Best tomato varieties for Seattle

scalleyFebruary 25, 2009

Hey all, I'm sure this question has been asked a ton of times...I've been pouring over seed catalogs trying to figure out the best tomato seeds to buy. What are your favorites for the region. I'm mostly interested in Heirloom varieties, but any input is welcome! Thanks

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jwr6404(8B Wa)

I'm in University Place/Tacoma area. I have started six seeds each of 25 varieties. I will only need 14 plants total so I will be able to share some plants or send you some seeds. PM me if interested and I will post my list in a PM to you or on this thread..

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 6:54PM
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I like Legend tomato. Its a large slicer and very tasty. It also has the huge benefit of Late Blight resistance. If you've ever had Late Blight in your garden you know how heartbreaking it is. Ed Hume Seeds sells that variety, and I think Territorial may also, but for more $$.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 4:18PM
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Ed Hume has Siletz on his racks. It's early, thin skinned, and meaty. It's not an heirloom but some seed catalogues have it listed as that. Brandywine is a lot later and doesn't compare in quality. Stupice heirloom is early and very productive but has tough skins like Early Girl which is later. I've never tasted Legend. Will test it out.
The trick is if your tomatoes don't have a warm growing environment from day 1 they will be stunted.
I think it's a month too early to even plant a tomato seed.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 11:06PM
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The best tomato varieties for this area are those that will ripen :-) And that is not always a forgone conclusion for many different varieties given our typical non-summers. Pick those that have a short harvest period, ideally 75 days or less. Unfortunately, most heirloom varities are not great performers in this area.

Some of the most recommended choices for both taste and reliable performance include the following:

Sun Gold
Northern Exposure
Oregon Spring, Oregon Star
Saucy and Oroma (Italian sauce types)
Green Zebra, Cherokee, Persimmon - heirlooms

I've also had great results with many of the cherry forms - Sweet 100, Sweet Million, Red Current - but Sun Gold takes the cake as far as taste is concerned.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 11:32AM
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the best tasting one I ever grew was Slava- 65 days, so it is fairly early.

Here is a link that might be useful: slava

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 2:37AM
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Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

I love Sun Gold and Sun Sugar - I eat them right off the vine while I'm gardening. Unfortunately, we're getting rats in our neighborhood and they go after my tomatoes too. I used to chase cats out of my yard, for the benefit of the birds. But now I'm rethinking that & hoping the neighbors' cats will work on the rat population.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 1:30PM
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Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

I just read a short article by Jeff Cox in Horticulture magazine. The topic is how to get the earliest tomatoes & much of the technique is getting the seedlings to produce a lot of roots early on, plus some advice on prepping the planting site and covering the young plants.

The article was not written specifically for the PNW, but it sounds like it's worth a try. I would love to see some ripe tomatoes before the end of August for once.

The magazine's web site copied the magazine article, which you can read here:

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 2:41PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I like 'Sungold' also.

Oh la-la!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 2:05PM
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I'm trying to grow Cosmonaut Volkov this year. It sounds like a plant that would grow well in the Seattle area- has anyone grown it before?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 12:35AM
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The Russians are tough skinned. Siletz and Pik Red are superior in earliness.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 1:40AM
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We've got Siletz also (from Hume), but last year it didn't really mature very early. Of course it was a pretty bad year for tomatoes across the board. Also, our garden plot probably did not get the sunlight they needed, but this year we've got a sunnier spot. I'll let you know how the cosmonauts work out, if they turn out to do well here.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 2:51AM
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tallclover(Zone 8 Maritime Pacific NW)

Sometimes the best varieties aren't always the most prolific, and I'm willing to have fewer if the flavor is better. I love Pineapple and Black Prince. Really, really flavorful, and perfect BLTs!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 11:20AM
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We put in 40 plants a year, 28 varieties, most of them heirloom. Sungold is unbeatable for a cherry, far ahead of the rest of the pack (which includes Sweet Millions, Gold Currant, Hawaiian Currant, Snow White, and Isis Candy). For early tomatoes, we love Azoychka, Jaune Flamme, Siletz, and Stupice. Mid-season, the oxhearts and canning tomatoes like Costuluto Genovese come in.

