How to Plant, Grow, and Care for ‘Brandywine’ Tomatoes

If you’re ready to slice into heirloom goodness this summer, look to the ‘Brandywine’ tomato for a huge slicing tomato with a long garden history. The unbeatable flavor keeps ‘Brandywine’ at the top of heirloom tomato varieties. Join gardening expert Katherine Rowe in exploring how to grow ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes in your garden.

A close-up of vibrant orange and red 'Brandywine' tomatoes nestled among lush green leaves.

Contents

Brandywine tomatoes are the quintessential summer-slicing heirloom tomato. These are the big beauties we envision when it comes to classic, old-fashioned tomato varieties beloved in the garden and the kitchen, from tomato sandwiches to Caprese salads and topping burgers right off the grill. 

These are the best-known heirloom vegetable for good reason. The hefty fruits are large and meaty in red, pink, yellow, and orange shades. They feature exceptional, flavor-rich, sweet, and slightly spicy fruits – characteristic of the variety and a gold standard for other tomatoes.

Here, we’ll explore how (and why) to grow heirloom ‘Brandywine’ in our own gardens. By summer’s end, we can slice into some of the most flavorful tomatoes grown today. 

Overview

A close-up of ripe 'Brandywine' tomatoes, showcasing their rich brown hues and smooth, glossy surfaces.
The ‘Brandywine’ tomato is an annual vegetable belonging to the Solanaceae family.
Plant Type Annual vegetable
Family Solanaceae
Genus Solanum
Species lycopersicum
Native Area Central America, South America
Exposure Full sun
Height Vines up to 6’ long
Watering Requirements Average
Pests and Diseases Aphids, hornworms, leaf spot, blight, mosaic virus
Maintenance Average
Soil Type Rich loams
Hardiness Zone 10-11

What are Brandywine Tomatoes?

A wicker basket holds several 'Brandywine', showcasing their vivid colors from brown to orange.
Heirloom vegetables are traditional, open-pollinated crops passed down for their historical significance.

A garden favorite for over 100 years, this heirloom tomato variety is prized for its large, flavorful fruits. ‘Brandywine’ generates lore and a bit of mystery surrounding its history, from Amish origins to multiple strains by the same name. That’s the fun of heirlooms – tracing tales and generational gardening knowledge.

Heirloom vegetables represent our heritage crops, cultural foodways, and selections preserved for exceptional flavor and growing qualities. The term “heirloom” varies when it comes to vegetables. Heirloom can mean plants grown before 1951, when the first hybrids became commercially available, or antique varieties passed down from generation to generation for preservation. Heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated (not hybrids) and come true from seed. Seeds are saved from season to season for the next planting.

The seed company Johnson and Stokes introduced the original ‘Brandywine’ tomato (also known as ‘Red Brandywine’) in their 1889 catalog after receiving seeds from a customer in Ohio. The old-fashioned tomato gets its name from Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

In 1982, this variety surged in popularity among heirloom varieties when Seed Savers Exchange obtained seeds from an Ohio family. Since its introduction, several strains have become available for the contemporary garden. ‘Pink Brandywine’ is a historic grower originally from the garden of Dorris Sudduth Hill, whose family grew it for over 100 years.

There’s something special about growing longstanding varieties passed along from generation to generation for their flavor, growth, and performance qualities. While these tender beefsteak-types may not be in the grocery store, they are farmer’s market favorites. Growing them in our own gardens invites a little food way history and culture into every juicy bite and preserves the integrity of the heirloom’s traits.

Characteristics

A pair of hands cradle a large, ripe 'Brandywine' fruit; its red skin glowing under the warm sunlight.
These tomatoes require support due to their upright growth with hairy stems.

‘Brandywine’ produces 10 to 30 ounce fruits on productive plants. The fruits are dense and “meaty.” Some yield fruits up to two pounds—that’s a lot of tomato! As an indeterminate plant, The vines reach six feet long or more. Indeterminate tomato plants grow and produce fruit all season until frost.

