How to Plant And Grow Brandywine Tomatoes In Your Garden

Brandywine tomatoes have been one of the most famous and beloved tomato cultivars for the last century. Their size, flavor, and juiciness are all part of what makes them so popular, especially now that they have been bred into a whole family of different colors.

If you are eager to try growing these delicious heirloom tomato varieties, or just want to learn more about them, this article is for you!

The Brandywine Tomato Cultivar

Physical Characteristics of Brandywine Tomatoes

Brandywine tomatoes are an heirloom variety that has been cultivated for over 100 years, originating in the USA.

It is known for taking a long time to reach maturity and being lower yielding than other well-known varieties, but for also having an amazingly rich flavor and texture- which is likely why it has remained popular over the years. 

Each fruit can weigh up to a pound and a half, and when cut open they have meaty, juicy flesh- making them great for just about every culinary use.

Brandywine tomatoes are indeterminate, meaning they will continue to grow and set fruits all season long until the first frost sets it.

The vines typically reach about 9-10 feet tall, but be aware that the fruits will take a long time to ripen- mostly due to their large size- so they should be planted in regions that have a long enough growing season to make sure they reach maturity which takes around 80-90 days.

Physical Characteristics of Brandywine Tomatoes 

The ‘classic’ Brandywine tomato is a pinky-red colour that may maintain tinges of green around the stem even when it is fully ripe. It has the wide, bulging shape of beefsteak tomatoes with a slightly pointed tip at the blossom end of the fruit.

There are also other cultivars of Brandywine tomatoes that have been bred to be fully pink, orange, or yellow, and they share the same characteristics and general flavour profile of the original pinky-red Brandywine. 

The Brandywine Tomato Cultivar

One of the most notable features of this tomato is its leaves, which differ significantly from the leaves of other common tomato varieties.

The leaves look more like potato leaves than traditional tomato leaves, with smooth edges that don’t have the characteristic jagged points that tomato leaves usually have.

The plant becomes very tall with large vines designed to carry the heavy fruits. The weight and height of this tomato plant make it hard to grow in containers, unless you have a gigantic one, and it needs a robust and sturdy trellis to support it.

Brandywine Quick Facts Table

  Brandywine Tomato

  Brandywine Tomato

  Tomato type:

  Slicing tomato

  USDA growing zones: 

  3 - 11

  Fruit yielding:

Indeterminate

  Fruit colour:

  Red, yellow, orange, and pink cultivars available

  Fruit shape: 

  Beefsteak

  Fruit flavour:

  Meaty, low-acidity, juicy

  Fruit weight:

  1 - 1.5 lbs 

  Leaf Shape: 

  Potato (smooth, non-jagged edges)

  Plant height:

  8-10 feet

  Days to maturity:

  80- 90, depending on the variety

  Sun Req:

  8-10 hours per day

  Soil pH Req:

  6.3 - 7.0

How to Grow Brandywine Tomatoes From Seed

How to Grow Brandywine Tomatoes From Seed

Brandywine tomatoes are hugely popular and may sell out at plant nurseries very quickly. The best way to guarantee that you can get your hands on this tasty tomato is to purchase seeds, usually online, and start them yourself indoors. Here’s how:

