Tomatoes for the cold coast

Maureen JandaMarch 8, 2006

Last summer, I don't think we got above the 70s at all. I grew my usual Early Girl-type tomatoes, which these days are New Girl from Johnny's Seeds. They turned out OK, though not as sweet as usual. What are the other coastal gardeners growing this year? I'm wondering about Stupice and Cherokee Purple.

Also, our peppers, both the sweet Italian type and the chile peppers, had a most peculiar year. They all set a crop of peppers about 1" long. The varieties should have been 4" to 7". I stripped that crop off, and most of the plants set a second crop of normal-sized peppers very late in the season, though by that time the yield was way down and the flavor was inferior to most years.

Did any others have a bad summer last year?

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SusanC(9b/10a Sunset 17)

Last summer was a strange, yucky one! However, I got a pretty good yield from 'Black Krim'. This year, I've started 'Black Krim', 'Black from Tula', 'Stupice' and 'Siberia', all of which are Russian heirlooms. I am also trying 'Siletz', which is a determinate hybrid from Oregon that is supposed to be super-early.

Re peppers: Thai peppers do really well for me, and I harvest them through-out the winter. Ditto Rocoto peppers; They absolutely demand a cool summer climate and will produce prolifically here. We just harvested a bunch this weekend and froze them, because we had too many to use before they went bad.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 10:38AM
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Here's what I've found to be the best tomatoes in our cool coastal areas:

GOOD NURSERY STANDBYÂS -- Ace, Better Boy, Celebrity, Champion, Early Girl

EVEN BETTER COOL-SUMMER SELECTIONS -- Bush Early Girl, Early Cascade, Early Tanana, Early Wonder, First Lady, GardenerÂs Delight (cherry), New Girl, Oregon Spring, Polar Baby, Shady Lady, Spring King, Sub-arctic 25, Sungold, Sweet Million (cherry), Sweetie Cherry

HEIRLOOMS -- Cherokee Purple, Cosmonaut Volkov, Early Swedish, Green Zebra, Jaune Flammee, Moskvich, Nepal, Striped German, Stupice

As for peppers, I find that it's very important to keep the plants actively growing until they get a good size. I even knock off the first crop of flowers to make sure that the plants continue to grow well into the heat of summer before I allow them to set fruit. If it sets fruit early on, the plants slow down and don't get up to size to support a crop of good fruits.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 10:38AM
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Maureen Janda

Thanks, this gives me more tomatoes to check out. I only have room for a couple of experiments besides my main crop.

I always snip off the first early blossoms from my tomatoes, but haven't done that on the peppers. Our main crop is NuMex anaheim-types, which usually don't set blossoms until they get a decent size, but I'll make sure they don't this year and snip if necessary. All my peppers are picked fully ripe and red, i.e. no green peppers.

susanc, what did you think of Black Krim's flavor?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 12:44PM
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SusanC(9b/10a Sunset 17)

Hi mljan,

My husband and I both really enjoyed Black Krim's flavor. -A very rich, almost smoky flavor. They make a great tasting sauce too.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 1:34PM
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napapen(ca 15)

I lay clear plastic, cut holes in it and then plant tomatoes and peppers. Do it with other things too like melons. It keeps the soil warmer at night so the plants grow better. Also keeps the moisture in the soil.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 4:20PM
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Iwalani(Sunset 24/z10)

My favorite tomato I grow year round (sometimes in 15/25 gal pots and sometimes in the ground, doesn't matter) is Stupice. I am quite attached to it :) I tend to start new seed (which actually starts on its own usually from dropped and missed fruit around the parent plant) in January and by March or April I start moving seedlings around. They usually do fine until September or so when I take cuttings or start seedlings or whatever and they do fine through spring/March or so. Has good taste (better than what is in stores but not as good as some of the extraordinary beefsteaks.) And good yields.

I can also easily grow yellow pear year round (too bland to bother with though...) and this year I ignored a green grape and it was fruiting through last month (but we had a dry warm winter. Still will try this for next year.) In the past I've also gotten away with Black Krim growing over winter through February and still fruiting. But the real winner for winter growing is Stupice.