‘Brandywine’ produces fruit late in the season, about 76 to 100 days after plants go into the ground. This is nearly 30 days later than many other tomato varieties. It takes time to grow such large, luscious fruits. Grow it with different tomato varieties like cherry and roma for fruits throughout the season. 

‘Brandywine’ plants have an upright growth habit that benefits from staking, caging, or trellising. Their stems and leaves are hairy, and their scent is easily recognizable as that of a tomato plant. The deeply lobed, coarse leaves resemble those of a potato plant. Clusters of yellow flowers lead to fruits after pollination, and ‘Brandywine’ produces one to two fruits per cluster.

Tomatoes are in the Solanaceae, or nightshade, family, which includes eggplant, tomatillos, potatoes, and peppers.

Native Area

A ripe 'Brandywine' fruit hangs from the vine; its vibrant red hue contrasting with blurred green foliage in the background.
Tomatoes became widely cultivated for culinary use in the 18th century.

All tomatoes originate from wild ancestors in Central and South America, and their growing range follows the coastlines below the Andes Mountains. Indigenous cultures utilized and grew them for thousands of years, spreading the crop from Ecuador to Chile. 

Spanish colonists returned with tomatoes to Europe. In the 16th century, they became incorporated into European cuisine but were feared as toxic as nightshades. It was in the 18th century that tomatoes became more widely cultivated and used for culinary purposes.

They are tender perennials in regions where they are hardy (USDA zones 10 and 11) and grow as warm-season annuals everywhere else.

Planting

A young 'Brandywine' plant with lush green leaves, thriving in rich, dark soil.
Rotate tomato crops annually to prevent disease transmission.

You can grow ‘Brandywine’ easily from seed or purchase them in cell packs and nursery pots ready for planting right in the ground. They are frost-sensitive plants, requiring warm air and soil temperature for best growth. Whether seedlings or sturdy nursery-grown plants, they are ready to move outdoors after the last expected frost has passed and as nighttime temperatures are above 55°F (13°C), with plants taking off in the heat of summer. 

In-ground tomatoes benefit from annual crop rotations. Avoiding planting where other nightshades grew in the same year helps stave off transmittable diseases. So, don’t plant your new plants in a plot where you’ve grown tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, or eggplants in the last year.

Space plants three to four feet apart. If planting in rows, space rows three to four feet apart to give the vining stems plenty of growing room and circulation. Plant them deep—burying stems up to the first leaf node (or even pinching those leaves and burying the node) encourages more roots to grow. Plants with robust root systems are more stable and have greater nutrient uptake. 

Indeterminate tomatoes need support structures for best growth. These include stakes, cages, or trellises. Long-vining plants like ‘Brandywine’ can grow on a fence, around a pole, or on an arch if given support and air circulation and tied off as stems grow throughout the season.

‘Brandywine’ also grows in containers as long the pot is large enough to accommodate mature plants with plenty of soil volume for a robust root system. A 20-gallon pot gives large, indeterminate varieties ample room to grow. If starting from seed, direct sow seeds in their growing container one to two weeks after the last frost. Thin seedlings as they sprout.

Transplanting 

Seedlings grow in clear plastic planters, basking in the warm sunlight.
Gradually expose young plants to outdoor conditions over 7 to 10 days.

As frost passes and temperatures warm, harden off young tomato plants by gradually exposing them to outdoor garden conditions. Over a week to 10 days, place tomato plants outside in a protected area (out of direct sunlight and winds) and gradually move them to conditions mirroring their new garden location. This hardening-off period gives seedlings grown indoors a chance to acclimate to outside growing conditions.

Tomato Support Structures

A close-up of 'Brandywine' tomato plant featuring green leaves and ripe red fruit.
Support tomato plants with cages to maintain upright growth.

‘Brandywine’ gets leggy and rangy as summer moves along. If left unsupported, the vines sprawl along the ground and produce fruits smaller than those of supported plants. Install a tomato cage, trellis, or sturdy stake at planting time for best growth, vigor, and fruiting. Placing the support at planting ensures that roots won’t be disturbed later.

