Answer: I'd use at least a 10-gallon container but 15 would be better, and a potting soil that has good drainage (look for one with perlite, pumice or vermiculite in the mix). Tomatoes are usually transplanted between February 15 and March 15 in the low desert, after the last frost. You can start seeds indoors about 6-8 weeks in advance. If you want to plant earlier be prepared to protect tomatoes from frost as they are easily damaged, and not usually grown in the low desert during the winter. A good reference book that contains planting calendars for the low desert is called "Desert Gardening for Beginners: How to Grow Vegetables, Flowers and Herbs in an Arid Climate." ISBN 0-9651987-2-3.
As for type, the smaller tomatoes do well in the desert, as opposed to the big beefsteaks, which usually have problems with cracking, etc. Celebrity and Early Girl are two mid-size tomatoes that perform consistently well here. Also, most of the cherry and pear tomatoes are prolific. I like yellow pear and Sweet 100. Cherokee Purple is an heirloom tomato that is a larger size that does quite well in the heat and has wonderful flavor. Good luck with your tomatoes!
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