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Growing San Marzano Tomato Plants

Updated on April 1, 2014

If you're in the hunt for a high yielding heirloom tomato plant, then look no further! The San Marzano tomato is here to please! These squat indeterminate plants grow rather dense, and produce an almost endless supply of oblong shaped fruit. Growing in clusters of six to eight, the medium sized tomatoes are perfect for eating fresh or for use in canning. San Marzano tomato plants are perfect for gardeners that are looking to make the most out of a small space or patio! Keep reading to learn more about this spectacular variety and to find out how you can benefit from growing San Marzano tomatoes!

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San Marzano Tomatoes. These tomatoes were grown in a container on a second story patio!
San Marzano Tomatoes. These tomatoes were grown in a container on a second story patio!

The San Marzano Variety -

Although the San Marzano that we know today is much different than in the past, this heirloom tomato variety has origins dating back to 18th century Italy. Now, that's a tomato that has stood up to the test of time! This indeterminate variety grows densely and to a height of 5-6 feet. Scattered all about the foliage are large amounts of 4-6 oz. fruits. They are slender, very fleshy, and contain few seeds. These characteristics make San Marzano tomatoes perfect for making pastes and for use in canning. Planting a few of these plants will yield enough tomatoes for eating fresh, making pastes, and for use in pastas sauces or canned salsas!

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San Marzano tomato plant grown in a buried container. A sunken five gallon container with the bottom removed allowed this tomato plant to reach its roots deep into the ground. As a result, this plant was highly productive throughout the 2013 season!
San Marzano tomato plant grown in a buried container. A sunken five gallon container with the bottom removed allowed this tomato plant to reach its roots deep into the ground. As a result, this plant was highly productive throughout the 2013 season!

San Marzano Variety -

When to Start Indoors
Six to eight weeks before the date of the average last spring frost.
Time from Transplanting to First Ripe Fruits
70-80 Days.
Tomato Description
Tear drop shaped fruits that are very fleshy and flavorful!

Basic Care for San Marzano Tomatoes -

Other than being a bit bushier than most other indeterminate tomato varieties, the San Marzano tomato plant will require the same basic care. Get all your ducks in a row, and you'll have thriving and highly productive tomato plants!

  • Full Sun - Like all other tomato plants, the San Marzano variety will need at least 6-8 hours of daily direct sunlight. While they will grow in slightly less, the yields and fruits themselves, will be smaller.
  • Fertile & Well Draining Soil - These plants are heavy feeders and will require the in-ground gardener to amend existing soil with plenty of compost or aged manure. Container gardeners should select the highest quality potting soil available. In either case, ensure that the soil drains properly. Slow draining soils can smother tomato roots and cause rot.
  • Tomato Cage - Although these plants will not grow as large as other indeterminate varieties, they will still need the support of a tomato cage. Select a cage that is at least five feet tall for the best results.

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Tips for Growing -

Novice gardeners will have no problem growing San Marzano tomatoes, but if you're a beginner gardener, there are a few helpful tips you won't want to miss out on! Sticking close to these tips will ensure that your plants remain healthy and thriving throughout the season.

  • Start From Seeds - Though you can purchase young San Marzano tomato plants from garden centers, growing your own from seed has much more to offer! Not only do you get to know the age of your tomato plant, you'll know exactly how and where it was grown. Timing and proper seedling care is important when it comes to maximizing yields.
  • Prune Regularly - As the tomato plant grows throughout the season, there will be many inner branches that become shaded from regular sunlight. The leaves on these branches will slowly yellow and die off. When 50% of a branch has turned yellow, it can be trimmed off. Keep up on regular pruning of old branches and suckers to maintain proper ventilation.
  • Support the Plant Well - Even with a tall tomato cage, there are bound to be some branches that break free. Any loose branches should be tied up and supported with soft twine.