A large cage supports vines all season with no pruning needed. Purchase a tomato cage or make your own by creating a cylinder of wire fencing and securing it around your tomato plants. Use metal fencing with squares large enough to access the fruit and provide plenty of room for growth.

If staking tomatoes, choose one or two main stems and loosely tie them to a strong stake as they grow. Soft twine tied loosely allows movement and strengthening while supporting the stem and directing growth. Some growers snap off suckers (side shoots) to keep them from interfering with growth and production.

Trellising is a sound system for growing multiple indeterminate varieties in rows. Wire strung between poles supports stems weighted with fruits and keeps them upright. Pinching off suckers can be helpful in trellis systems, or at least pinching off the ends when shoots are six to eight inches long.

YouTube video

How to Grow

As an annual crop, tomatoes grow in a single cycle. They benefit from specific cultural conditions for the best growth and vigor. Large varieties like ‘Brandywine’ are susceptible to uneven ripening, cracking, catface deformations, and sometimes low yields. Meeting their cultural requirements gives plants a head start for healthy, carefree growth.

Light

A close-up of a 'Brandywine' tomato plant shows two green tomatoes hanging from the vine.
Plants in hot southern climates thrive with shading from intense afternoon sun.

Plant in a spot in full sun (at least six hours of sunlight). Morning sunlight as part of the exposure is ideal for growth. 

In southern climates with hot summers, plants benefit from protection from direct afternoon rays, which can scorch and burn leaves and fruits. 

Water

A close-up of a 'Brandywine' tomato plant shows lush foliage and green, unripe fruit glistening with dew drops.
Prioritize soaker hoses at ground level to prevent fungal diseases.

‘Brandywine’ needs consistent water and even moisture to thrive. Moist, but not soggy or saturated, soils are best. Overly wet conditions lead to disease problems. Fluctuations in watering contribute to physiologic conditions like blossom end rot.

Tomatoes need one to two inches of water per week. Supplement with additional water if rainfall is less and during dry spells.

Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are ideal, as they offer consistent, low-pressure volume at the base of the plants, directing water to the roots and avoiding foliage. Even with a hose or watering can, watering at the ground level is best to prevent fungal diseases. If overhead irrigation is the only option, water in the morning so leaves can dry off in the day’s sunshine. 

When growing in pots, ensure the containers are well-draining. Check them often for moisture, as containers dry out faster than ground soils and need water more frequently, especially in the heat of summer. These tall growers will need plenty of regular water to maintain their health.

Soil

A pair of hands, gently cupping a handful of dark, rich soil.
Enhance soil quality by incorporating compost to improve aeration.

Provide organically rich, slightly acidic soils with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Plants grow best in well-draining, loamy soils rich in compost.

At planting, lightly turn soils and generously add compost, either purchased or homemade, for added enrichment. Compost helps with aeration, moisture retention, drainage, and nutrition.

Temperature and Humidity

Two ripe red ‘Brandywine’ fruits nestled among vibrant green foliage, showcasing their slightly ribbed skin.
Optimal growing conditions include temperatures between 60-85℉.

This variety needs 100 to 150 frost-free days to produce its large fruits. Mild seasons in southern climates give plenty of time to get plants going post-frost. In northern regions with cold winters and springs, start seeds indoors and move outdoors with an insulated cover to allow enough time for production.

This is a typical heat-loving tomato that grows in regions with heat and humidity, provided there is plenty of air circulation and the soil is moist but not overly wet.

Ideal growing temperatures are between 60-85°F or 16-29°C (and ideally between 70°F and 80°F or 21 to 27°C), with starting temperatures above 55°F (13°C) and soil temperatures at 60°F (16°C). 

Fertilizing

A gloved hand carefully pours a stream of rich brown organic fertilizer onto the dark brown soil.
Yellow leaves may indicate a nutrient deficiency.

As annual crops in production mode, ‘Brandywines’ are heavy feeders. They’ll enjoy the lasting nutrients from compost and fertile soils but need additional fertilizing to promote vigor and fruiting.

