this one in 2019. 8-12 ounces

Specialty Tomatoes:

Days to


Name - Description Plant Height Product

Garden Huckleberry , a nightshade relative of the tomato. Start indoors and set out. Plants will only be an inch tall at set-out, but will grow quickly, treat like a tomato, fertilize well, each plant forms a tall 'cane' on which grow 1/4 inch berries so dark purple they look black. DO NOT PICK TOO EARLY. Wait until berries have been shiny for a week or two. Berries go through four distinct stages. 1. Green, 2. Purple w/green tinge, 3. Black-hard-shiny (not ripe yet), 4. Black-dull-softer to the touch (Ripe). Those stages are depicted below.

Produces1/8 to 1/4 inch berries. Makes some of the best jam ever. Has thousands of tiny seeds per jar of jam. Folks with diverticulitis should not eat the jam.

? ?
Bakr ?, Recommend
Chichiquelite Huckleberry
- Heirloom, a garden huckleberry that is smaller in size than the standard berry we have often grown. It also boasts heavier yeilds. Grown in 2007. Our starts failed in '08. We will grow this in '09. Very sweet on the vine and never bitter like the others. Vastly superior. Medium Seed Potency ...Heirloom***
3 to 5 feet tall 1/8 to 1/4 inch berry
Bakr 70, Seed 77, Ttom 80, Recommend
Black Plum -
Best small (plum) tomato for a true tomato taste, superb....more than superb. Grown in 2002-08. Will grow in '09. We think this is the best small tomato you can plant. Plants are vigorous and prolific. We will grow this instead of any cherry tomato. It's that good. High Seed Potency ...Heirloom***
3 to 6 feet 2 to 3 ounces
Jung 68, Ttom 68, Recommend
Sun Sugar - Cherry Tomato
From the Totally Tomatoes' Catalog: "62 Days (FT) The ultimate in cherry tomatoes, this golden-yellow beauty achieves a new level of sugary-sweetness and flavor, superb texture, and a tangy "true tomato" taste. Fruits are a lovely golden-yellow, weigh 1/2 oz., and possess thin skins - remarkable, considering its wonderful crack resistance, even in heavy rains. Heavy early cropper. Very vigorous - can be grown outdoors or indoors in an unheated greenhouse in cold climates. Indeterminate"
3 to 6 feet 2 to 4 ounces
Burp 80, Big Mama - Huge paste/salsa tomato, 5 X 3 inches, new for 2002, Big Mama does much better in Mark McAtee's back yard than it does in our main plots. Go figure. Indeterminate. High Seed Potency 3 to 5 feet 4 to 14 ounces
Shum 70, Ttom 70, Sunny Goliath VFN, Big plants with big fruit, yellow flesh and more tart taste, superb! The plant is as vigorous as the original Goliath. We would consider growing this variety again. - indeterminate High Seed Potency 4 to 6 feet 10 to 15 ounces
Varieties We Rate as Failures: Mountain Merit, Skyway, Mountain Fresh, Defiant, Celebrity, Valley Girl, Debut, Bush Champion, Early Cascade, Sweet Million, Suncherry, Sungold, Black Prince, Icicle Series (11), Amish Paste (10)
Varieties We Rate as So-So: Red Pear (08), Yellow Pear (08), Sweet Baby Girl (07), Giant Valentine (06)


Watermelon is an ancient food. There is evicence that the Ancient Egyptians grew it. Watermelon will produce fruit in Wyoming. We had one come up volunteer in 2001 and it produced a delicious melon. They can be hard to get started. Set out as plants as soon as all danger of frost is past. Watermelons prefer soils that are 60 degrees Farenheit or warmer, so you may want to cover with plastic. Watermelon like lots of water and loose, friable soil, fairly rich in nitrogen. Plant only short season varieties.

Links: WHFoods, University of Illinois Extension, Ohio State University, Benefits of Watermelon,

Soils: Prefers loose soil, with lots of humus. Sandy is fine. Do not add fertilizer.

Companions: Potato

Germination: 94 percent when soils are 77 degrees.

