Tomatoes are a popular plant to grow and come in thousands of different varieties. If you are interested in growing Early Girl tomatoes, this guide will tell you everything you need to know.
Quick Growing Guide for the Early Girl Tomato
|Plant Type:||Indeterminate||Resistant to:||Fusarium Wilt 1, Fusarium Wilt 2, Root Knot Nematode, Tobacco Mosaic Virus, Verticillium Wilt|
|USDA Hardiness Zone:||3-9||Maintenance:||Moderate to High|
|Season:||Summer, early fall||Soil Type:||Fertile, well aerated|
|Exposure:||Full Sun||Soil pH:||6.2-6.8|
|Time to Maturity:||60 days||Soil Drainage:||Well-drained|
|Water Needs:||Moderate||Companion Plants:||Lettuce, basil, beets|
|Planting Depth:||¼ inch deep||Don’t Plant Near:||Potatoes, peppers, eggplants|
|Common Pests and Diseases:||Aphids, tomato hornworms, Anthracnose||Variety:||Early Girl|
What Is an Early Girl Tomato?
Early Girl tomato plants are hybrid plants that produce after only 60 days, are red, and are good slicing tomatoes.
Cultivation and History
Joe Howland discovered an early maturing tomato in the 1970s in France. He, together with W. Atlee Burpee Company and PetoSeed, secured the rights to produce and sell the tomato in the United States. They made some slight improvements in the tomato and named it “Early Girl” to compliment Burpee’s “Best Boy” tomato in 1975.
Characteristics of the Early Girl Tomato
Early Girl is an indeterminate tomato plant, so it will keep growing until it is killed by frost.
Fruit Size, Color, Texture, Taste
Early tomatoes are the size of a tennis ball, red, meaty, and sweet. They can have a strong, concentrated flavor.
Early Girl is a hybrid tomato. This means that if you save the seeds, they will not produce tomatoes that are like the Early Girl. You have to buy new seeds each year.
Early Girl tomatoes are resistant to Fusarium Wilt 1, Fusarium Wilt 2, Root Knot Nematode, Tobacco Mosaic Virus, and Verticillium Wilt.
Caring for the Early Girl Tomato
Caring for an Early Girl tomato plant is much like caring for any tomato plant. Here is what you need to know.
Early Girl tomatoes need full sun. They do best with at least eight hours of sunlight. If you live in a hot climate, afternoon shade will keep them producing longer.
Early Girl tomato plants need well-draining, fertile soil. They grow best in soil with a pH of 6.2-6.8. I till my soil to a depth of six inches. I then spread three inches of compost on the soil, then mix it into the tilled soil. I take a soil sample and send it to my soil lab, and the results tell me what my soil pH is and what fertilizer I need to use to get my soil ready for planting tomatoes. You can get sample bags and instructions for a soil test from your Extension agent or agricultural advisor.
You can grow Early Girl tomato plants from seed or transplants. For complete instructions on starting seeds and planting transplants, see my article.
When to Plant Early Girl Tomatoes
Early Girl tomato plants are planted outside after the soil has warmed up and all danger of frost has passed. I have found that putting the transplants out too soon will cold stunt them, and they do not grow as large or have as many tomatoes.
Early Girl tomatoes need consistently moist soil. Big swings in soil moisture cause blossom end rot. Before the tomatoes start growing, the plant needs an inch of water a week. Once fruit sets, the tomatoes need two inches of water a week. I live in a hot climate and have to water twice a week to keep my soil moist. I also use an inexpensive moisture meter to judge when to water. I have found it very important not to get the tomato stem, foliage, or fruit wet when watering. Wet plants get diseases more easily.
Early Girl tomato plants should not be planted until the soil is warm and the air temperature is above 70 degrees at night. As mentioned above, I have found tomato plants put in the ground too early are cold-stunted.
When the temperature is above 90 degrees, the pollen in Early Girl tomatoes ruins and the plant can no longer produce tomatoes. My summer gets hot early, and my tomato plants stop producing. Some people nurse the plants through the summer until they produce again in the fall. I have found that it is better to remove the plants and start fresh in the fall. The ones that live through the summer never produce as many tomatoes in the fall as fresh plants.
In order to fertilize your tomato plants, you need to have a soil test (discussed above). Follow the soil test recommendations before you transplant your tomato plants. In the absence of a soil test, spread five pounds of 5-10-15 fertilizer per 100 feet of row. I live where there is a high amount of phosphorus and potassium in the soil, so I use 46-0-0 before I plant.