Apply a low-nitrogen fertilizer with an NPK ratio similar to 8-32-16 or 6-24-24 at planting and throughout the growing season. Nitrogen (N) promotes leafy growth, but we want to ensure fast flowering and quality fruiting. A higher phosphorous (P) rate encourages this. A medium-high potassium (K) level in fertilizer works well for tomato growth.

Organic fertilizer options abound. To establish plants, look to fish emulsion applications and continue with seaweed and bone meal during flowering and fruiting. Seaweed and bone meal also add calcium to surrounding soils. However, a simple organic tomato-specific fertilizer is perfect for all applications.

Maintenance

A close-up of a brown gloved hand carefully pinching off the sucker of a tomato plant.
Pinching off the lower growth at 18-24 inches enhances air circulation.

The tall, rambling stems get leggy as the end of summer approaches. After the season of growing and producing, it’s understandable that the long stems get a bit rangy; it’s part of the nature of large, indeterminate varieties.

Pruning isn’t necessary with caged ‘Brandywine’ plants, nor is it essential for staked or trellised plants, though pinching off suckering offshoots to direct nutrients and growth benefits non-caged growers.

When plants are 18-24 inches tall, pinching off the lower six to ten inches of growth at the base of the tomato increases air circulation to plants. This pinching isn’t essential to growth, but some gardeners find it helpful.

Lastly, mulching at planting and as needed during the growing season helps with moisture retention, weed suppression, and soil temperature regulation. A clean, weed-free straw or cover of leaf litter or aged woodchips does the job.

Propagation

Seeding tomatoes is the easiest way to grow them in the home garden. It’s also possible to take cuttings and to graft them, but these options are more for commercial growing. Growing from seed is affordable and attainable in the garden bed, raised bed, or container. 

Growing From Seed

A close-up of a hand delicately placing tomato seeds onto the rich brown soil.
Plant seeds ¼ inch deep in a potting medium with good drainage.

Start seeds indoors four to six weeks before the anticipated final frost date in the spring. Here are tips for growing ‘Brandywine’ from seed:

  • Plant seeds ¼” deep in potting medium in a tray, cell, or small pot with drainage.
  • Place seeds in a spot with temperatures near 75°F (24°C) for germination.
  • Keep seeds well-watered – evenly moist but not saturated.
  • Tomato seeds germinate quickly, usually in about 7-10 days.
  • When sprouts appear, place them in a sunny location like a windowsill.
  • Step seedlings up from cell packs to a small pot when two to three sets of true leaves appear.
  • When seedlings are under six inches tall and just as full, harden them off to prepare for planting in the garden.

Numerous cultivars of the’ Brandywine’ strain are available in addition to the original ‘Red Brandywine’ tomato. All yield large, luscious fruits with exceptional flavor in a variety of colors.

‘Pink Brandywine’

A collection of 'Pink Brandywine' tomatoes, all in red hues, fills a blue tray.
These mature in 80-90 days with vining stems up to six feet.

‘Pink Brandywine’ is the Sudduth-Hill strain of the heirloom tomato from the 1800s, arising around the same time as the ‘Red Brandywine’. Its skin and flesh are creamy pink and rose, and the massive fruits weigh as much as two pounds.

It has a rich and intense tomato flavor, making it a favorite among beefsteak-type slicers. While the yield of these large growers is not abundant, the scale and flavor of the fruits are worth the wait (about 80-100 days after transplanting). Long, vining stems reach six feet on indeterminate plants. 

‘Yellow Brandywine’

A close-up of a 'Yellow Brandywine' tomato, showcasing its vivid hue and glossy skin reflecting light.
The ‘Yellow Brandywine’ tomato plants grow over six feet tall.

‘Yellow Brandywine’ boasts the traditional large fruits that ripen to a golden orange-yellow. Bright tomatoes stand out among slicers for their unique color, creamy texture, and sweet and tart flavor (noted to be a taster’s favorite among yellow varieties).

