Excellent Tomato Varieties for High Tunnel Production

Season extension has become standard practice among farmers and many home gardeners across the country.  Growing tomatoes in a high tunnel or hoop-house extends the season by providing protection from frost and maintaining warmer temperatures that allow for earlier harvest.  High tunnels and greenhouses also provide a protected growing environment for plants which increases the potential for higher yields and more uniform fruit.

Already growing tomatoes in a high tunnel?  High Mowing offers a range of high performance varieties from beefsteak slicers to cherry tomatoes.  Check out our stellar selection of Organic Greenhouse Hybrid Tomato Seeds.

Some high tunnels are quite low tech: simple hoop structures covered in clear polyethylene plastic that offer frost protection at the start of the season to allow for earlier planting. Others are more elaborate with greater capacity to control heat and humidity. Regardless of how complicated your high tunnel structure is, at the very least you want to be able to open up and vent. Optimum night time temperatures are between 60 – 65 degrees and optimum daytime temperatures are between 70 – 80 degrees. These temperatures provide for good fruit ripening with no reduction in growth or fruit set.  Be sure to promote good airflow and constant temperatures, and to minimize humidity.  Moisture on the plants, in a high tunnel as in the field, can result in the spread of disease.

Choosing a Greenhouse Variety:

Choose an indeterminate variety that that will produce over a long period of time.

The space in your high tunnel is expensive real estate – just think of the time and materials that went into that construction!  You don’t want to plant something that will peter out quickly or produce low yields.  NOTE: One exception to this rule would be a grower with a cropping plan that prioritizes late summer/fall plantings in the high tunnel for fall/winter harvest.  In this case, an early, determinate tomato variety could provide an early, condensed harvest and then leave the space for a later planting of a different crop.

Trials Manager Gwenael Engleskirchen leading a tour of our Greenhouse Tomatoes.

Choose a variety with disease resistance. 

Again, your high tunnel is valuable space.  Be sure to plant a variety that will outlast the disease and continue producing, not one that will succumb to disease.

Choose a variety that is bred for high tunnel

Many field varieties require strong light and low humidity conditions and may not yield as well in a high tunnel.  According to Mississippi State Extension’s Greenhouse Tomato Handbook, a high tunnel has about 20% less light than outdoors, and varieties bred and selected for high tunnel production will perform better in these conditions.

 Choose a variety that you or your customers will want to eat. 

Although we recognize that most greenhouse varieties can’t hold a candle to the heirlooms in taste and flavor complexity, we do emphasize the importance of flavor in our variety selection. You can grow the prettiest tomato in the world, but will you and your customers want to eat it? We have declined to carry many greenhouse tomatoes that look good but taste bad.  We certainly value performance, but remember that taste buds are important, too.

High Mowing Organic Seeds’ Tomato Varieties Bred for High Tunnel Production

At High Mowing Organic Seeds, we realize that our customers are growing under a wide range of conditions and cultural practices. For this reason, we focus on varieties that are adaptable. All of the tomato varieties highlighted below, in addition to being bred for performance in greenhouse/high tunnel conditions, also perform well in open field conditions.

Most – if not all – varieties bred for protected culture are hybrid varieties, including the below varieties.  If you want to grow an open-pollinated variety, we have seen good performance and strong yields from Moskvich, although it was more susceptible to disease.

  • Lola F1: If you’re looking for a greenhouse slicer with flavor, then Lola is your girl. This 7-9 oz red tomato received top flavor ratings in our 2010 trials – and as if that weren’t enough, it is early and high yielding. Lola rated higher in overall vigor and appearance than many of the market standards we also grew that year (Cobra F1, Trust F1 and Buffalo F1). Lola has thinner skin and better texture than most other greenhouse tomatoes and is not as tough.  Resistances: FW (races 1,2), TMV
  • Sakura F1: Sakura is a new introduction this year. This sweet red cherry tomato is very comparable in size and yield to Suzanne. The firm ½ – ¾ oz fruit holds well on the vine, allowing for the harvest of an entire truss for an attractive display. Firm skin makes fruit resistant to cracking, making this variety well adapted to field production.  Resistances: TMV, LM (races 1-5), FW (races 0,1)
  • Suzanne F1: To bite into a Suzanne cherry tomato is to get a burst of candy sweet tartness.  These ½ oz red cherries are delicious and juicy, so it’s no wonder they ranked highest in sweetness and flavor in our 2011 tomato taste test.  Attractive fruit hangs in long trusses, and holds well, though not as well as Sakura. Resistances: FF (races1-5), FW (race 0,1), TMV
  • Toronjina F1: This is another high-ranking tomato for flavor.  It is very eye-catching in combination with Suzanne or Sakura.  These ¾ oz fruit display a bright, beautiful orange color. This excellent organic variety rivals the beloved Sun Gold F1. In addition, this variety showed good resistance to late blight in 2010 when we trialed it in the open field.  Resistances: FF (races 1-5), FW (races 0,1), TMV

 

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5 Responses to Excellent Tomato Varieties for High Tunnel Production

  1. Cindy Rubinfine says:

    As a seasoned greenhouse tomato producer- we sell about $25,000 worth of our certified organic greenhouse tomatoes each year- I have to beg to differ somewhat on varieties. While we agree that Lola is an excellent tomato, we were highly disappointed in Toronjina in 2011. We harvested almost no marletable fruit from them, in houses where we were picking skads of sungolds, red pearl, favorita and others. They cracked before they were even ripe, on the same drip irrigation and fertigation as all the other tomatoes, and the taste was sour and unappealing. We will stick with sungold, but please keep trying. I will give a plug here for your beautiful sunkists instead. A gorgeous tasty tomato, well loved by our customers, and producing over an incredibly long season for us- from the end of June through October!
    Thanks,
    Cindy
    Pleasant Hill Farm

    • High Mowing Organic Seeds says:

      Hi, Cindy:
      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and share your experience with our varieties! It is always so useful to get feedback from our customers regarding variety performance and what does or doesn’t work well for them. Glad to hear that Lola and Sunkist have been workhorses for you! In our trials, we haven’t noticed Toronjino to be as crack-prone as you describe. Although not as high-yielding as our red greenhouse cherries Sakura or Suzanne, we still harvested sweet, marketable fruit for over five weeks last season (this was from a late planting). However, we are planning to trial several new orange cherry tomatoes – both open-pollinated and hybrids – this season, so we’ll keep your experience in mind while looking for an improvement or nice compliment to Toronjino.

      Best,
      Gwenael Engelskirchen, Trials Manager

  2. Grandma says:

    could you give me the name of one good variety that is juicy and will be good for salads and sandwiches.I just want to start a small garden by the side of my house this year and have one good plant or two that will produce for along time and taste good and juicy. Do any of the plannts work good in a pot on the porch? Thanks

  3. Jason says:

    What variety would be best adapted for winter growing? I am going to use radiant heating buried 1ft deep in raised beds. Going to put pex in the bottom and pump hot water to get soil temps up. What is your opinion.

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