How dwarf tomatoes have become a trendy addition to garden spaces

For thousands of years, home gardeners who have wanted to grow unique heirloom tomato varieties have had to contend with massive, sprawling plants. But dwarf tomato plants, which pack full-size fruit on compact stalks, are growing in popularity.

As home gardeners picked up growing plants during the coronavirus pandemic but didn’t necessarily have the space for a full-size garden, dwarf tomatoes found their way into containers on patios and balconies. And while a couple decades ago you’d be hard-pressed to find a mention of dwarves in seed and plant catalogs, they’re everywhere now, with whole sections dedicated to dwarves at plant sales like TomatoMania and seed companies offering dozens of varieties.

Dwarf tomatoes can produce full-size fruit and lots of it, but they don’t grow huge like indeterminate varieties you have to support and prune throughout the season. Dwarf plants have a short, stalky stem and grow less than an inch for every 2-3 inches that an indeterminate variety grows, according to tomato book author and avid tomato grower Craig LeHoullier.

Back in the 1800s, there were only about three varieties of dwarf tomatoes. But there’s been an explosion of different varieties within the last 15 years thanks in part to the Dwarf Tomato Project, a cooperative venture started by LeHoullier, who lives in North Carolina, and Patrina Nuske-Small, who lives in Australia. The project has resulted in 133 different dwarf tomatoes that can be found in catalogs and tomato sales.

“You can pick a color, a shape, a size and a flavor and they now exist,” LeHoullier said of all the varieties developed for the project.

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In the early 2000s when LeHoullier was selling tomato seedlings in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area, container gardening was becoming more common. He started getting questions about smaller varieties from customers.

“They wanted to grow gardens on their patio or their deck or their balcony, and they would ask, ‘What do you have that’s really interesting and delicious and large size but I can grow it in a container?’ And at the time customers asked there were no real good solutions,” he said.

So LeHoullier began talking with Nuske-Small, a friend who was good at breeding hybrid tomatoes, about crossing dwarves with heirlooms to produce varieties that grew the kinds of interesting tomatoes that people were looking for, but in a smaller plant.

Now, people around the world breed their own varieties for the project, which are then given to seed companies for inclusion in their catalogs.Related Articles

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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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