When the tomato plants set fruit, I start fertilizing them every two weeks with a liquid fertilizer or every four weeks with a granular fertilizer designed for tomato plants. For more on fertilizing tomatoes, read my article.
Since Early Girl tomato plants are indeterminate, I prune them when the first cluster of flowers blooms. I remove any suckers near the bottom of the plant. I also remove all the suckers in the branches of the plants except the one right below the flower cluster. For more information on pruning tomato plants, see my article.
Supporting Early Girl Tomato Plants
Because Early Girl tomato plants continue to grow until they are killed by frost, they can reach six to ten feet long. The vines need support. Support can be a sturdy metal pole, a wooden pole, or a trellis. Whatever you use must be strong enough to hold a big tomato plant loaded with tomatoes. A tomato cage or bamboo stake will not give enough support to this big vine.
Why Plant Early Girl Tomatoes?
Early Girl tomato plants produce in only 60 days. They are one of the first tomato varieties to produce tomatoes. In addition, they are resistant to common diseases. They taste good and produce many tomatoes on each plant all summer and into the fall.
Where to Buy Early Girl Tomatoes
Early Girl tomato plants are readily available at nurseries. Big box stores sometimes have them and sometimes do not have them. Online, you can buy seeds at Amazon, Totally Tomatoes, Tomato Growers Supply, Burpee, and other places. Totally Tomatoes has garden-ready plants and grafted plants in the Early Girl variety. Ferry Morse has plants online, and so does Home Depot.
Pest & Diseases
You can refer to our article for everything about tomato pests, below I am discussing the most common pests of Early Girl Tomatoes:
Aphids (various species)
Aphids are small, pear-shaped insects. They pierce the cell walls in foliage and suck the contents out. This leaves behind a silver empty cell. Aphids rarely kill plants but will reduce a plant’s vigor and cause it to have more tomatoes. They also produce honeydew, a sticky, sweet substance that covers the foliage. Sooty mold often grows on the honeydew, blocking photosynthesis.
To treat aphids, a strong blast of water can knock them off the plant. They usually can’t get back on. If the aphids are bad, use an insecticidal soap to kill them. To prevent problems, do not overuse pesticides that kill natural enemies of aphids and they will usually control them.
Tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) and Tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata)
Hornworms are long green caterpillars with stripes or chevrons on them. The distinguishing feature of the hornworm is a big horn on its posterior. Hornworms chew holes in tomato leaves, fruit, and blossoms. A heavy infestation can skeletonize a tomato plant very quickly.
To treat hornworms, the easiest thing to do is pick them off by hand and drop them in a jar of soapy water. If there are too many of them to pick off, spray them with Bacillus thuringiensis. To prevent hornworms, do not plant any member of the deadly nightshade family in that place in the garden for three years.
Anthracnose (Colletotrichum phomoides)
Anthracnose causes small, sunken watery lesions on ripe fruit. As the spots age, they enlarge to ½ inch in diameter and turn black in the center. These spots may be invaded by secondary fungal infections.
To treat Anthracnose, use a copper fungicide such as Bonide Captain Jack’s Copper Fungicide. To prevent Anthracnose, never get the foliage or fruit wet when watering. Mulching around the tomato plant helps keep soil with Anthracnose spores in it from splashing on the fruit.
You can find a complete list of known tomato diseases in my article.
Harvest your Early Girl tomatoes when they are full-size and completely red, but still firm. If a frost is forecast, harvest every tomato on the plant. Set the green full-size tomatoes on the counter separated by about an inch. They will ripen in several days. The smaller green tomatoes can be used in green tomato chow chow or salsa. Do not store Early Girl tomatoes in the refrigerator because they will become mushy and mealy
Common Uses of Early Girl Tomato
Early Girl tomatoes are used primarily as slicing tomatoes. They are good in salads, on burgers, and eaten with a little salt on them. Their sweet flavor is good in soups and sauces but choose recipes that minimize the processing of the tomatoes for the best flavor.
In conclusion, Early Girl tomato plants are an indeterminate hybrid. That means you must buy seeds every year. Early Girl tomatoes are red, about the size of a tennis ball, sweet, and meaty. They are best used fresh as slicing tomatoes but are good in soups and sauces if they are minimally processed.