There’s nothing more delicious and evocative of summer than homegrown tomatoes eaten right off the vine. If one of your gardening goals is a crop of vine ripened tomatoes then now is the time to get growing. In this article we’ll talk about how to get tomatoes to ripen and the best types and varieties for Pacific Northwest gardens.
What tomato will you grow?
First decide how you will eat or use your tomatoes – fresh on sandwiches or salads, cooked in sauces or sundried. It is important to select the type of fruit, if you try to cook with a slicing tomato your sauce will be watery without much flavor.
Styles of tomato include slicing, salad, paste and sauce. Then decide how big a plant you want and how you want to harvest the fruit. There are three types of tomato plant: determinate, indeterminate and semi-determinate.
Determinate tomatoes are small compact plants that rarely grow taller than three feet. They typically make flowers all at once and then the fruit ripens over a couple of harvests. Determinate tomatoes tend to be very short season between 60-75 days to harvest after transplanting.
These homegrown tomatoes are great for containers and for people who want to preserve their harvest. Some of my favorite determinate varieties are Celebrity, Glacier and Oregon Spring – these are all slicing or salad varieties.
Semi-determinate tomatoes are a civilized, well behaved plant that has characteristics of both determinate and indeterminate. It is a compact plant that grows to about four and a half feet yet it flowers and fruits over a long time allowing for a prolonged harvest. You will need to stake or trellis semi-determinate plants.
These are short season tomatoes that are ready to harvest about 75-80 days after transplanting. Semi-determinate varieties produce an abundance of classic, round red slicing tomatoes are Gills All-purpose, Moskvich and Burbank. Grow Principe Borghese for homemade sundried tomatoes.
Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow and make flowers until frost. These are huge plants that will need support (trellis, tomato cage, etc). Almost all cherry tomatoes are indeterminate. These varieties tend to be longer season, 80-100 days to harvest.
Delicious indeterminate varieties include cherry tomatoes Sungold, Sweet 100 and Black Cherry. Consider these indeterminate slicers – Jaune Flamme, Striped German and Berkeley Tie Dye.
Tips for Homegrown Tomatoes
- Sun, sun, sun. Tomatoes need at least eight hours of continuous sun.
- Plant in fertile, well-drained soil. Use a slow-release organic fertilizer that is low in nitrogen and higher in phosphorous and potassium to encourage flower and fruit development. Too much nitrogen promotes leafy plant growth but few fruits.
- Wait to transplant until nighttime temperatures are reliably above 50 degrees F. If needed, provide cold protection with a cloche or floating row cover.
- Rotate crops from year to year to control late blight fungal disease. Late blight lives in the soil so rotating tomatoes can help prevent infection.
- Train tomatoes on a trellis to increase air circulation and fight late blight.
- Prune homegrown tomatoes to two to four main stems to increase early fruit set lower on the plant and promote earlier ripening.