There are a great many varieties; gardeners should choose varieties that will yield the type of tomatoes that they or their family enjoy.


Tomatoes are one of the most widely grown of all garden plants, edible or flowering. There are a great many varieties; gardeners should choose varieties that will yield the type of tomatoes that they or their family enjoy. There are two main types of tomatoes, bush and vine.



Bush tomatoes

Bush tomatoes are determinate, that is, they grow to a specific size, produce fruit and then die. With their shrub-like growth habit they do not usually need staking. Some bush tomatoes are also known as early tomatoes. Along with a relatively short time to maturation, these tomatoes will blossom and fruit with low night time temperatures, a fixture at the tail end of most Calgary summers.

Vine tomatoes

Vine tomatoes are considered indeterminate. That is, they continue growing for an indeterminate length of time. This means they will grow and produce fruit until the frost kills them. Vine tomatoes need to be planted in tomato cages or staked for support. Fruit from unsupported plants may rot and discolour on the round. Vines should be tied to tomato cages or stakes with stake tape as they grow.

A good tomato seed package can provide you with lots of helpful information.

Here is some of what you should find on it and what it all means:

The name, such as Big Beef, is the specific variety of tomato.

The average number of days from transplant to harvest.

All tomatoes are either determinate, indeterminate or semi-determinate:  

Indeterminate (I) plants continue to grow as long as the weather permits, continuing to bloom and set fruit.

Determinate (D) tomatoes grow to a predetermined size and produce all their fruit over a short period, usually 2-4 weeks.

Semi-Determinate Rambling growth. Earlier maturity. Produce more than one crop. Good for the short season

Indeterminate tomatoes require staking/support while most determinate (bush) varieties do not.

Plants are either Hybrid (developed by crossing two or more parent plants) or Open Pollinated. Seeds saved from a Hybrid tomato will produce a tomato, but not the same variety. Seeds from an open-pollinated variety will produce the same tomato if no other variety was grown nearby.

Each letter represents resistance to a common tomato problem:

  • V = Verticillium Wilt
  • F = Fursarium Wilt
  • N = Nematodes
  • T = Tobacco Mosaic
  • A = Alternaria

Starting Tomatoes Indoors:

  • Starting seeds indoors gives the home gardener more choice over variety.
  • You can extend what would otherwise be a relatively short growing season. (100 days)
  • The choices of tomato to grow can be quite daunting as there are so many varieties to choose from. There are many favourites and only so much room.
  • There are a lot of tomato seeds in a package. Plan on sharing the wealth.
  • Choose varieties from the number of days to maturity shown on the package.
  • Swap tomato plants with friends so you can try different ones


  • Containers must have good drainage and be able to hold soil and water without falling apart.
  • Peat pellets (jiffy) - compostable and ideal for tomatoes which dislike disturbance when transplanted Reusable, commercially available containers - These include plastic pots, cell packs and 10- or 20-row starting trays. Seeding into either will usually involve transplanting.
  • Cell packs are made of lightweight plastic and are partitioned into 4 to 9 individual cells or compartments which fit into a plastic drip tray.

Potting Mixtures

  • Potting mixes for seeding should be able to hold moisture and yet remain aerated, and they should be non-crusting. Generally, a soil-less mixture is recommended for the first sowing and a soil mixture for transplanting. This reduces the risk of damping-off, a common fungal disease affecting seedlings.
  • Soil-less mixtures usually consist of some combination of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. They are lightweight and uniform.
  • Tomato seeds are usually covered to a depth of their diameter.
  • They require a fairly warm soil temperature to germinate. Seed heating mats help with most seed varieties.
  • Once germination has occurred, the seedlings will grow better at a lower temperature, usually about 10 degrees lower than their germination requirements.
  • Provide good lighting and air circulation. A fan in the room will increase air circulation.

Employ Growing Lights

We are starting many seeds here in Calgary when sunlight is still low. Augment sunlight or replace sunlight with grow lights at 16-18 hours a day. Keep the lights low enough that the seedlings do not stretch, but also high enough not to burn them. The ability to move the light up and down should be considered when buying grow lights.


Plant tomatoes in a warm, sunny place with good drainage. They also do well in large containers on a deck or patio and thrive with reflected sun behind them as well as direct sun.


NOTE: Tomato seedlings should be planted deeper than most other seedlings, up to their first set of leaves. Larger plants should be planted several inches deeper than they are in the container.




Tomatoes require consistent, deep watering to thrive. Soil should be checked for moisture every day in hot weather. Water well, do not sprinkle - the whole root ball needs moisture. Be sure that containers have good drainage. Mulching around the base of tomato plants will help them to retain water and discourage weed growth. Drought causes black patches on the bottom of the fruit (blossom end rot), which are unsightly and make the fruit inedible.


NOTE: The more direct sun for tomatoes the more flavour.

