What tomato varieties should I consider in the Southeast?
Answer: Early blight is a prevalent disease in the humid southeast, exacerbated by late spring rains. Many organic growers are moving to high tunnel tomato production and plastic mulch to mitigate the disease and keep rain/soil splash off the foliage. Southern stem blight (Sclerotium rolfsii) is a soil-borne pathogen to be aware of, which can be devastating and is very persistent in the soil.If you’re going to go with heirloom varieties, I would strongly consider that you look into grafting. Southern growers have a hard time with heirloom tomatoes because of disease susceptibility, splitting, and low productivity. But grafting on to a rootstock like Maxifort can overcome a lot of those issues and also convey resistance to soil-borne diseases like Southern stem blight.Now for a list of varieties. This is compiled from my experience and the recommendations of an organic grower in North Carolina, Ken Dawson.Standard red slicers:? Big Beef ? hybrid, large fruit, your standard home garden slicer? Celebrity ? hybrid, dependable, high-yielding? Parks Whopper ? hybrid slicer with good flavor, will hang on longer than most with early blightMore flavorful/colorful hybrids:? Martha Washington ? hybrid with heirloom quality, pink color? Chef’s Choice ? flavorful yellow/orange tomato, vigorous growth? Margold ? hybrid with heirloom appearance, yellow with red streaks? Manero ? hybrid with appearance of Cherokee Purple, new variety but appears to have promiseHeirloom slicers:? Cherokee Purple ? great name recognition, beautiful deep purple color, difficulty with production and cracking? Mortgage Lifter ? large pink heirloom with great flavorCherry/plum tomatoes:? Sungold ? delicious, prolific yellow/orange cherry tomato, very sweet, very popular, hybrid? Granadero ? very productive red plum tomato with good flavor, hybrid? Plum Regal ? hybrid red plum tomato with good flavor and productionTo learn more, check out the ATTRA publication Organic Tomato Production. It addresses practical questions on organic tomato production. It focuses on the specific production challenges, including site selection (soil and climate), variety selection, sources of organic seeds and organic annual transplants, organic grafting, planting and training/staking arrangements, soil fertility and fertilization, crop rotation, and pest (insect, disease, and weed) management. Harvest and yield/productivity are closely related to marketing possibilities. While market conditions are extremely region-specific, this publication also addresses a few general principles on marketing and economics of organic tomatoes.