Looking for a slicing tomato that sings with flavor and sends tomato juice dripping down your chin? Then look no further than the Brandywine tomato!
This classic heirloom variety has been around for generations, yet it remains undeniably popular to this day. And all you have to do is take one bite to see why.
While you can’t argue that Brandywine tomatoes are delicious, you may still be unsure of whether you should grow some of these plants yourself.
Stick with us for more info about this tomato variety and then provide tips on growing these plants at home.
Brandywine Tomato – Quick Growing Guide
|USDA Hardiness Zone:
|Moderate to high
|Summer and early fall
|Rich and well-aerated
|6.2 to 6.8
|Time to Maturity:
|75–80 days after transplant
|Lettuce, basil, beets, sweet alyssum, marigold
|1/4 inch deep
|Don’t Plant Near:
|Potatoes, peas, pole beans, corn
|Common Pests and Diseases:
|Aphids, thrips, late blight, early blight, septoria leaf spot, anthracnose
About the Brandywine Tomato
The Brandywine is a beloved heirloom tomato that’s popular with gardeners both young and old.
Since it’s an heirloom, it is open-pollinated and breeds true to seed. That means Brandywine flowers that are pollinated with pollen from other Brandywine flowers will produce seeds that grow into plants that are identical to the parent plant.
The plants are indeterminate, which means healthy plants will continue producing flowers and fruits until they die. Their indeterminate growth habit also means that Brandywine plants will continue to grow until something kills them.
Brandywine tomatoes often reach over one pound and are known for their smooth texture. Classic Brandywine plants have dark pink fruits, but you can also find red and yellow Brandywine tomatoes.
The Brandywine tomato has a rich history that dates back to the 1800s. It is believed to have originated in the Brandywine Valley in Pennsylvania, which explains its name.
The Brandywine tomato first appeared in records in 1885 when it was listed in the catalog of the Johnson & Stokes seed company. After this time, it quickly gained popularity among gardeners and farmers in the area due to its exceptional flavor and texture.
However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the Brandywine tomato became widely known outside of the region. Seed savers and enthusiasts began to promote the variety, and it soon became a favorite among heirloom tomato growers and enthusiasts across the country.
If you’d like to try your hand at growing your own Brandywine tomatoes, you can start with tomato seeds or seedlings. Since this is one of the most popular heirloom tomatoes, it’s relatively easy to find both seeds and seedlings.
If you’d like to start out with seedlings, you can check local nurseries and greenhouses as well as big-box stores.
Once you’ve got healthy seedlings in hand, it’s time to put your plants in the ground and get their outdoor life started.
If you’d like to grow Brandywine tomatoes from seed, you should start the seeds indoors about two months before you plan to plant the seedlings outdoors.
Make sure you use a high-quality potting mix (Vermont Compost Fort Vee is one great option), provide the seedlings with at least 10 hours of bright light each day, and keep the soil moist but not wet.
Since tomatoes are sensitive to cold, you’ll want to wait until the danger of frost has passed to plant them outside.
If you’re unsure when the last frost date in your area typically occurs, you can use historical data to predict the date. However, remember to keep an eye on the 10-day forecast and delay planting if frost is likely.
While tomato plants won’t die if they are exposed to temperatures below 50ºF, these cooler temperatures can stress the plant. Therefore, you may want to wait to plant until nighttime temperatures are remaining above 50ºF.
Before you place your tomatoes in the ground, you’ll want to ensure the area will allow the plants to thrive.
First, look at the light the area receives. Brandywine tomato plants require at least eight hours of direct light each day, but they prefer more than ten hours.
This means you should plant your tomatoes in an open area that receives full sun.
Next, look at the soil.
Never plant your tomatoes in a low-lying area where water settles. While tomatoes need a fair amount of water, they hate sitting in wet soil.
You should also check and see if the soil is compacted. If it is, loosen it with a digging fork or broadfork before planting.
Once you’ve found a suitable location, it’s time to lay out your plants.
If you are planting more than one tomato plant, space them two feet apart. This will give the plants enough room to spread out without taking up unnecessary space.
You can plant smaller plants like beets, head lettuce, and basil one foot away from your tomato plants.
Dig a hole that is about eight inches deep and eight inches wide, and add a handful of finished compost to the bottom of the hole. Add the plant’s root ball and fill in the empty space with soil.
It’s okay if a bit of the plant’s stem is below the soil surface. Tomato plants will form roots along portions of the stem that are underground, which can help them develop a stronger root system.
I like to bury my tomato plants pretty deep for this very reason. However, you should ensure at least the top two inches of the plant is above the soil surface.
After your plants are in the ground, it’s time to provide them with the proper care. Brandywine plants can easily produce fruit for multiple months as long as they are healthy.
Like most tomato plants, Brandywine plants require a moderate amount of water.
When the plants are still young, they will have a shallow root system. Therefore, you should water the plants every few days to prevent the soil from drying out.
As the above-ground portions of the plants grow, so will the roots. Therefore, the roots will be able to reach water that is deeper in the ground.
However, you should still aim to keep the soil moisture level rather consistent. This will prevent the fruits from cracking and also help with the uptake of nutrients like calcium.
Rather than providing your plants with a few inches of water one time per week, spread out watering over multiple days. Providing your plants with about one inch of water two to three times a week is generally a good practice.
When you water, do your best to avoid getting the leaves wet or splashing soil on the leaves. This means you should water at the base of the plant rather than on the plant’s leaves. You should also avoid over-watering your tomato plants.
If you are growing only a few plants, a watering can will work well. But if you’re growing rows of tomatoes, you may want to simply water them with a drip irrigation system.
Brandywine tomato plants require 18 essential nutrients to thrive. They obtain three of these nutrients (carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen) from the water or air, and obtain the other 15 from the soil.