  • Start your seeds indoors. Start your Brandywine tomato seeds indoors around 7-8 weeks before the last estimated frost in your area, to give them a good head-start on the growing season. This is especially important if you live in a Northern climate or USDA growing zones 3-5. 
  • Prepare appropriate containers for planting seeds. Use 3-4 inch containers or a large seeding tray for planting your tomatoes. These guys will grow quickly and need to be potted up while indoors anyway, but you still want to make sure they have enough space from the get-go. Fill the containers with fluffy potting soil designed for seeding tomatoes. 
  • Water soil before planting. This is not essential, but watering seeds after planting can wash them out or accidentally pummel them too deep into the soil from the force of the water. Soaking soil beforehand creates a moist, seed-friendly environment for planting.
  • Plant seeds about ½ inch deep into the soil. Follow the specific directions of your seed packet, but generally around a half-inch deep is good. Dust soil over the top of seeds and make sure they have contact with soil on all sides- but not compact it. 
  • Cover seeding trays and wait. Tomato seeds need moisture and warmth to germinate, but not light. You can stack trays on top of each other or just cover each pot while you wait for them to germinate (may take be 6-14 days) and place them in a warm room. Brandywine seeds need a warm temperature of around 70℉ for germination.  
  • Give seedlings full sun. After germination, move your potted sprouts into a warm location that receives at least 8 hours of sunlight per day. If you have a south-facing window this might suffice, but otherwise, you will need to purchase growing lamps to meet the sun requirement and make sure their location is between 65 – 80℉. 
  • Keep seedlings relatively moist. Mist seedlings regularly so that the soil is consistently lightly moist, but not soaking wet or soggy. It should be the consistency and wetness of a wrung-out sponge. 
  • Make sure there is airflow. Damping-off is a common disease that spreads amongst young seedlings kept in humid conditions with poor oxygen circulation. Place a fan in the room where the seedlings are but make sure it doesn’t point directly at them.
  • Pot up seedlings at least twice whilst indoors. Brandywine seedlings need to be potted up into larger containers at least twice and potentially three times before they are finally transplanted into your garden. Potting up stimulates robust root growth, provides a nutrient boost and prevents seedlings from becoming root-bound. Re-pot your tomatoes into containers that are 2 inches wider than the previous ones. 
  • Harden off your plants! Hardening off is essential for Brandywine seedlings as if they are exposed to the elements with no adjustment period they could become stunted or even die. Gradually introduce young plants to the outdoors by an additional hour every day for 10-14 days, or speed the process up by hardening them off in a cold frame- which can be done in a week. 
  • Get that trellis built. As mentioned before, Brandywine tomatoes must have a strong and sturdy trellis to support their growth, or the plants will end up lying on the ground which increases the likelihood of disease. Install an A-frame, string, or wire trellising system before planting, and make sure they are well-anchored into the ground and can support the weight of heavy fruits.
  • Plant seedlings deep into the ground. Transplant your Brandywine seedlings into a deep hole so that they are buried up to the first node (where the first main branch connects with the stem). This is important for root development. 
  • Start your watering schedule with a deep drink. Soak your newly planted Brandywines to help them adjust to the transplant shock, and continue to monitor their water levels for their first few weeks of growth, and set them up on a regular irrigation schedule. Continue caring for your plants throughout the growing season with the guidelines below.

How to Care for Brandywine Tomato Plants

How to Care for Brandywine Tomatoes

Brandywine tomatoes need the same general care requirements that all tomatoes need, but since they are a late-season tomato that becomes very large there are some specific ways that they should be taken care of- especially in the spring and early summer- to set them up for success and increase chances of a large crop.

1: Water at the soil level

Water Brandywine tomato plant once or twice a week, depending on the weather of your region, and give them a good, long soak at each watering so that the soil is totally saturated. 

Brandywine tomatoes are, unfortunately, not particularly resistant to any diseases and the long amount of time the fruits spend on the vine while they grow and ripen mean they can be susceptible to fungal diseases such as Anthracnose or Early Blight damaging fruits.

The best way to mitigate the spread of fungal diseases is by watering consistently at the soil level and trying to avoid any water splashing or sitting on the leaves of the plant.

2: Plant in slightly acidic, well-draining soil 

Plant in slightly acidic, well-draining soil

Brandywine tomatoes should be planted in soil with a slightly acidic pH of about 6.5 for optimal growth. Like all tomatoes, they need soil with excellent drainage to ensure the roots don’t wind up sitting in soggy soil, which can lead to root rot.

Brandywine varieties will do well in loamy, silty or partially sandy soils but will struggle in heavy clays, and there should be sufficient nutrients for the plants to uptake- see more below about ‘nitrogen starving’.

3: Make sure they get full sun

Make sure they get full sun

Brandywine tomatoes need full sun, at least 8 hours a day but ideally 10, and sufficient heat for the plants to set themselves up for success.

There are no shade tolerant varieties of Brandywine tomatoes, so save your best, most south-facing spot in your garden for this plant if you want it to do well.

4: Mulch around plants

Mulch around plants

Mulching is hugely beneficial in maintaining plant health and is particularly important with this tomato variety as an extra barrier against disease pathogens that may live in the soil.

