heirloom tomatoes

How To Grow Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes

Having a mortgage can be a real pain in the rear. There’s all the interest to pay for over the years that can really sap your savings. But what if you could pay off your mortgage with tomatoes? At least one man had that idea, developing a type of tomato that was so large and robust that he was able to pay off his mortgage. The new tomato cultivar was named simply the Mortgage Lifter Tomato.

In this article, we’re going to talk about how to grow this beefsteak variety of tomato like professionals.


Growing Mortgage Lifter Tomato

Mortgage lifter tomatoes have a place in my garden every year due to their large fruit size and sweet flavor. You’ll love growing them! Here’s what you should know:

  • Latin name: Solanum lycopersicum
  • Tomato type: Vining
  • Fruit type: Beefsteak
  • Native to: Tomatoes are native to South America
  • Invasiveness: Not invasive
  • Tenderness: Annual
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Water: 1-2 inches per week
  • Soil: Not fussy
  • Hardiness zone: 5-8
  • When to plant: After last danger of frost
  • Spacing: Space plants 2 feet apart in rows 4 feet apart
  • Plant height: 7-9 feet
  • Bloom period: Summer
  • Time to maturity: 80 days
  • Container friendly: Yes
  • Fertilizer: 10-10-10
  • Toxicity: Leaves, stems, and unripe fruit may be mildly toxic
  • Deer resistant: Yes
  • Pest resistant: No

The Mortgage Lifter Tomato is a vining variety of tomato that can grow up to 9 feet tall and bears a large, ‘beefsteak’ variety of fruit. Tomatoes in general are not considered invasive outside of their native range in South America. They are an annual plant that requires full sun and plenty of water. They are hardy to zones 5 through 8 and will be ready for harvest after 80 days.


In terms of soil, the Mortgage Lifter Tomato isn’t all that fussy. It can handle nearly any type of soil, but it has a heavy appetite for nutrients and prefers very rich, fertilized soil. Tomatoes can be grown in pots, and the Mortgage Lifter in particular will want a large pot due to its size.


Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes should be planted 2 feet apart from one another in rows 4 feet apart. They are known to be deer resistant but are not pest resistant and are susceptible to numerous pests, such as the tomato horn worm.



Tomatoes in general are thirsty plants and the mortgage lifter is no exception. Your tomatoes will prefer 1-2 inches of rain per week. Frequent watering is ideal for the Mortgage Lifter Tomato, especially if the plant is being kept in containers.



Tomatoes need full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. New tomato starts that aren’t accustomed to lots of sunlight may experience leaf burn, which manifests as foliage that turns gray and white. Tomato starts should be slowly acclimated to the area you’ll be planting them before they go into the ground.



Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes aren’t picky about their soil, but they consume a lot of nutrients and will want fertile soil. Mix in compost or a cold manure like rabbit manure when planting. You can also use a 10-10-10 fertilizer or a slightly phosphorus-heavy fertilizer. More on that in the next section.



Tomatoes in general are served well by a 10-10-10 fertilizer, or a type of fertilizer where there is a bit more phosphorus. Phosphorus is represented by the second number, so an example of a phosphorus-leaning fertilizer would be 2-3-1. Tomatoes require a ton of nutrients, but fertilizer can be kept to a minimum of the soil is already rich.



Tomatoes are not considered to be invasive outside of their native region in South America, but fruit left outdoors over winter may sprout in the spring in some climates. When planting any non-native plant, always plant with care.

Growing Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes in containers

The Mortgage Lifter Tomato does well in containers, as most tomatoes do, but due to their large stature, a large pot is required to prevent tipping and allow for proper root growth. Tomatoes grown in containers may need additional nutrients that can be provided by a 10-10-10 fertilizer, or a 2-3-1 fertilizer.

Common problems

Tomatoes can succumb to common pests and blights. Watch your plants carefully, especially for the tomato horn worm, which is a large, green caterpillar that will gladly chow down on your tomato plants.

Propagating Mortgage Lifter Tomato

The Mortgage Lifter Tomato is an heirloom variety of tomato whose seeds are viable and can be saved for use in future growing seasons. For more information on saving tomato seeds, check out our comprehensive guide: How To Save Tomato Seeds For Next Spring’s Garden.

History of the Mortgage Lifter Tomato

In the 1930s, a radiator mechanic named M.C. Byles, also known as Radiator Charlie, paid off his $6,000 mortgage by selling a variety of tomato that he created himself. He sold plants at $1 each and purportedly was able to pay off his entire home loan in doing so. This tomato became known as the Mortgage Lifter Tomato. At least that’s one story.

Alternatively, some accounts of a man named Willam Estler from Barboursville, West Virginia suggest that he developed the mortgage lifter in 1922, well before Radiator Charlie. It is possible that there were two different tomato cultivars bearing the same name. It’s not totally clear which of the two cultivars are used today.

The Mortgage Lifter Tomato is one of my favorites to grow year after year. The fruits are large and the flavor is sweet and mild. You’ll love having these tomatoes in your garden.

Thomas Nelson
Environmental Advocate
Thomas is an environmental advocate currently residing in the Pacific Northwest. In his spare time, he enjoys experiencing the outdoors, raising chickens and ducks, and reading about current environmental issues. Despite slight colorblindness, his favorite color is green.