Tomato plants, particularly the indeterminates, are tough in small spaces. They want to swallow up every inch of the garden and that’s hard to reconcile when every inch matters. And quite honestly, I hate staking and fussing over things. If you follow this blog, you probably know I like plants that produce with little effort on my part aside from starting the seed. Oh, and the occasional water and fertilizer applications. But beyond that, they’re on their own. There are those gardeners who are meticulous with their tomato care and that’s great. I’m just not that gardener. And yet, things seem to work out well most years.
Before last year, I grew mostly indeterminate tomatoes because I like plants that produce constantly over a longer period of time. Unlike determinates that grow less than five tall and produce all their fruit at once, indeterminates continue to grow, producing fruit as they reach closer and closer to the sky. By the end of the season, those tomato plants were seven to eight feet tall and smothering everything in my raised bed.
I was lamenting their growth on one of my Instagram stories when my friend Erin (The Impatient Gardener) heard me carrying on about my out-of-control tomatoes and offered up a solution. She mentioned the Dwarf Tomato Project and sent me seeds from three different varieties.
Evolution of The Dwarf Tomato Project
Answering the call from small space gardeners in need of better behaved indeterminate tomato plants, tomato lover and educator Craig LeHoullier of Raleigh, NC, led the charge in 2006. He partnered with other tomato enthusiasts to cross the genetics of indeterminate and determinate tomatoes to create plants that retained the best of both worlds – flavorful continuously fruiting plants that grew no more than five feet tall. Sixty-seven dwarf tomato varieties were born in the early years of the project and I don’t know how many have come on since. But I do know that I’ll be growing varieties from the Dwarf Tomato Project from now on. And they have the most interesting names too! The photo at the top of this post is of Firebird Sweet. It’s both beautiful and delicious.
Tomato Choices for 2023
I grew my first dwarf tomatoes from seed last year and all did well. I didn’t stake them and have decided that a stake is a better option. All the plants were heavy with fruit and a stake would have given them the extra support they needed. A few ties along the stem to attach it to the stake and that should be all that’s needed. None of the plants grew more than four feet tall and it made harvesting so much easier.
I liked them so much that I’ve decided to choose three new varieties this year. Dwarf Black Angus is an indeterminate tomato producing purple-colored fruit. Next up, Chocolate Lightning. Green and gold stripes on chocolate-colored skin – yes please. And finally, Dwarf Audrey’s Love is a paste variety that I’m looking forward to canning and turning into lots of sauce. These and plenty more Dwarf Tomato Project varieties are available at Victory Seed Company.
And while we’re talking tomatoes, there are a few indeterminate varieties whose wild behavior I don’t mind. SunSugar cherry tomatoes are a must in my garden. They’ll be joined by Indigo Rose, another cherry variety whose nearly-blue skin is absolutely gorgeous, and Sun Dipper who I expect to see on lots of charcuterie boards this year.
What tomatoes are you growing this year? Tell me in the comments.
Do you think I’d be able to find these as plants (not just seeds) anywhere? *that’s* my kind of gardening 🙂
Heather Blackmore says
I’ve not seen plants available in my area but you could mention to your local nursery and see if they’d add that to their list of tomatoes to grow. It might be too late for this year but at least they’d have the info for next.
Those Sun Dippers are awesome! I’ve never seen them before. Staying “uniquely” you! 🥰🍅