Which Tomato Plants Are Best for Gardens in Michigan?

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Heirloom tomatoes come in a wide range of colors and shapes.
Heirloom tomatoes come in a wide range of colors and shapes. (Image: Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Growing tomatoes in Michigan can be more difficult than growing them in warmer climates, since these vegetables prefer long, hot days. Michigan is located in USDA Zones 2b through 4b, with average annual minimum temperatures between -45 and -25 degrees Fahrenheit. Several tomato varieties are well-suited to this area and its climate. Choosing the right one can increase the chances of a successful Michigan tomato garden.

Classic Hybrids

Traditional hybrid tomatoes, including Rutgers, Beefsteak and Big Boy, are common in American gardens. They have a long track record, but may not produce as enthusiastically as some newer varieties. Popular types include Pik-Red -- an early hybrid, Springset – a main crop tomato, and Small Fry – a particularly small tomato variety which will grow in containers. The wide range and reliable growth of classic hybrids makes them an excellent choice for less-experienced gardeners who want a good yield.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes have recently gained in popularity. Unlike hybrids, these tomatoes grow true from seed. Most heirloom tomatoes have been around for decades or even centuries. They often come in unusual colors, including white, black and striped, but may be more difficult to grow. Popular Michigan heirloom tomato varieties include Amish paste, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Oxheart and Rutgers. Heirloom tomatoes are valued for their unusual appearance and richer flavor, but may be more prone to some diseases and pests.

New Hybrids

More recent hybrid tomatoes may produce better yields in Michigan's climate, but don't have the track record of classic hybrids. Michigan Live recommends Tastee Lee and Fabulous hybrid tomato types. Michigan Country Lines magazine notes that the new hybrid Tye Dye purports to offer heirloom-type color and flavor with more reliable growth. This tomato produces a red and gold fruit and takes 78 days to produce. Beginning Farmers, a resource site for newer gardeners, recommends Sweet Treats, a sweet pink cherry tomato, and Big Pink, a medium-size plant which produces rosy, pink slicing tomatoes.

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