The fruits weigh an average of about one pound with flattened shoulders and slight ribbing. Indeterminate plants reach six feet or more with full, potato-leaf foliage.

‘OTV Brandywine’

A red 'OTV Brandywine' tomato nestled among lush green leaves, with a soft blur of more greenery in the background.
This variety boasts red-orange fruits with smooth flesh and a sweet flavor.

‘OTV Brandywine’ results from an accidental cross between ‘Yellow Brandywine’ and a red beefsteak tomato. ‘OTV’ is among the most heat-tolerant and productive strains.  

Introduced by tomato breeders Craig LeHollier and Dr. Carolyn Male, ‘OTV’ is named for the Off the Vine heirloom tomato newsletter the pair produces. The fruit is red with orange tones and has a smooth flesh and sweet flavor.

‘OTV’ is a vigorous grower with stems that reach six to eight feet tall. Fruits are relatively uniform for the heirloom variety and weigh 12 to 16 ounces. ‘OTV’ yields more than the original and sets fruit easily in warm weather.

Common Problems

Like its fellow tomato varieties, this variety is susceptible to pests and diseases in the garden. The best control for these is prevention through maintaining optimal cultural requirements, especially in consistent watering, air circulation, soil health, and crop rotation. Use companion plants like marigolds and dill alongside tomatoes to draw beneficial insects and promote plant health.

Pests

Several whiteflies clustered on the surface of a tomato leaf, their tiny bodies stark against the green foliage.
Early detection of insects is crucial for effective pest control on vegetable crops.

The best way to control insects is to spot them early. Pests spring up quickly on vegetable crops, and it’s easier to stop them by catching them early. Use organic and food-safe pest controls since you’ll be eating your juicy harvest.

Tomato Hornworm

A hornworm munches on a fresh green tomato hanging from the vine in a garden.
Control hornworms on tomato plants using methods like handpicking.

These bold creatures pop up overnight, wreaking havoc on tomato plants with their voracious appetites. Hornworms are the color of tomato vines, blending in seamlessly but giving away their presence through stripped leaves. These hardy caterpillars are the larvae of the sphinx, or hummingbird, moth.

To control hornworms, handpick them off plants and relocate them far from your tomato plants. Other nightshades host the sphinx moth family that feeds on your tomatoes. To support them, grow some wild solanaceous plants that you can give to them instead. Neem oil and biological controls of BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), parasitic wasps, and diatomaceous earth are other methods to rid tomato plants of these caterpillars.

Aphids

A close-up of green fruits speckled with tiny aphids crawling across their fuzzy skins.
Manage pests by applying horticultural soap or Neem oil.

Aphids are common sap-sucking garden insects usually treated with non-chemical means. Often, they cause no significant damage to tomato plants, but severe infestations cause plant stress and lead to weakness. 

Signs of stress include curled leaves and stunted growth. Spray plants with a stream of water early in the day to deter and knock pests off plants. A simple horticultural soap or oil like Neem rids plants of infestation.

Diseases

A hand in gray gloves gently holds a diseased red tomato nestled among lush green foliage in a garden setting.
Remove plants showing mutated or mosaic-patterned leaves indicating viral infection.

As with pests, the best disease control is prevention through cultural conditions since tomatoes are prone to a few standard disease issues. If you spot mutated leaves or if they have a mosaic pattern, remove these plants from the garden. These are indicators of viruses that spread rapidly between plants.

Leaf Spot

A close-up of a yellowing leaf showing intricate patterns of leaf spots, indicative of fungal infection.
Dispose of affected leaves away from compost to prevent the spread of spores.

Septoria leaf spot is a fungal disease indicated by small brown spots between leaf veins. Leaves become yellow and drop. This disease spreads quickly, and an outbreak can kill tomato plants at any growth stage. Septoria leaf spot crops up after heavy rains and prolonged moisture and humidity periods.

If you see leaf spot, remove any affected leaves. Destroy them, but don’t add them to the compost pile, as spores can spread. Disinfect pruners after clipping. 

