Early Girl tomatoes are an extremely popular variety that is one of the most common supermarket and backyard garden varieties in the U.S. This indeterminate variety grows to about the size of a tennis ball and has the look and shape of what most people would equate with a “standard” tomato. The Early Girl is fast-growing, prolific in fruit production, and easy to grow.
This variety earned its popularity when researchers at the Center of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California Santa Cruz found that this tomato is particularly well-suited to “dryland farming.” This method involves low watering methods that force deep rooting, producing slightly smaller tomatoes with a higher flavor concentration. This makes the Early Girl a highly popular local tomato at San Francisco-area restaurants and farmer’s markets.
Best Soil for Growing Early Girl Tomatoes
Early Girls will do well in cultivated, nutritious soil. Slightly acidic is best, but not important – they will thrive in 6.5-7.5 pH. Rich soil is important to this variety as its fast growth comes at the cost of high nutritive use. The speed at which these plants grow will often mean that fertilization does not happen during their production span.
Proper Care of Early Girl Tomatoes
The Early Girl is relatively maintenance-free once established. Pinch off early shoots to encourage upward growth and be sure to use sturdy stakes or hoops as these plants get quite large (up to 9 feet) with limbs heavy with fruit. Pick and pickle or discard tomatoes that are crowded too close together on the vine to encourage larger fruit and faster production.
Watering on the ground rather than from the air will keep rot at a minimum and will help with root growth. Early Girls are resistant to most common tomato diseases and pests, so they are well-suited to organic methods of growing — despite the variety’s patent being owned by Monsanto.
When to Harvest Early Girls
Fruit will come to maturity in about 50 days. They will turn bright red. Most growers pick them slightly before total ripeness as these tomatoes can become soft and lose their table appeal fairly quickly. A gardener who is not observant may miss the prime picking time for these fast-growers, as they can go from green to red in just a day or so.
Early Girl Tomato Pests and Diseases
Few natural enemies affect the Early Girl, which was bred for its fast production and disease resistance. By the time most pests are active in the garden, the Early Girl has already finished its season.
How to Prepare Early Girl Tomatoes
Early Girls are good for just about everything dish tomatoes can be used in. From salads to salsa, they do it all. They are somewhat softer and less crisp than many longer-growing varieties, however, so most people do not find that they pickle, bake, or fry very well.
Tips for Growing Early Girl Tomatoes
The primary thing to do is have excellent soil. This will encourage faster growth and high productivity. Outside of this, Early Girls are very low-maintenance tomatoes. They grow well in (large) buckets, in the ground, and in raised beds. They are a favored kitchen garden and porch-side tomato because of their size and productivity.
Want to learn more about growing early girl tomatoes?
Check out these resources:
NC State University – Commercial Production of Tomatoes [PDF]
University of Illinois – Tomatoes