A one-inch layer of straw mulch does wonders in reducing fungal and bacterial disease rates, but make sure it doesn’t touch the actual stem of the plant as contact with constantly wet matter will cause rotted patches.

Mulching will also conserve moisture in the soil, cool the soil surface.

5: Prevent Disease and Pests 

How to Grow Brandywine Tomatoes

As previously mentioned, Brandywines don’t have any notable resistance to diseases or tolerance for pests, although this may vary depending on the specific variety.

It is particularly susceptible to fungal diseases like Early Blight, so follow the above watering and mulching guidelines and ensure the pathogens do not survive season-to-season by practicing crop rotation and removing plant debris at the end of the season.

6: Use a sturdy trellis

Use a sturdy trellis

Brandywine tomato vines can become very tall, especially in warm Southern climates, so a robust trellis should be installed at the time of planting to make sure the vines have enough support throughout the growing season.

They can reach 8-9 feet, so a wire, string, or tall A-frame trellising system will likely be needed, and tomato cages won’t be large enough for the job- unless they are stacked two tall.

Make sure the trellis is set up before planting so that the roots do not become damaged later in the season.4

7: Practice ‘nitrogen starving’

Nitrogen starving is the practice of reducing nitrogen in the soil to limit foliage growth and encourage fruit growth.

Brandywine tomatoes have huge, heavy fruits that need a lot of energy to produce, and plants can sometimes end up with a lower yield when too much energy is directed at foliage growth instead of fruit production. 

This is how you do it: At the beginning of the season, right after transplanting, the soil should be amended to be evenly nutrient-rich for the first few weeks of growth.

Once the plant is well established, apply a fertilizer that is rich in phosphorus and potassium but lacks nitrogen (0-10-10), so that the plant focuses its energy and resources on setting fruits. Once a good number of fruits are growing, you can use a balanced fertilizer again.

8: Remove suckers periodically

In addition to nitrogen management, you should prune the suckers off your Brandywine plants for the same reason- to encourage flower and fruit growth.

Since these plants are known to only produce moderate yields, you need all the help you can get to try and guarantee a decent crop, and the giant tomatoes need lots of space to grow without lots of bushy foliage as well.

Do still leave one or two suckers to grow at a time, as the plant of course does need some fresh branch and leaf growth for photosynthesis, and new branches will produce more tomatoes as well, just make sure suckers aren’t taking over.

Harvesting Brandywine Tomatoes

Harvesting Brandywine Tomatoes

The time has finally come to harvest these giants! This is the moment every Brandywine-grower waits for with anticipation, as these long-season tomatoes take a long time to ripen and develop their signature flavour. Make sure to follow these tips for a successful harvest:

Pick the fruits as soon as they are ripe

Pick the fruits as soon as they are ripe

Since Brandywines take so long to ripen, it’s important to pick them at the exact moment of ripeness, or as close to it as you can, to avoid the risk of pest-eaten or damaged fruits.

When they are ripe the heavy fruits are more likely to drop from the vine, which can result in bruised or completely splattered tomatoes.

Ripe fruits left on the vine also keeps a window of opportunity open for animal pests like deer that will happily eat all the ripe fruits in one sitting.

Cut tomatoes off the vine 

It is a good idea to use a sharp knife to slice large Brandywine tomatoes right off the vine, as opposed to twisting them off, as they are super heavy!

Use two hands and make sure you have a sturdy crate or box for placing fruits into, as you wouldn’t want all your long-awaited tomatoes tumbling to the ground and becoming bruised!

Keep an eye on the weather

Brandywine tomatoes are not split or crack-resistant, and if a heavy rain event is forecasted for your area you should remove all the fruits on the vine that are of size, even if they are still green, and let them finish ripening indoors.

Leaving them on the vine may result in the fruits splitting open, which makes it difficult for them to finish ripening before the open cracks become mouldy or invaded by pests.

Top plants before the first frost

Brandywine tomatoes are a long-season variety that may take 90 days to reach maturity. Depending on your growing zone, this might not leave you with too much time at the end of summer to maximize your harvest before the first frost.

About 3-4 weeks before the first predicted frost for your area, cut the growing tips off the top of your plants to redirect all the energy into ripening the giant fruits, so that you can make the most of your plant before it perishes in the cold.

Updated on by Amber Noyes

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