San Marzano tomatoes growing in a patio container.
San Marzano tomatoes growing in a patio container.
  • Slow Release Nutrition - When transplanting San Marzano tomato plants into their final outdoor location, consider adding some slow release and organic nutrition to their spot in the soil. A small fish carcass or a quarter cup of bone meal buried below the roots of each transplant will provide steady nutrition for a few months. Since both the fish and bone meal are high in phosphorus, they'll really help out with tomato production later in the season.
  • Large Container - If you plan to grow San Marzano tomatoes in containers, choose the largest one that you can find! Growing with great vigor, these tomato plants have a root system to match. Small containers will only cause the roots to cramp and tomato production to decrease. To reach the maximum tomato production potential, grow these plants in twenty gallon containers.

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Problems with San Marzano Tomatoes -

With healthy and thriving garden soil, you'll most likely never run into any issues when growing San Marzano tomato plants. However, if you've had disease or nutrition issues with your soil, things can go wrong. Pay attention to the information below if you've ever had issues with the quality of your soil.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
At the peak of the season, there's always a bunch of ripe San Marzano tomatoes to be picked!Ripening tomatoes. One of the last tomatoes of the 2013 season.
At the peak of the season, there's always a bunch of ripe San Marzano tomatoes to be picked!
At the peak of the season, there's always a bunch of ripe San Marzano tomatoes to be picked!
Ripening tomatoes.
Ripening tomatoes.
One of the last tomatoes of the 2013 season.
One of the last tomatoes of the 2013 season.
  • Soil Borne Wilts - Open pollinated and heirloom varieties of the San Marzano tomato plant are less likely to be resistant to soil borne wilts such as Verticillium and Fusarium wilt. If garden soils are known to have these bacterial diseases present, do not plant San Marzano tomatoes. If plants become infected with verticillium or fusarium wilts, cut down the infected plant and throw away. Do not plant in the same area for at least 3-5 years. Some San Marzano hybrids have been bred with a resistance to these bacterial wilts.
  • Blossom End Rot - Like most other large tomato plants, blossom end rot can occur in San Marzano tomatoes. The cause of this browning of the tip of the tomato fruit is often attributed to a lack of available calcium in the soil. As a preventative measure, work plenty of egg shells or bone meal into the soil at the beginning of the season. Watering at regular intervals can also help in aiding against tomatoes already suffering from blossom end rot.

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San Marzano tomatoes harvested from the patio. These container grown tomatoes were only a small faction of the total tomatoes harvested!
San Marzano tomatoes harvested from the patio. These container grown tomatoes were only a small faction of the total tomatoes harvested!

San Marzano Review -

Once you've cultivated San Marzano tomato plants for yourself, it's easy to see why others have been doing so for hundreds of years. The plants themselves grow to a manageable height, and definitely live up to their name as heavy producers. During the 2013 season, I grew one San Marzano as a patio tomato, and the other was planted in-ground at another location. Both tomatoes grew with great vigor and produced loads of delicious fruits. The tomatoes were used for a variety of sauces, soups and even some canned salsa.

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Ever grown San Marzano Tomatoes?

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If you could only grow one tomato plant this season, let it me the San Marzano! With superb production and great tasting fruits, these heirloom tomato plants are sure to please. Thanks for reading this guide on growing San Marzano tomatoes. Please leave any comments, questions or experiences that you have with these fine tomato plants!

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    • profile image

      Bob B 3 months ago

      My plants were over 12 feet high, with a lot of tomato's.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 2 years ago from Germany

      I think I have not bought and eaten this San Marzano tomato. It looks beautiful. I will have to look for this tomato in our supermarkets. Thanks for sharing this very useful and informative hub. Voted up, useful and beautiful photos.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I'll look for the San Marzano's. What a gorgeous hub! And very informative, too.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 2 years ago from India

      I think we don't have these San Marzano variety in India. Never seen them before. Your tomato plant with its fruits look georgeous

      Voted up and shared :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I want to grow patio tomatoes and I will have to look for these at the local nursery. Yours looks so good. Thanks for the tips.

    • sallieannluvslife profile image

      sallieannluvslife 4 years ago from Eastern Shore

      Great tips! I have my San Marzano tomatoes started, they are about and inch and a half high right about now...I make all my own sauces and these are by far the best tomatoes for sauce....Great hub - voted up and awesome!

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