For more than 65 years, Burpee's 'Big Boy' tomato (Solanum lycopersicum 'Big Boy') has reigned as one of the best-selling tomato varieties for home growers. The seed company's 1949 classic was one of the first hybrid vegetables on the market, and its special breeding remains a trade secret to this day. But there's nothing mysterious about growing the big, bountiful tomatoes in your own garden.
- A slicing tomato variety, 'Big Boy' fruits reaches between 10 and 16 ounces.
- The large tomatoes are prized for their smooth skin, firm flesh and bright red color.
- The plants themselves are indeterminate, meaning they bear over a long period -- in the case of 'Big Boy,' prolifically -- and are larger than more compact, determinate tomato varieties.
- The Burpee team bred 'Big Boy' to be bushier, and therefore less sprawling, than other indeterminate tomato types.
Whether you grow your 'Big Boys' from seed or buy them from a nursery, it's best to plant these heat-loving plants when the soil has warmed up -- about two weeks after the average last frost date in your area. Set seedlings that are about six weeks old into the ground or in patio containers.
A midseason variety, 'Big Boy' tomato plants begin producing tomatoes about 78 days after the seeds are planted. They continue bearing throughout the growing season until early fall frosts.
Planting in the Ground
Make sure the garden bed you have in mind gets at least six full hours of sun each day. Prep your tomato patch by working about 2 inches of compost into the top 12 inches of soil. Burpee recommends that its 'Big Boy' variety be spaced 24 to 36 inches apart. If you're planting more than one row of 'Big Boy' seedlings, set the rows 48 inches apart. Although bushy, 4- to 5-feet tall vines can still sprawl a bit, so a sturdy stake or tomato cage is recommended for each plant.
Planting in Containers
'Big Boys' also grow well in containers. As with in-ground tomatoes, container 'Big Boys' do best with at least six hours of sun. Each plant needs a container that's at least 24 inches in diameter. Insert a cage or stake into the pot soon after planting your 'Big Boy' seedling.
Because soil in containers dries out more quickly than that in a garden bed, be sure to check daily that at least the top 2 inches of soil are moist. When you water, don't stop until water runs out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
Burpee recommends that, like its other tomato varieties, 'Big Boy' plants receive a consistent watering schedule. Oversoaking or overdrying can result in diseases such as blossom-end rot.
Working a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost, coupled with a handful of crushed eggshells, about a month after planting will give 'Big Boys' the nutrient boost they need to keep bearing their characteristically firm, large fruits.