What Types of Tomatoes to Grow in a Short Growing Season
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Tomatoes are hands down, one of the most popular foods on the planet.
So it stands to reason that there are a lot of types to grow, and a lot of information to wade through out there. One of the biggest problems, as a gardener, is living in a colder climate, which means a shorter growing season, and often colder summers, though not always. And tomatoes are really, hot weather lovers.
So the question is, if you’re not living in a place with a long warm growing season, what are your options?
Here are several tips to help you grow a great tomato crop even living in northern climates.
Types of Tomatoes
There are two terms you need to know when it comes to types of tomatoes, although this applies to some other garden vegetables as well, like cucumbers and beans.
Determinate: Determinate tomatoes means that they have a very specific growing time. They will, under the right conditions, grow to a certain height, set fruit, and are ready for harvest within a certain time period. Then they are done.
This can be very handy for a couple of reasons. First is if you want to do the majority of your canning, freezing and winter food prep all at once and just get it out of the way. For a few weeks in the summer, all your determinates will be in full harvest glory, allowing you to make tomato pastes, sauces, and so on. And then you’re done!
This brings the second point: you pull up the plants and you can prep the soil for a fall crop and get that going. This is especially handy as a tip if you have limited space and are really wanting to maximize your growing space.
Indeterminate: These are usually vine tomatoes, and they take a while to get to growing and producing, but once they do they can go indefinitely under the right conditions. They will continue to produce until the cold, and lack of daylight slows them down, and they are done for your season.
These can be particularly beneficial for small growing spaces where each plant needs to be maximized for production.
Another benefit to early season plants, if you live in a region that has problems with late-season blight, a tomato disease, is that you pretty much bypass the whole issue and get a good crop in.
Early, Middle, or Late Season
This is key for the northern home grower. With a short growing season, you want to pick types that are labeled early or midseason. I’ve made this mistake in years past, and living up on the northern coast of British Columbia, the growing season for tomatoes is usually by the end of September, and that’s in a greenhouse.
For those that don’t have a greenhouse to help extend that season, you really want to concentrate on early-season producers of the indeterminate type if you’re wanting to get a good season in.
You want something that is going quickly in the late spring/early summer and maximizes your shorter growing season.
Some examples of these types, which I buy at West Coast Seeds ( just for the record I’m not affiliated with them, they just have really good stuff!) This is so you can see some of the types and wording you will want to look for in your region from your closest organic seed growers.
Early Girl – Indeterminate – Good for slicing and eating, or canning
Bonnie’s Best Organic- Indeterminate – Good for sauces, eating fresh, and preserving
Manitoba – Determinate – Great canner and fresh eater
Mountain Magic – Indeterminate – slightly larger than a cherry tomato and very prolific
Stupice Organic – Indeterminate – sets fruit in cool or warm conditions- great all-round tomato
Siletz Organic – Determinate bush – Earliest variety of slicing tomato
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How to Grow Tomatoes – Containers and Food
Either type can if done properly, can be grown in larger containers. However, I will say a big vine tomato is easier to keep if you can plant it in the ground. Vine tomatoes like to climb and spread,
and if left unchecked, can usually take over a good-sized area.
Tomatoes are heavy feeders, meaning they need rich, but well-drained soil, and I personally always use a good organic fertilizer for tomatoes. They need a very specific ratio of nutrients to perform properly, and if this is not up to par, there can be all kinds of issues, from lack of blossoms to fruiting, or a very poor crop.
I personally like the Gaia brand of organic fertilizers, and seaweed and fish fertilizer are also good to have.
Has this blog post helped you at all? Leave a comment below, and let me know!