Sweet Success: How to Choose [and Grow] Tomatoes & Peppers
Choose your own adventure! No matter where you grow, it’s important to select tomato and pepper varieties that are well-adapted to your region and conditions. If you grow in Alaska, you’ll need to choose short season varieties that will mature and produce quickly. If you’re a Floridian, you need the opposite—varieties that produce over a long season even when temperatures climb over 90°F. Whether you grow in the cool North, the dry Southwest, the temperate Northwest or in containers or your patio, we’re proud to offer a selection of organic varieties that meet your unique needs.
Short, Cool Seasons (North & Mountain States) Look for varieties that produce early, perform well in cool, wet conditions and offer resistance to fungal diseases like blight.
Tomatoes: Moskvich, Crimson Sprinter, Cosmonaut Volkov, Mountain Princess, Iron Lady F1, Green Zebra, Marmalade F1, Glacier, Yellow Perfection, Matt’s Wild, Montesino F1, Merlot F1, Black Cherry, Bing, Sweetie, Red Pear, Bellstar, Roma VF, Fortamino F1 Rootstock
Long, Warm to Hot Seasons (Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and South) Look for varieties that can set fruit in sustained hot temperatures over 90°F, have good leaf cover and offer strong resistance to local diseases. In the Southeast select varieties that tolerate heavy soil and offer nematode or bacterial leaf spot resistance; in the West look for short season varieties with exceptional drought-tolerance.
Peppers: Sprinter F1, Olympus F1, Catriona F1, Milena F1, Iko Iko, Abay F1, Xanthi F1, Belcanto F1, Corno di Toro, Lively Italian Orange, Lively Italian Yellow, Bastan F1 Poblano, Shishito, Ring-O-Fire, NuMex Joe E. Parker
Disease-Resistant In climates where diseases are prevalent, such as the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and parts of the Northwest, look for varieties with suitable resistances.
Tomatoes: Skyway 687 F1, Caiman F1, Roni F1, Iron Lady F1, Rutgers, Lola F1, Marmalade F1, Arbason F1, Medford, Matt’s Wild, Montesino F1, Toronjina F1, Merlot F1, Bartelly F1, Esterina F1, Sakura F1, Roma VF, Granadero F1
Heated Greenhouse Crops Many of our varieties have been specifically bred for heated greenhouse culture. Look for crack-resistant indeterminate tomato varieties with disease resistance, and long season peppers with strong fruit set in hot conditions.
Tomatoes: Cherokee Purple, Caiman F1, Roni F1, Green Zebra, Lola F1, Marmalade F1, Arbason F1, Montesino F1, Toronjina F1, Bartelly F1, Pink Bumblebee, Purple Bumblebee, Sunrise Bumblebee, Sakura F1, Granadero F1
Unheated High Tunnel Crops Look for vigorous, productive varieties that can tolerate a wide range of conditions, particularly heat, cold, humidity and fungal diseases.
Tomatoes: Cherokee Purple, Caiman F1, Moskvich, Cosmonaut Volkov, Rose de Berne, Green Zebra, Arbason F1, Montesino F1, Toronjina F1, Bartelly F1, Bing, Pink Bumblebee, Purple Bumblebee, Sunrise Bumblebee, Sakura F1, Granadero F1, Fortamino F1 Rootstock
Ornamental/Container Varieties Look for productive, compact or determinate varieties with good flavor and disease resistance.
Processing for Sauce, Pickling, Powder or Freezing Look for drier, meatier varieties for sauces, drying and powder, and choose versatile classics with few seeds for pickling and freezing. Often varieties with short harvest windows (or concentrated fruit set) are preferred when growing for processing.
How to Start Tomato & Pepper Plants from Seed
1) Moisten your potting soil by adding a little water and mixing with your hand until it feels just barely moist (but not wet or soggy).
2) Fill your tray or pots with the moist soil to within 1/2″ of the rim, tamping down lightly as you go.
3) Sow your tomato or pepper seeds on the surface of the soil using about 2-5 seeds per cell or square inch.
4) Cover the seeds by sprinkling about 1/4” of potting soil over them, then gently water in. If you have one, cover your tray with a propagation dome to hold in moisture and place the tray on top of a seedling heat mat for strong germination.
5) Once the seeds have germinated, move the tray from the heat mat and place under lights. Water gently when the surface of the soil becomes dry to the touch.
6) As the plants grow, gradually raise the lights so they are 1-3” from the top of the plants (depending on the type of grow light you’re using).
7) When the plants have grown their first set of “true” leaves, it’s time to pot them up. Fill 4” pots (or solo cups with holes poked in the bottom) with moist potting soil to within ½” of the rim. Water your seedlings thoroughly, then use a butter knife to gently remove cells or clumps from their tray. Using your finger, make a depression in each 4” pot, then tuck one seedling in each depression, firming the soil around the plant.
8) Water in your transplants, then place under lights until about two weeks before planting out. At this point it’s time to start “hardening off” your seedlings by placing them in a protected area outdoors, increasing the time they spend outside each day until it’s time to transplant into the ground.