Group: Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus) Harvest when the curled tendril near the stem begins to dry up, when the surface color of the fruit turns dull, when the skin is rough and resists penetration, or when the part touching the ground turns from light green to a yellowish.

Planting: Set out or direct sew after all danger of frost has passed.

Click Here For Watermelon Size/Weight Chart

By Spring 2009 I was convinced that the way to grow watermelon in Wyoming is to give it an extra boost of heat, particularly during June, which is usually on the cool side. I did this by building a small tent over each bed. The ten allowed light to enter, but kept heat trapped inside. The watermelon seemed to like this. At the end of the season I got a note from a fellow gardener who raised her watermelons in a hill of pure horse manure. I think one reason she was successful was that the manure, like my tent, gave the watermelon a boost in heat. Also, from what I have been able to read, watermelons are probably the most demanding of all plants in the garden for good rich fertilizer. The horse manure probably filled that need.

Days to


Name - Description Product
Bakr 70, Recommend
- Red flesh, sweet, striped skin, from Volga River area of Russia. Slow to start, then came on strong later in the season after it got some heat. ...Heirloom***
10 inches
Bakr 85, John 76, Jung 75, Pine 80, SeedsN 65, Sugar Baby, - Probably the best loved watermelon in American home gardens. Red Fleshed, Sweet and flavorful. 7-8 inches, 8-10 lbs. Open Pollinated. 8-10 lbs.(1/3 Rule)
Bakr 85, John 85, Jung 90, SeedsN 90, Crimson Sweet, - AAS Winner 1964, Striped, deep red flesh is sweet and juicy, 10-12 inches, 25 lbs., vines produce 3 to 6 fruit. Grown in 2009, a cold season. Production was not great. The flavor on the ones we got was superb. Will grow again. 17 lbs.(1/3 Rule)
Have Grown In The Past, Still Considering:
Pine 79, Glory Sugar, Dark red flesh, very sweet, very juicy, no cracks. The melon Bill Simpson gave us from the 2008 trials was one of the best watermelon we have eaten. 19 pounds
Under Consideration:
John 79, Jung 80, Sweet Favorite, - From the Johnny catalog: "Best oblong watermelon for northern, cool areas. Bright green rind with darker stripes. Avg. 10-12 lb. here, larger farther south. Ripens much earlier than others of the oval-oblong, striped type and yields well. Bright red, sweet flesh. Resistant to anthracnose and fusarium. 1978 All-America Selections winner. Avg. 1-2 fruits/plant. Avg." 30 lbs.(1/3 Rule)
Bakr 80, Dixie Queen, - red fleshed. 40 lbs. Trialed in 2010, a very cold season. We were very impressed, and will grow it again in 2011. 30 lbs.(1/3 Rule)
Jung 75, Shiny Boy, - from the Jung Catalog: "The deep red flesh of these 20 pound globe shaped, striped melons has sweet, tropical taste and crisp texture. Their average weight is 20 pounds or more. Vines up to 12 feet long can be grown vertically if space is limited. Disease resistant, weather tolerant, high-yielding plants grow well in any region with warm growing conditions." 13 lbs.(1/3 Rule)
Bakr 78, Pine ?, Shum 87, Kleckley's Sweet, - red fleshed. 30 lbs. 20 lbs.(1/3 Rule)
Burp 78, Million Bucks, - red fleshed. 25 lbs. 17 lbs.(1/3 Rule)
Bakr 78, Verona, - red fleshed. 20 lbs. Trialed in 2010, a very cold season...could not get it to germinate. Bill Simpson had great luck with it at his place in the same year, go figure. 13 lbs.(1/3 Rule)
Bakr 78, Fairfax, - red fleshed. 30 lbs. 20 lbs.(1/3 Rule)
Gurn 87, Pine 87, SeedsN 87, Sangria Hybrid, - red fleshed. 20-23 lbs. 14 lbs.(1/3 Rule)
Varieties We Rate as Failures:
Varieties We Rate as So-So: Gypsy

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