A New Season at the New Hampshire Trial Garden

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Bonnie Plants NH trial garden

It’s finally planting time at Bonnie’s New Hampshire Trial Garden! Here’s the scoop from Bonnie Plants Field Representative and Trial Garden Manager Deke Jackson.

cold damage to tomato
Freezing temperatures and tomato plants are not a good pairing.

This season’s garden got off to a rough start. Each year around Memorial Day the whole family pitches in to help me plant our tomatoes, and this year was no exception. But then it rained and rained some more. Then it snowed half an inch. Then it frosted. And to top it all off, the neighbors’ cow got out and ended up wandering through the garden. I guess I forgot to tell them that we’re not open for picking!

Surprisingly, though, the tomatoes all survived and are off and running with just a touch of cold damage. (I wish I could say the same for the sweet potatoes, which took the frost rather hard.)

There are lots of new faces in the garden this year. We are trialing several basket-type tomatoes, as well as a number of colored, determinate cherry tomatoes. We are also looking at some early determinate slicing tomatoes. On the pepper side, we are trying out at several new banana and habanero types.

Bonnie Select tomato in container
Bonnie Select is a great choice if you’re looking for a hybrid determinate with great flavor and serious disease resistance.

I’m often asked, “How do you choose a tomato, when there are so many varieties?” It helps a lot to consider both the growing area and what you hope to do with the fruits. For example:

– Are you gardening in a small space or on the patio? Choose determinate tomatoes, which won’t grow as big as indeterminate ones.
– Looking for a low-acid fruit? Try pink or yellow varieties, such as German Johnson, Pink Brandywine, Golden Jubilee, Lemon Boy, and Sun Gold.
– Planning to make sauce? Pick meaty types like Roma or Heinz Super Roma. (A tip from my kitchen: I also like to add some yellow fruit for the sweetness it will bring to the sauce.)

In my personal garden I plant several varieties of tomatoes. For fruit early in the season, I like a determine type such as Bush Goliath or Patio. Then, I plant a reliable hybrid indeterminate like Big Boy, Bonnie Original, or Super Fantastic, which will start giving fruit in the middle of the season and continue through until frost. We also always have to have a cherry type, such as Super Sweet 100 or Tami G, for eating right in the garden. And then it would not be summer without an heirloom beefsteak tomato like Red Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple or German Queen. The beefsteaks are late this far north, but well worth the wait!