Varieties change so rapidly from year to year that it is scarcely worth while to do more than mention the names of varieties prominent today, but which may not be known 10 years from now. There are exceptions, as the Stone, but the probabilities are that even this standard variety of such splendid qualities will ultimately be replaced by a superior one. Four-fifths of the varieties suggested in this discussion were not offered by American seedsmen 10 years ago. The grower, therefore, should be on the lookout for improved varieties, scanning the catalogs annually and securing sample packets of seeds of the most promising for testing in comparison with the old, reliable sorts.
Earliana is very much the best-known early variety in America, being grown probably more extensively than all other early varieties combined. Extreme earliness, great productiveness, bright-red color, large size and high quality for an early tomato are the points that have gained for it such wide popularity. As the strains of this variety show great variation too much care cannot be exercised in procuring seed of the best, whether purchased or grown at home.
Bonny Best, introduced only a few years ago, practically as early as Earliana, is regarded superior by some successful growers. The fruit is red, solid, of good size. The plants are very productive.
Chalk Jewel has been a most valuable acquisition. It is a week to 10 days later than Earliana, but the plants are stronger and more resistant to blight. The variety is planted extensively in many sections. The fruits are large, red in color and remarkably smooth and uniform in shape.
June Pink is a popular variety for markets which prefer pink tomatoes. It is not so prolific as Earliana.
Globe is a purple, medium early variety, valued for its solid globular fruits. While it is exceedingly popular among many growers, it has not met with universal favor; it should, however, be thoroughly tested by every commercial grower.
Stone takes first place in its popularity among late varieties grown for market or for canning. The plants are strong and vigorous and produce a heavy setting of large, solid, bright-red tomatoes. It is grown almost exclusively for canning.
Matchless is a remarkably fine, late tomato which matures slightly earlier than Stone. The fruits are as solid and as fine in quality. This variety should be chosen for sections where the summer is too cool and too short for the best results with Stone.
Dwarf Stone is a favorite with some growers, especially in home gardens, where upright plants are wanted on account of limited space.
Coreless and Hummer are new varieties gaining in popularity. The fruits are red, globular and solid.
Beauty is probably the most largely planted late pink tomato. The fruits color thoroughly over the entire surface. Like other pink tomatoes, the skin cracks badly in wet weather.
Trucker Favorite, a purple-fruited variety, has been largely planted for many years. The tomatoes are large, solid and of fine quality.
Ponderosa is a very large, purple-fruited variety, valued by many home gardeners on account of the few seeds and extremely solid flesh. The quality is excellent, but the fruits are often ill-shaped.
Some of the canning and catsup factories save and place on the market large quantities of seeds which are separated by machines at a small cost and sold to seedsmen at relatively low prices. Seed of this character should never be planted or placed on the market, because there has been absolutely no selection in its production. Breeding plats are maintained by many seedsmen, or contracts are made with reliable and expert growers, in order to secure the best seed for the trade. Excellent seeds of many varieties are obtainable from well-known dealers, although there is an increasing tendency among skillful growers to save their own seed.
The proper time to sow depends upon: (1) The facilities available for growing the plants; (2) climatic conditions ; (3) purpose of the crop; (4) land available; and (5) market conditions. In most instances the tomatoes that ripen first command the highest prices, so that the majority of growers desire to place their product upon the market at the earliest possible date, although they may be unwilling to provide the equipment or to make the expenditure of time and money necessary to grow really early tomatoes. It is expensive to grow such plants as shown in Figure 106. The cost and the value of the space which they occupy in frames or greenhouses should always be taken into account in determining profits. An increasing number of gardeners, however, find it profitable to grow extremely early tomatoes. The following plans (there are many others so far as details are concerned) are in common use:
Fig. 106. Pot-Grown Tomato Plant.
1. Sow thinly, 6 to 8 weeks before field planting, in hotbed or greenhouse in rows 3 to 6 inches apart, and set in the field without previous transplanting. This plan should not be recommended, because the plants are usually spindly and the root system poorly developed.
2. Sow 10 to 12 seeds to the inch of furrow, rows 2 inches apart, 7 to 8 weeks before field planting; transplant 1« or 2 inches apart in 3 or 4 weeks from sowing.
3. Sow as directed in No. 2, about nine weeks before field planting; transplant 1« or 2 inches apart, preferably in the greenhouse; three weeks later, plant 4 × 4 or 4×5 inches apart in flats or beds, or in 3 to 5-inch paper or earthen pots, or in veneered boxes or berry baskets. This method with any of its modifications should produce fine plants and meet the requirements when the tomatoes are grown on a large field scale.