I haven't tried some of the other recommended cooler growing tomatoes. I haven't tried Siberia and still haven't tried Matina. I just love my Stupice yearround and bore people with how much I love the little cultivar every year. :)

I would try any of the smaller fruited tomatoes. Big beefsteaks are always worth taking a chance on (I'm never without Aunt Ruby's German Green and usually try other larger beefsteaks) but their success totally depends on whether our summer is cloudy or clear. And I just can't predict it. Which is why I always have cherries and small fruited tomatoes as the standbys. I'm trying Brandy Boy this year which someone else raved about last year so we'll see. And Black Pearl as well. [I should mention I'm in coastal So. Cal. and near the beach so we often get socked in with clouds and June gloom depending on what the weather is doing.]

    Bookmark   March 11, 2006 at 3:55AM
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Maureen Janda

Oh dear, now you make me wish I'd ordered stupice. That was what I originally meant to get until I read how small it is. We really like slicing size. Now I'm wishing I'd ordered it because of your year-round success, and for saving seeds. Well, too late to order this year, unless I find one at a nursery, which is doubtful.

It really seems that the last few years have been colder and colder here (Orange County coastal), doesn't it? I've stuck with smaller fruited, too, because of that.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2006 at 12:37PM
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camarillojeff(NC 7)

Hey mljan, I could swear I just saw some Stupice at the Green Thumb Nursery in Ventura. Maybe the one in El Toro/Lake Forest would have some too.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 7:00PM
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SusanC(9b/10a Sunset 17)

Hi mljan,

I too dream of an early, slicing tomato that can handle our dismal summers; I have high hopes for 'Siletz' in that category because, according to Territorial Seeds:

"...Siletz is one of the most reliable slicing tomatoes you can grow. Coming in just ahead of Oregon Spring, with a nice flush of 4-5 inch deep red fruit that weight up to 1 pound. The flavor-packed red tomatoes are nearly seedless. Expect several bursts of ripe tomatoes as the season progresses. Vigorous determinate plants are parthenocarpic. Bred by Dr. Jim Baggett of Oregon State University."

Because they ar pathenocarpic, they can produce fruit without blossom pollination. Our cold summer temps often prevent fertilization, so this should be a big plus to getting an earlier harvest.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 8:15PM
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Iwalani(Sunset 24/z10)

I wish slicing sized tomatoes were as reliable as Stupice for me but I haven't found one that is. Stupice is that 'large cherry' size but I just like always having it around cause it keeps me from spending big bucks in the market for lots of tomatoes year round. I grow the slicers 'as luck would have it' (aka: depending on weather conditions) in the summer months.

Lots of nurseries that are carrying 'heirlooms' are carrying Stupice. If you have a location near you (dates coming up- check their website) in So. Cal then they have it. I think there have to be some other good cool season tomatoes out there but I'm just stuck on Stupice. :) Might be the cute potato leaf foilage...

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 9:13PM
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I recall a few years ago having the best year ever, and the brandywines were unbelievable.

We've grown brandywines ever since, and always been disappointed, ever since. I asked around last year about this, and was told that the amount of water they receive can really affect flavor. Since we had the second wettest year on record last year, I have chalked up last year's poor-tasting crop to too much water in the soil.

As far as pinching buds - I've heard this and tried it off and on and never noticed a difference. ??? Oh well.

Texas A&M peppers always do well for us. they're an anaheim chili pepper. We stuff them and make chili rellenos. Yum!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 10:17PM
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I like to try lots of new tomato varieties in 15 gal pots. We're a mile from the coast with an an ocean breeze.

Last year was the worst tomato season!
Glacier was OK, but not prolific.
Stupice did OK, but had mildew. Maybe I overwater?

Best and prolific was Crimson Fancy Hybrid from International Culinary Collection.
I purchased the seeds from Big Lots for $0.25 so this was my best investment!

Most vigorous and prolific was Azoychka from, is a yellow beefsteak, but flavor
was a little disappointing.

Most disappointing was Bush Early Girl.

Just a little further inland at the community garden my Supersteak did great and were huge as usual.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 11:32AM
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Maureen Janda

Well, I bought a Stupice after all. I ran across it at the former Heard's Gardens, now called something like Country Gardens. I also started seeds of Cherokee Purple and Dzruba, which I read about on the GW Tomato forum. Then, I'll grow my usual 6 plants of New Girl and one Pink Beauty from Johnny's Seeds. I don't know where I'll put them all.