Tomato plants require the largest amount of the three macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) and a moderate amount of the three secondary nutrients (calcium, magnesium, and sulfur). They also require small amounts of nine micronutrients.
Since each nutrient serves a different function in the plant, plants need to receive the proper amounts of all of these nutrients.
When the plant is in the vegetative stage of growth, you should fertilize it with a product that is high in nitrogen. This will help support the growth of leaves and shoots.
However, once the plants are a few feet tall, you should switch over to a fertilizer that contains more phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen. This will help encourage and support the development of flowers and fruit.
Fortunately, some pre-blended fertilizers work well for Brandywine tomato plants. Fertilize your plants with a product like Espoma Organic Tomato-Tone or Jobe’s Organics Vegetable & Tomato Food about once every two to three weeks.
While pruning is an optional step of caring for Brandywine tomato plants, it can help keep the plants manageable and also prevent the spread of disease. I like to complete at least some basic pruning to keep my plants healthy.
No matter what type of pruning you complete, it’s essential to start with sharp and clean tools. This will help prevent diseases from spreading and also speed up the healing process.
When plants are only a few feet tall, remove any lower leaves that are touching the ground. This will prevent soil from splashing onto the leaves and causing disease.
You can also choose to remove the plant’s suckers. These are the shoots that emerge from between the main stem and the leaves.
While removing the suckers will decrease the overall potential fruit production, it can also help keep the plant more manageable and increase airflow. Decreasing the number of flowers also allows the plant to focus its energy on producing high-quality fruits.
I also like to prune off excess leaves as the plant grows. This increases airflow which can help prevent the development of fungal diseases like early blight and verticillium wilt.
As mentioned above, Brandywine tomatoes are intermediate. This means they often grow over six feet tall and can even reach ten feet.
While you don’t technically need to trellis your plants, I cannot imagine forgoing this step.
Trellising helps prevent the spread of disease and also makes the plants easier to care for.
So, how should you trellis your Brandywine plants?
One option is to use simple metal tomato cages. These cages will prevent the plants from flopping on the ground, and they are an easy system to set up.
If you have a large row of tomato plants, you may want to opt for another trellising method. The Florida stake and weave method is my preferred way to trellis a large number of tomato plants.
Start by inserting a 6–8 foot tomato stake between every 3–4 plants. The stakes should be in line with the tomato plants’ stems.
Next, you’ll use tomato twine to box in and support the tomato plants.
Start by tying a piece of twine to a stake—the twine should be about six inches above the ground. Run the twine along one side of the tomato plants, pull taut, and then tie it to the next stake.
Repeat this process along the other side of the plants. When you are finished, the plants should be in between the two pieces of twine.
As the plants grow, continue to add new pieces of twine about every 6–8 inches.
Although Brandywine tomato plants have many desirable characteristics, they don’t pack the disease resistance present in many hybrid varieties. Therefore, you should do your best to prevent diseases.
One step of disease prevention is crop rotation. Avoid planting members of the Solanaceae family (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes) in the same spot in your garden multiple years in a row.
You should aim to provide good airflow via trellising and pruning. Finally, try to avoid handling the plants when the foliage is wet.
Even if you do your best to prevent tomato diseases from developing, they may still occur. Some common tomato diseases to look out for include late blight, early blight, anthracnose, and Fusarium wilt.
Brandywine plants are also susceptible to numerous types of pests. Fortunately, you can control most of these pests before they become a major issue.
One group of pests to look out for is sap-sucking insects like aphids, thrips, and spider mites. These tiny pests suck out plant sap and can also spread diseases.
These pests have natural predators including lady beetles, green lacewings, and assassin bugs. You can encourage these beneficial insects by planting a diversity of crops and avoiding the application of broad-spectrum insecticides.
If you find that sap-sucking pests are taking over your tomato plants, you can spray them with neem oil or insecticidal soap. Apply these products at dusk or on a cloudy day, and make sure to thoroughly coat the pests.
Other common pests to look out for are tomato hornworms and armyworms. You can remove these worms by hand or spray them with the bacteria Bt.
You should begin to see your first ripe Brandywine tomatoes about 75–80 days after transplant. Keep an eye on the lower portion of the plant around this time since the bottom tomatoes will be the first to ripen.
Brandywine tomatoes will start out small and green. They will remain green until they reach their maximum size, and then they will begin to turn pink.
Partially ripe Brandywine tomatoes are light pink and may even have a bit of green on the portions of the fruit near the stem. Fully ripe tomatoes are dark pink.
You can harvest your Brandywine tomatoes anytime after they begin to develop color. Fully ripe tomatoes will store well for a few days, while partially-ripe tomatoes will take anywhere from 3–10 days to fully ripen.
Despite what you may have heard, there is not a noticeable flavor difference between tomatoes that are picked when they are fully ripe and those that are allowed to ripen off the vine.
Regardless of the ripeness stage, you should store your tomatoes in a cool place (50ºF–60ºF). However, avoid placing them in the refrigerator since cold temperatures can lead to a loss of flavor and texture.
I like to harvest my tomatoes 2–3 times per week. I find this prevents fruits from overripening yet also gives them a chance to change color between harvests.
The Brandywine tomato’s balanced taste, smooth texture, and thin skin are some of the reasons why it has remained so popular over the years.
When you slice into a Brandywine, you’ll notice few seeds and satiny-smooth flesh. And when you take a bite, you’ll be hit with a balance of sweetness and acidity. This combination means that Brandywine tomatoes are well-suited for all kinds of uses! You can slice them up for excellent BLTs, cook them down into a stunning deep pink tomato sauce, or hollow them out for stuffed tomatoes.