Tomato Growing Guide

I=Indeterminate: branches keep producing fruit until the frost kills them

D=Determinate: branches stop producing fruit when they reach a certain stage


Size of fruit Variety Maturity Type Colour
SMALL: 1-3 OUNCES Artemis 55 days I red
Bumblebee Pink 70 days I pink, yellow stripes
Bumblebee Purple 70 days I purple, green stripes
Bumblebee Sunrise 70 days I orange, gold stripes
Candyland (Red) 60 days I red
Cherry Cascade 55 days I/T red
Cherry Fountain 60 days I/T red
Chocolate Sprinkles 55 days I red, green stripes
Currant 60 days I red
Fantastico 55 days D red
Firecracker 65 days I/T red, yellow stripes
Iditarod 80 days 80 days red
Indigo Fireball 75 days I yellow, purple stripes
Jelly Bean Red 75 days I red
Jelly Bean Yellow 75 days I yellow
Juliet 60 days I red
Little Bing 60 days D red
Little Sicily 60 days I red
Little Sun Yellow 55 days D yellow
Midnight Snack 70 days I purple/black
Orange Zinger 60 days I orange
Pear drops 55 days I/T yellow
Rapunzel 70 days I red
Red Cherry 75 days I red
Red Grape 60 days I red
Red Profusion 50 days I/T red
Red Racer 60 days D red
Snowberry 75 days I yellow/white
Sub Arctic Maxi 50 days D red
Sugar Gloss 55 days I red
Sugar Rush 55 days I red
Sugary 70 days D red
Sungold 65 days I orange
Sun Sugar 65 days I orange
Sweet 100 65 days I red
Sweethearts 70 days I red
Sweet Million 55 days I red
Sweet 'n' Neat 48 days D yellow
Tidy Treats 55 days I red
Tiny Tim 60 days D red
Tomaccio 90 days I red (great dried)
Tumbler 65 days D/T red
White Cherry 70 days I pale yellow
--------- --------- --------- --------- ---------
MEDIUM: 4-9 Ounces Black Zebra 85 days I mahogany, green
Celebrity 70 days D red
Bush Early Girl 60 days I red
Golden Jubilee 80 days I yellow
Green Zebra 75 days I green, yellow
Health Kick 70 days D red
Homeslice 65 days D red
La Roma Red 75 days D red
Lemon Boy 72 days I yellow
Margo 70 days D red
Moskvich 60 days I red
Oregon Spring 80 days D red
Patio 70 days D red
Starfire 70 days D red
Striped Stuffer 85 days I red-orange stripes
Super Fantastic 80 days I red
Supremo 70 days D red, paste
Tasmanian Chocolate 60 days I deep mahogany
Tidy Rose 65 days I deep pink
Willamette 75 days D red
--------- --------- --------- --------- ---------
LARGE: 10 Ounces or More Amish Paste 80 days I red
Beefsteak 70 days I red
Beefmaster 80 days I red
Better Boy 70 days I red
Big Beef 72 days I red
Big Boy 78 days I red
red 80 days I pink
Big Zac 80 days I red
Bush Champion II 65 days D red
Maori Warrior 80 days D pink, yellow ,red
Park's Whopper 65 days I red
Pineapple 85 days I yellow, red
Sunny Boy 75 days I yellow
Supersteak 80 days I red
--------- --------- --------- --------- ---------
HEIRLOOM: varieties that have grown reliably for more than 50 years Black Cherry 65 days I brown, small
Black Krim 80 days I purple, medium
Black Prince 70 days I purple, medium
Brandywine 90 days I purple, large
Bushsteak Hybrid 65 days D red, medium
Cherokee Purple 80 days I purple/red, large
Chocolate Cherry 70 days I brown, small
Christmas Grapes 80 days I red, small
German Lunchbox 75 days I pink
Genuwine 75 days I I
Green Grape 60 days I lime green-small
Legend 68 days D red, large
Manitoba 60 days D red, medium
Matt's Wild Cherry 60 days I red, small
Mortgage Lifter 80 days I pink,large
Old German 75 days I yellow/pink,large
Prairie Pride 55 days D red, medium
Red Pear 70 days I red, small
Roma 62 days D red, paste
San Marazano 85 days I red, paste
Stupice 65 days I red, small
Yellow Pear 75 days I yellow, small
--------- --------- --------- --------- ---------
SMALL Black Cherry 65 days I brown
Bumble Bee Purple 70 days I purple, green stripes
Sun Sugar 65 days I orange
Sweet Aperitif 80 days I red
Sweet Million 55 days I red
--------- --------- --------- --------- ---------
MEDIUM: Early Girl 60 days I red
Celebrity 70 days D red
Get Stuffed 75 days I red, orange stripes
San Marazano 85 days I red, paste
Saucy Lady 80 days I red, paste
--------- --------- --------- --------- ---------
LARGE: Amish Paste 80 days I red
Beefsteak 62 days I red
Big Beef 72 days I red
Brandywine 90 days I purple
Carbon 80 days I dark purple
Dixie Golden Giant 85 days I yellow
Mortgage Lifter 80 days I pink
Orange Brandywine 80 days I orange
Pineapple 90 days I yellow, orange

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