I tried Bush Early Girl some years ago and was also disappointed.
Texas A&M peppers sound interesting, definitely on my list for next year.
Let's hope this year is better than last.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2006 at 12:38PM
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Iwalani(Sunset 24/z10)

Please let us know what you think of Stupice! (It had potato leaves- right? I've seen some plants labeled Stupice and with regular leaves floating around and those aren't Stupice... just fyi...) :)

    Bookmark   March 20, 2006 at 3:55PM
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It was the worst summer in 20 years here on the Santa Cruz coast. I had rotten luck with tomatoes and peppers. I tried a lot of new ones including Stupice and Cherokee Purple. They did not do very well for me. And what we did get didn't have very good flavor. Very little fruit and didn't ripen well. I am trying Bloody Butcher and Oregon Spring grown from seed this year. Also a large cherry tomato. All have very short harvest time. Hope to get some before the summer fog moves in.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2006 at 5:47PM
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Dick_Sonia(Sunset 17)

Whether you are growing avocados, cantalope, eggplant, grapes or tomatoes, your best bet for flavor in a heat-deprived climate is to look for smaller-fruited cultivars. There's no free lunch: good size requires heat units. Good flavor requires heat units. You haven't got enough heat for both, so...which do you want? You might be able to grow and fruit slicers in a cool climate but they won't taste any better than store-bought tomatoes, and the difficulty in filling out the fruit increases the probability of blossom-end rot in cool weather. A good compromise is to use an intermediate tomato like 'Celebrity' or 'Brandywine' underneath a hot-cap or cloche for extra heat units. Closing the ends of the cloche in the fall can also help guard against late blight and extend the season.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 9:21PM
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carolync1(z8/9 CA inland)

We have the opposite problem here - too many heat units for tomatoes at the height of summer. But if I were in a cool-summer area, I would pay attention to the recommendations of seed catalogs based in cool-summer areas, such as Territorial Seed Company, which goes into detail about heat units, blight resistance, etc.

Also consider varieties which are noted to do well in a greenhouse. Totally Tomatoes carries a few varieties which are said to be suitable for greenhouse or outdoor culture, and which don't have the very high prices of some seed for greenhouse tomatoes. Thompson & Morgan in the UK is another source of information on varieties which do well in cool summers.

One very early small-fruited cultivar which does well in our heat is Burpee's 'Fourth of July'. Nurseries usually don't carry it here, perhaps because getting tomatoes by the Fourth of July is nothing to brag about here. It is sold in nurseries in cold-winter climates, though. It might be worth a trial in coastal areas, too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Territorial Seed Company

    Bookmark   March 25, 2006 at 8:12AM
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We have a small farm in the SF Bay Area. A few years ago I grew 120 varieties of tomatoes to test for cool tolerance on a foggy bayside site.

Although it should not be taken as an exhaustive list of the best fog-tolerant tomatoes, these were the varieties we liked best when balancing taste, production and disease:

Cherokee Purple
Costoluto Genovese
Black Cherry
Speckled Roman
Silvery Fir Tree
Green Grape

Of course taste trumps all other considerations.

These are the generally available varieties we now grow at our farm. They are all generally available online.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2007 at 2:11PM
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We're in from the coast a bit but still with some marine influence (according to the Sunset zones). This past year was our best tomato year ever. Our earliest and one of the most productive was a variety called San Francisco Fog. We bought it from a local nursery.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 12:51AM
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Stupice is always reliable for me. I have great success with Healthy peppers, they are a very vigorous variety from Russia.While these dont make gigantic fruits, they are plentiful and keep me in fresh tomatoes and peppers all cool, foggy, summer long.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 6:09AM
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Me regulars like early girl gave in to V-wilt early in summmer I thought. But,reading so many others had a bad season it could have been the weather helped the viruses along. Only,some type of cherry tomato reseeded from last year saved the day.One became the largest single tomato plant I ever grew.
Black Tomatos makes sense-the color has to boost warmth for the plant.
Oh,and Brandywine actually gave a few fruits. Dont get me started that the wife took some to work for friends. They made a GREAT BLT with a fried egg for breakfast..

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 1:07PM
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