The Dwarf Tomato Project
Provides an opportunity for space-challenged gardeners: those who plant in containers, on patios or balconies, roof-tops, in sun rooms or greenhouses or those who plant in smaller outside garden spaces, to enjoy the different colors and flavors of larger fruited varieties that were previously only available by growing in tall, indeterminate heirlooms.
These varieties were all made possible and available to you by the "Dwarf Tomato Project" - truly the first open-source breeding project, composed of all volunteer, amateur, hobby gardeners led by Craig LeHoullier and Patrina Nuske-Small.
The Benefits of Dwarf tomatoes
- Plants are sturdy, attractive and productive!
- Plants vary in height from 2 to 4.5 feet, requiring less caging or trellising.
- Dark and dense (rugose) foliage, thick central stem.
- Tomatoes of all sizes and shapes, including some large fruits up to 18 ounces.
- Easy to grow in pots, on balconies. Wherever space is limited.
TomatoFest now introduces our release of 24 prized, Dwarf tomato varieties sourced from the Dwarf Tomato Project that we have personally grown and harvested for seeds, with plant and fruit descriptions and photos taken by us.
Click here to SHOP Dwarf Tomatoes from The Dwarf Tomato Project.
What is the Dwarf Tomato Breeding Project?
2005, Craig LeHoullier of Raleigh, NC, long time heirloom tomato
enthusiast, discussed an idea with Patrina Nuske Small of Australia on
the popular garden site Garden Web. Craig and his wife, Susan, have
been selling tomato seedlings at the local farmer's market for years,
and a frequent request was for delicious, unusual tomato varieties that
would do well when grown on decks or patios, in reasonably sized
containers. Though his customers loved the big fruited, differently
colored heirlooms, the tall vines proved to be quite a challenge for
Craig, through his seed collecting, was aware of a very
few so-called dwarf growing varieties, distinct from the determinate
types (which were also relatively compact) in that the flavor seemed in
general to be better in the dwarfs. These dwarf types are very
distinctive in having a thick central stem, stout compact growth, and
dark green, crinkly looking (so-called rugose) foliage.
and Patrina described a project in which some strategic crosses would be
made, the resulting new hybrids grown out, then seeds shared for work
on selection of promising new varieties, followed by several generations
to reach a stable new non-hybrid variety with the desired
So, armed with more than 100 willing volunteers,
the project set off with the first crosses being grown out in 2006. As
of this time, over 70 interesting crosses have been made by Patrina and
others, resulting in dozens and dozens of possible color, size and
shape combinations. Craig and Patrina are quite sure that this is the
very first all volunteer world-wide tomato breeding project in
documented gardening history. None involved are botanists or
horticulturists - just avid gardeners with a keen interest in learning
about tomato genetics or discovering interesting new tomatoes.
of those involved with the project receive any payment for the
development of these new varieties - it is just the fulfillment of a
passion to create what will hopefully end up being considered heirloom
tomato varieties many years from now - a donation to the tomato gene
pool, and to those space-challenged gardeners the world over. "
About Dwarf Tomatoes
vast majority of tomato varieties are Indeterminate in growth habit.
Think Cherokee Purple or Better Boy or Sungold to get a picture of how
indeterminate varieties behave. They are the varieties that need
staking, caging, or plenty of room to sprawl. If diseases don't get to
them first, indeterminate varieties grow and bear fruit from planting
until they are killed by frost. Though most of the true treasures of
the tomato world are indeterminate in growth habit, including most
heirloom types, they are a challenge to grow in terms of dealing with
the rampant growth of the vines.
Determinate varieties are
familiar to tomato growers who have tried Roma, Sophie's Choice or Taxi.
The foliage is indistinguishable from indeterminate types, but the
plants (which should never be pruned) reach a particular height and
spread, bear loads of fruit (which tend to ripen in a concentrated time
period), then die off. With a very high fruit to foliage ratio,
determinates, while incredibly productive, for the most part lack the
intense, complex flavors of indeterminate varieties. In addition, the
choice of colors, sizes and shapes is quite limited when compared with
the indeterminate selections.
Dwarf varieties, prior to this
project, are relatively rare, unknown and undeveloped as a group.
Appearing quite distinct in all growth phases - from seeding to mature
plant - they behave as if they are very compact indeterminate varieties
in the manner that they fruit, persevere until frost, and exhibit
flavors that in many cases can approach the best of the indeterminate
varieties, due to similar foliage to fruit ratios. There is some
variation in height throughout the new dwarf varieties - some appearing
to be more "determinate" than others. As young seedlings they are half
the size of indeterminate or determinate seedlings right from the start.
The central growing stem is particularly stout, and the foliage, which
can be either regular or potato leaf, tends to be a darker bluish green
and have a puckered, wrinkled characteristic that is known as "rugose".
Though the yields of dwarfs will never approach that of indeterminate
varieties, the ability to plant them much more closely or grow in as
little as 5-gallon pots are adequate compensation. What we are
producing in this project is a color, size and shape range that will
allow those who are space constrained to experience the nature of many
of the well-known heirloom types, but in a growth habit that is much
easier to manage. We are excited about what we are creating, and are
anxious, as well as finally ready, to share the very best of these with
gardeners. We invite feedback - there is always a chance that you will
not get exactly what is described or expected, and all of these, while
quite stable, are still in a way works in progress. We hope to have
created a set of non-hybrid varieties that will make gardening
interesting for you, as well as provide what will be considered valuable
heirloom varieties at some point in the distant future!"
About the Open Source Initiative
of the world's seeds are now owned by corporations. The unfortunate
danger is that seeds are disappearing as major chemical companies buy
out seed companies and then promote their own genetically modified seeds
with their accompanying chemicals. The Open Source Seed Initiative
(OSSI) seeks to protect a wide range of newly bred varieties from being
targeted by these companies, and does it by applying Open Source
designations to varieties that have been pledged by their breeders.
These seeds are publically listed at the OSSI site so there can be no
confusion as to their status - they are pledged to be free from any
restrictions, cannot be patented, can be used for further breeding and
selection by anyone who wishes to do so. They are protected with the
OSSI pledge (see below).
In an effort to keep all of the
varieties listed above available to home gardeners, they have been
released by "The Dwarf Tomato Project" (the breeder) to the public under
the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI). You have the freedom to use
these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, if you save
seeds or use these varieties to breed a new variety, you pledge not to
restrict others' use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or
other means, and to include this pledge with any transfer of these seeds
or their derivatives."
TomatoFest only offers seeds that are
not only rare, open-pollinated, and primarily heritage or heirloom
varieties, but ones that our customers are encouraged to propagate from
which to save seeds. We do not offer patented, licensed varieties.
are a mission-driven company. Public domain seeds are at the core of
our values. Sadly, we live in a world where corporations and
governments work to control seeds. The Open Source Seed Initiative was
founded in 2012 to protect the ability to share seeds.
The OSSI Pledge - http://osseeds.org
- "You have the freedom to use these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you
choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict others' use of these seeds
or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this
Pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives."
Click here to SHOP Tomatoes from The Dwarf Tomato Project.