Tomatoes seem to be the one crop that everyone grows.
Whether it’s a huge garden with row upon row of them or a cherry tomato plant in a container on the patio, chances are, if you garden, you grow tomatoes.
And what about those diehards that grow only tomatoes? You know who you are. I’m always thinking, “Why tomatoes? Why not only beets or only kale? Why is it just tomatoes?” I had an uncle who was a diehard tomato grower, and in the late summer, every flat surface in his kitchen was covered with tomatoes.
To be fair, he did make the most incredible pasta sauce each year.
But for some folks, growing tomatoes seems like a lesson in futility.
You may live in an area with a shorter or cooler growing season. You wait and wait in the spring for the ground to warm up and the nights to stay warm, but no matter how quickly you get your tomatoes in the ground, you still only get a couple of weeks of red tomatoes before that first hard frost.
Rather than give up on tomatoes entirely, why not try out a few amazing short-season cultivars.
Over the years, we’ve become quite good at getting plants to do what we want them to by selecting and saving seeds with the traits we want and hybridization. This has led to an ever-growing selection of plants that do well in cooler climates and shorter growing seasons.
Whether you plan on putting up jar upon jar of delicious homemade marinara, or studding every salad with bright cherry tomatoes, or eating your own body weight in fresh tomato sandwiches, there’s a short season tomato for you.
Many short-season tomatoes are what are known as indeterminates.
Indeterminate plants are different from determinate plants in that they don’t have a typical set growth. Many plants grow to a specific height and then stop growing and producing fruit. Indeterminate plants continue to grow throughout the entire season, producing fruit all along their branches.
Whether you’ll be growing determinate or indeterminate varieties, you’ll need to support your tomato plants. For an indeterminate variety, this is especially important as there will be a lot more plant to support. Here are 38 different ways to tackle the task of tomato support.
Delicious Fast-Growing, Short-Season Tomatoes
1. Early Girl
Probably one of the most well-known early-maturing tomato varieties, early girl is easy to find as seed as well as in nurseries come spring.
This variety is an indeterminate tomato, so you’ll be blessed with an abundance of fruit through the season, no matter how short that season is. Generally taking around 59 days to harvest from the time it’s planted in the garden, this tomato is a great slicer.
2. Black Prince
Not only is it quick to produce fruit, but the black prince is also just a beautiful tomato. This variety comes from Siberia, so naturally, it does well in cooler climates. It produces larger fruit, which is perfect for slicing and enjoying their dark, rich flavor. The black prince is an indeterminate cultivar.
3. Bloody Butcher
This is a great all-around tomato. Use it for salsa, sauces, or sliced on a fresh green salad. The bloody butcher is a time-tested heirloom variety that’s proven to produce clusters of delicious 2-3” ripe tomatoes in less than 60 days, sometimes as early as 55 days.
4. Sub Arctic Plenty
An heirloom variety that produces fruit in as little as 45 days; what’s not to love? It’s slightly bigger than a cherry tomato and is a great option for cooler climates with super short growing seasons.
5. Sun Gold
I still remember the first sun gold cherry tomato I ever ate; sweet and juicy and still warm from the sun. These tomatoes have a spot in my garden year after year for their taste, big yields, and of course, they mature early. Give them a try, and you’ll probably never grow another cherry variety.
6. Orange Roma
If you’re looking for a great canning and sauce tomato that’s perfect for a cooler climate, look no further. The heirloom, orange roma, is not only an early producer but exceptionally tasty.
7. Juliet or Mini San Marzano
If you want great sauce, you have to start with great tomatoes. Achieve culinary greatness with this short season plum tomato. This heirloom is crack-resistant, and the fruits are on the smaller side than most roma tomatoes, but it makes up for it in flavor.
8. Golden Sweet
Is it a roma? Is it a cherry? It’s a golden sweet. This indeterminate heirloom has such a great color, and its tiny oblong fruits are packed with a sweet flavor. Plant these with the kids, and be assured you’ll have a veggie they’ll want to eat.
9. Early Doll
Sometimes I wonder about the names of tomato varieties. I’ve never looked at a tomato plant and thought, “doll.” Regardless of its odd name, this is a great determinate tomato. It grows plenty of decent-sized globes that are perfect for slicing or making salsa.
10. Black Cherry
Yet another great cherry tomato variety is black cherry. The black cherry is an indeterminate that can get some legs; this little cherry tomato can grow as tall as 8’ high. It produces lovely dark-colored cherry tomatoes with a rich flavor that just begs to be roasted.
11. 4th of July
This tomato was named because you could be eating it before Independence Day. This is a delicious early variety of tomato that does well in containers or upside down. It’s known for its sweet flavor, not just its early maturity. It’s an indeterminant variety that yields 4” fruits. Give it a try this year.
This gorgeous heirloom variety matures in 55 days. It’s easily the prettiest cultivar on the whole list with its lovely red and yellow striped skin. But Tigerella isn’t all looks; it boasts a lovely and sweet flavor too. This indeterminate tomato puts out large yields of gorgeous fruit too.
These are only a few suggestions. As new plant varieties are created and old heirlooms rediscovered, there are new early-maturing cultivars to choose from each year. Take heart, my cool weather friends, there is a short season tomato for you.
Starting Short-Season Tomatoes Indoors and Raised Beds
Of course, you’ll need to start your tomato plants inside before the growing season if you purchase any of these cultivars as seeds. Lucky for you, we’ve covered everything you need to know to start your tomatoes indoors, plus a super handy trick to ensure sturdy stems and root systems. Don’t forget to check it out once you’ve picked out your favorite short-season tomatoes.
If you want to move your tomatoes out to the garden sooner rather than later, consider growing them in a raised bed. The soil in a raised bed warms up and dries out much faster than your traditional garden, making them a short season gardener’s best friend.
And if you still find yourself at the end of the season with a load of unripened tomatoes, here are 10 tricks to ripen green tomatoes and 13 ways to protect tomatoes from the cold and frost.
Or worse yet, if there’s a hard frost in your future and you’ve still got tons of green tomatoes, here are 21 recipes for green tomatoes.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re kind of big on tomatoes here at Rural Sprout. One could even say diehards.