Blight

Sunlit yellow fruits their vibrant hue marred by blight's subtle touch, hinting at nature's struggle against disease.
Late blight causes gray spots on leaves with fuzzy white growth underneath.

You may experience common early or late blight fungal diseases. Early blight starts at lower leaves and works its way up the stem, causing stress on the plants and fruits to underdevelop and drop. Remove impacted plant parts and let them dry in the sun before disposing.

Late blight occurs later in the season and is more deadly than early blight (late blight caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s). The good news is that late blight is less common than early blight. Late blight displays gray spots on leaves and fuzzy white growth on leaf undersides. Foliage may wilt and drop, and eventually, plants wither. Remove affected plants to keep late blight from spreading to other nearby nightshades.

Blight appears after rainy, humid spells in warm conditions. Avoiding overhead watering and providing space between plants for air circulation helps stave off fungal diseases.

Mosaic Virus

A close-up of tomato plant leaves exhibiting symptoms of mosaic virus infection, showing distinct mottling and yellowing patterns.
Manage mosaic viruses by promptly removing infected plants.

Mosaic viruses, such as tobacco and tomato mosaic viruses, are prone to afflicting nightshades. Leaves bear a mottled mosaic pattern in light and dark greens. They may curl and distort. 

There is no treatment for mosaic viruses, so the best action is to spot them early and remove infected plants. As with blight and other fungal diseased plants, keep them away from the compost bin. Collect fallen leaves and debris from the impacted tomato. 

Blossom End Rot

Red and green fruits showing signs of blossom end rot, characterized by brown, sunken lesions on the bottoms, contrast against vibrant leaves.
Prevent blossom end rot by maintaining consistent moisture.

Blossom end rot makes your heart sink when a perfect tomato on the vine becomes brown and rotted at its base. This physiological disorder occurs from fluctuations in watering and the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients, including calcium. 

Tomato fruits experiencing blossom end rot won’t reverse, so cutting off the damaged tomato is best. On the bright side, future tomatoes won’t necessarily be affected if you provide even moisture, compost-rich soils, and fertilizer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes good for?

With their famous rich, sweet flavor, are exceptional slicing tomatoes to enjoy fresh from the vine. These heirlooms are also delicious in sauces, pastes, roasting, and canning.

Can ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes grow in containers?

They grow well in pots and containers if the vessel is large enough to accommodate mature growth. Ample soil volume is needed to promote robust roots. Since this is a large, indeterminate variety, plants benefit from a 15 to 20-gallon container by volume. Use a well-draining potting mix amended with compost and water regularly for consistent soil moisture. Install a support structure like a large tomato cage at planting.

When do ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes ripen?

They ripen later than many other varieties, putting all their energy into hefty fruits that reach seven inches across. You can expect to harvest tomatoes about 80 days after plants go in the ground. The weightiest may range from eight ounces to two pounds, depending on the strain. They are ripe when the skin is shiny and even in color with a firm, fleshy feel. Give fruits a slight tug to pick them from the vine, or harvest them a little early to prevent cracking and let them ripen in a sunny spot in the kitchen.

Final Thoughts

If you’re ready to bite into a tasty heirloom this summer, try growing ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes for late-season appeal. Their unparalleled flavor brings the taste of summer to life and is worth the wait.

And, by growing them, you’ll be playing a part in our edible history and future gardens by preserving the best of the best in flavor, growing qualities, and genetic diversity. You’ve earned a juicy slice of this favorite heirloom!

SHARE THIS POST
Close-up of a cherry tomato plant - one of the sweetest tomatoes, which features slender, slightly hairy stems, lush green leaves with serrated edges, and clusters of small, round, vibrant red and green fruits.

Vegetables

13 Tips for the Sweetest, Most Flavorful Tomatoes

Grow the most decadently flavorful and sweet tomatoes by choosing the right varieties, planting in full sun, watering consistently, and ripening fruits on the vine. In this article, former organic farmer Logan Hailey shares 13 industry secrets for growing ultra-sweet tomatoes.