Tomato Trials

Members of the Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener program in Larimer County completed two tomato trials.

One trial consisted of 12 early-maturing, in-ground varieties that was conducted in 2019 & 2021. The second trial conducted in 2020 & 2021 featured 3 small-fruited varieties for containers.

You can see the results of those trials below. 

Sweet Pepper Trial

In 2022, Larimer County Master Gardeners completed a trial of 15 sweet pepper varieties. The trial included 3 varieties of lunchbox peppers. A second trial will begin in 2023. 

The results of the 2022 trial are available below. The 2023 results will be available in early 2024. 

A crate of tomatoes
Seed starting planters, filled with soil and labeled.

No endorsement of products mentioned is intended, nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.

View a printable PDF of the tomato trial results here

Top-performing Varieties:

After evaluating two years of data, Hybrid New Girl was the earliest maturing and had the highest fruit yield in the field trials.  Blind taste tests were utilized to determine what varieties had the best flavor. Hybrid New Girl was rated as having the best flavor for 2019 and 2021.  

Sample cups of various tomatoes along with a score sheet and a pen

In-Ground Varieties Trial Details

Jon Weiss, CSU Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County
Alison O’Connor, PhD, Horticulture Agent, CSU Extension

Cut tomatoes sit on plates with small cups.

Materials & Methods:

Hybrid and open-pollinated tomato varieties were included, along with determinate (bush) and indeterminate growth habits. The trial design for both years were replicated and randomized. Tomatoes were grown in the greenhouse and transplanted on June 5, 2019, and June 10, 2021 at the CSU ARDEC-South research farm. Tomatoes in 2019 were planted into ground beds covered with black plastic and irrigated with drip irrigation. Tomatoes in 2021 were planted into ground beds without black plastic and irrigated via furrow irrigation. Harvesting was done as needed as individual varieties ripened.

Results:

By comparing the tables, some varieties were consistent year to year, despite differing temperatures, growing season length, and weather events (hail). Overall, the trial results offer the home gardener valuable information to help determine what varieties to grow in northern Colorado.

Table 1. Maturity, Yield, and Fruit Size

Table 1. Maturity, Yield, and Fruit Size
Variety     Maturity* 2019 Maturity* 2021 Yield – lbs. 2019 Yield – lbs. 2021 Average Fruit
Size – oz. 2019
Average Fruit
Size – oz. 2021
Polbig   2 45.1 52.2 3.7 3.1
Valley Girl   2 40.89 67.1 2.5 2.9
Celebrity   3 53 69.1 4.6 4
Early Girl   2 52.8 64.9 2.3 2.9
New Girl 1 1 82.9 92.8 2.3 2.3
Moskvich   3 17.3 55.3 1.6 2.6
Carbon   3 61.4 71.3** 5.9 5.9
Chef's Choice Black   3 42 91 4.4 5.2
Big Beef   2 76.8 84.4 4.6 3.9
Mtn. Fresh Plus     37.2 0 4.9 0
Mtn. Merrit     22.7 0 4.7 0
Mtn. Rogue     18.7 0 3.4 0
Galahad   2 0 49 0 2.7
Defiant   2 0 68.6 0 2.4
Damsel   3 0 54.9 0 3.4

 *Maturity for 2019: 1 = first variety harvested
*Maturity for 2021: 1 = first variety harvested while 3 = later maturing varieties

Table 2. Flavor

Flavor
Variety Texture 2019 Texture 2021 Sweetness 2019 Sweetness 2021 Overall Flavor 2019 Overall Flavor 2021
Polbig 3.5 2.9 2.6 1.6 2.9 2.3
Valley Girl 2 2.5 2.1 1.7 2 2.4
Celebrity 3.4 2.6 2.3 1.8 3.1 2.6
Early Girl 3 2.9 2.2 3 2.5 3.2
New Girl 3.6 3.1 2.8 3.1 3.2 3.4
Moskvich 2.8 2.4 2.7 2.7 2.8 3.1
Carbon 2.6 2.7 2.9 2 2.7 2.7
Chef's Choice Black 2.7 2.5 3.2 2.4 3.2 2.8
Big Beef 2.8 2.8 2.2 2 2.7 2.9
Mtn. Fresh Plus 0   0   0  
Mtn. Merrit 2.9   2.2   2.2  
Mtn. Rogue 3.2   2.8   2.7  
Galahad   3   2.4   2.8
Defiant   2.2   1.5   2.3
Damsel   2.8   3   3.2

View a printable PDF of the container tomato trial results here

Top-performing Varieties:

Hybrid Patio Choice Yellow stood out as an early, high-yielding, large cherry size variety whose compact plant habit cascaded over the container.  

Descriptive text

Tomatoes growing on a vine.

Container Varieties Trial Details

Jon Weiss, CSU Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County
Alison O’Connor, PhD, Horticulture Agent, CSU Extension

Purpose

There has been an explosion of interest in the growing of fresh vegetables by homeowners around the country. Many of these homeowners have extremely limited space and are looking for varieties to fill that confined space.

Small-fruited tomato (i.e., cherry, pear, grape)varieties are popular, but the vast majority have alarger, sprawling plant habit that may not work for small spaces. To address this issue, the LarimerCounty Master Gardeners conducted a three-variety evaluation trial. The varieties in the trial have a more compact habit and are commercially available.

