Early Girl tomatoes are an extremely popular variety that is one of the most common supermarket and backyard vegetable 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, has high yields and is easy to grow.
This variety earned its popularity in the United States 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 this tasty fruit a highly popular local tomato at San Francisco-area restaurants and farmer’s markets.
Best Soil for Growing Early Girl Tomatoes
Early Girl tomato plants 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 an important factor 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 short growing season.
Proper Care of Early Girl Tomatoes
Early Girl plants are relatively maintenance-free once established. Pinch off early shoots to encourage upward growth and be sure to use sturdy stakes or tomato cages as these plants get quite large (up to 9 feet) with limbs heavy with fruit. For best results pick and pickle or discard tomatoes that are crowded too close together on the vine to encourage larger tomatoes and faster fruit production.
Watering on the ground, such as with soaker hoses, rather than from the air, will keep rot at a minimum and will help with root growth. Early Girls have good disease resistance. They 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. Ripe tomatoes will turn bright red. The best way to harvest early girls is to 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 right time for prime picking for these fast-growers, as they can go from green to red in such a short time, 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. Because they are a short-season tomato, 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 a great choice for just about every 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 these indeterminate plants to have fast growth and high productivity. Outside of this, Early Girls are very low-maintenance tomatoes. They grow well in large containers or buckets, in the ground, and in raised beds. They are a good choice for home gardeners because of their size & productivity. This makes them perfect to grow in a kitchen garden or porch-side.
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