Small yellow tomatoes grow on the vine

Varieties

  • Patio Choice Yellow (round yellow fruit)
  • Cherry Falls (round cherry fruit)
  • Totem (round cherry fruit)

Methodology

Tomatoes were seeded and grown in the greenhouse, until transplanting on June 6, 2021into large containers as part of the CSU AnnualFlower Trials. Each container had a single plant and were irrigated and fertilized via drip irrigation. Five containers per variety were utilized (with the exception of Totem that only had four replications). The plants were randomized within the allotted area and grown by trial staff.
Maturity, yield, and average fruit size were collected for each variety.

Results

Cherry Falls was an early maturing variety with a compact, somewhat open growth habit. Totem had a dense growth habit and was the latest maturing of the three. Patio ChoiceYellow was as early as Cherry Falls, with larger fruit, and higher yield. Overall, the results offer the home gardener valuable information to help determine what varieties to grow in northern Colorado.

Variety Yield Results (ounces)

Variety Yield Results (ounces)
Harvest Date Cherry Falls Patio Choice Yellow Totem*
8/10 16.9 25.6 2.2
8/17 90.0 95.2 18.8
8/24 49.0 175.1 62.6
8/31 49.0 195.0 60.0
9/7 15.0 108.4 88.4
9/14 11.0 39.3 60.4
9/21 2.4 11.9 39.4
Average Fruit Size (ounces) 0.3 0.6 0.2
*Yield based on four plants

Variety Harvest Totals (pounds)

Variety Harvest Totals (pounds)
  Cherry Falls Patio Choice Yellow Totem*
Total harvested
fruit (pounds)
15.7 40.7 20.7
Average harvest per
plant (pounds)
3.1 8.1 5.1

*Yield based on four plants

View a printable PDF of the 2022 trial results here

The study will continue in 2023. Check back in early 2024 for results. 

2022 Pepper Trials Results

Purpose of the study

There has been an explosion of interest in backyard production of fresh vegetables around the country. Sweet peppers are a favorite to grow on the Colorado Front Range, though selection of varieties is challenged by the relatively short growing and harvest season. Members of the Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener program in Larimer County, in cooperation with the CSU Specialty Crops program, conducted a trial with 15 sweet pepper varieties.

A seed tray of sweet pepper starts

Materials and Methods

Hybrid and open-pollinated pepper varieties known to be early to early mid-season in maturity were selected. Twelve varieties were sweet bell peppers and three were “lunchbox” type. Peppers were grown in the greenhouse and transplanted on June 8, 2022 at the CSU ARDEC-South (Fort Collins, Colo.) research farm. The plants were planted into ground beds covered with black plastic and irrigated with drip irrigation. It was a replicated and randomized trial.

Three plants from each replication were harvested with the weight and number of fruits recorded. Harvesting began when fruit began to show a blush of color. There were three harvests during the growing season – the final harvest removed all fruit from plants. Heat and rabbit damage affected the pepper plants, so theoretical yields were used for each variety. Sixteen participants took part in a pepper taste test whereby varieties were scored 1 (worst) to 5 (best) for fruit sweetness, texture, and overall flavor.

A group of Master Gardeners harvest sweet peppers and gather data.

Fast Facts

  • Sweet peppers are a favorite of backyard gardeners, but the Colorado Front Range short growing season limits varieties that can be grown successfully.
  • There were 15 pepper varieties in the research trial.
  • Peppers were evaluated for flavor and yield.
Multiple small yellow sweet peppers sit on a scale to find the weight of the group.

Results & Comments

The variety 'Purple Beauty' was the earliest variety, though taste was lacking (it scored the lowest by tasting participants). Both 'Olympus' and 'Ace' had yielded the greatest number of fruits. For those wanting to grow a stuffing pepper, 'Olympus' had the greatest percentage of 4-lobed fruit. The largest fruit size was 'King Arthur', which yielded fruits averaging one-half pound each. Of the “lunchbox” varieties, 'Just Sweet' stood out by its high yield, great flavor, and larger fruit size. Though 'Cajun Belle' is sold as a sweet pepper, it does have a spicy heat. All pepper plants were less than 24" tall and 24" wide. Overall, these trial results offer the home gardener valuable information to help determine what varieties to grow in northern Colorado.

A sweet pepper sits on the ground next to a label stating it's variety ("Milena")
Variety Maturity Average fruit yield per plant (pounds) Average number of fruit per plant Average Fruit
  Size (ounces)
Overall Flavor
Ace 2 6.1 26.4 3.7 3.1
Flavorburst 2 5.2 14.2 5.9 3.2
Goldenstar 3 4.5 12 6.1 3.2
Gourmet 2 3.9 15 4.3 N/A
King Arthur 3 4.7 8.6 8.6 3.5
Milena 2 4.5 13.0 5.4 N/A
Ninja 3 3.5 11.5 5.4 3.2
Olympus 2 6.1 16.0 6.2 3.3
Purple Beauty 1 4.2 21.0 3.3 2.4
Sprinter 3 5.5 5.5 4.9 3.4
Staddon's Select 3 5.7 5.7 3.6 N/A
Sweet Sunrise 3 4.3 4.3 4.4 3.2
Cajun Belle* 2 2.8 74.0 0.6 N/A
Eros* 2 3.1 64.0 0.8 2.8
Just Sweet* 2 5.0 67.0 1.2 4.3

 

Table details:

  • Maturity: 1 = earliest to mature; 3 = latest to mature
  • Flavor scale: 1 = lacking flavor; 5 = great flavor
  • Omitted from tasting: Gourmet, Milena, Staddon's Select & Cajun Belle
  • *Lunchbox variety

 


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Larimer County Office of Colorado State University Extension

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ADDRESS
1525 Blue Spruce Dr.
Fort Collins, CO 80524-2004

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