But our favorites, the ones we wait for all summer, are the Brandywines (Sudduth, Red and the very best, Earl's Faux), Mariana's Peace (grows beautifully in our area, just late), Purple Haze, Clint Eastwood's Rowdy Red, Pruden's Purple. They're 75-90 day tomatoes and once in a while (last year), there's not enough heat to let them ripen outdoors, but a few can always be ripened on the kitchen counter and enjoyed anyway and the rest make up terrific green tomato salsa, relish, and indoor-ripened, sauces and frozen tomatoes for sauces during the next winter. It seems that the largest tomatoes don't do well here, so we're pleased to see the next-smaller size. We love thin skins but have to put up with thicker skins because of the cooler weather.

We do our own seedlings (from sources like Tomato Growers Supply, Laurel's Heirloom tomatoes, and Gary Ibsen's, planting seeds anytime from late February to late March and then set them out anywhere from mid- May to early June in walls o'water for at least two weeks to give them an extra 10 degrees of heat. We always plant them with at least half of the seedling stem buried horizontally for a very strong root system and grow them in the best sunshine (all day) in our garden. We also carry over seeds from last year's crops as well as allowing seeds to grow where they fell the year before. These are much stronger plants overall because they're used to our climate.

Have fun with your tomatoes and let us know how they do! By the way, if you're looking for healthy heirloom plants, Molbak's carries some beauties, as does Minter's Earlington Nursery. We often add a few greenhouse-grown plants into the mix but after a month of growth, ours and theirs all look alike and produce at the same time.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 6:21PM
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I just discovered Gary Ibsen when searching for Carmello tomatoes. I grew Carmello for several years and then could not find a source. Carmello is a large,early, good tasting French tomato. Gary has selctively bred it to be an open pollinated variety. I grow a lot of tomato plants hoping for the perfect tomato. Carmello comes close and the green fall fruits will ripen inside with good taste. Sungold and the Sungold-cross Sungella are the cherry tomatoes that I would grow if limited.
I would like to make a hoop house dedicated to tomatoes.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 7:59PM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

I planted 6 OP or heirloom varieties this year (currently seedlings under lights):

Red Sunset Horizon (slicer)
Yellow Pear Cherry
San Marzano Roma (paste)
Black Cherry
Ildi Yellow Cherry
Bloody Butcher (slicer)

I chose all early varieties because last year we didn't have an August. I want tomatoes galore for salads, sandwiches and salsa making. I've got pics on my blog.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sinfonian's garden adventure

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 8:33PM
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The Territorial Seed Catalog has a good selection. Avoid any type needing more than 75 days. Determinate are a bit better than indeterminate.
Roma types are usually pretty good.
The super sized 'beefsteak' are not usually too good.
Make sure you don't crowd the plants. They do need a full three feet apart. If you crowd them they shade one another and if the sun cannot get through, the canopy is more prone to late season blights.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 10:35PM
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I have grown Cosmonaut Volkov successfully (except for last year). It produces a lot of tomatoes for me and I liked the taste very well. I've also had good luck with Oregon Spring, which did better in my Seattle garden than Stupice in terms of how many tomatoes on the vine and how many ripened on the vine. My favorite cherry tomato is Matt's Market, which produces tons of small orange tomatoes with a sweet flavor. I always get the Cosmonaut Volkov and the Matt's Market plants and the Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale, which is May 2nd and 3rd this year. Just google it for details.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 4:14PM
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Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

Sinfonian, I've grown the Ildi tomatoes from seeds...I thought they were kinda cute, but didn't like the taste of them.

So far, I haven't been wooed away from Sun Gold & Sun Sugar. A few of the recommended ones above do sound good. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we saw a real "Tomato Summer" this year?!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 2:10AM
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dottyinduncan(z8b coastal BC)

Isn't it wonderful living in an age where we can learn so easily from each other? It's great to hear from people who have grown these varieties in our cool summers. I was also wondering about "indeterminate vs determinate" and here is a link to a page about growing tomatoes:
What great resources!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 12:39PM
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Just out of curiosity, does anyone know how early I can start tomatoes in Seattle if I use a tunnel cloche (PVC hoops, 3' high, covered to the ground in plastic)? I would be using from hardened-off starts and planting them directly in the ground under the cloche. In the past we found that putting some water bottles under the cloche to absorb heat from sunlight seems to help a bit. I am hoping to put the tomatoes out around May 1.

Steve Solomon seems pretty gung ho about this in his book, he even talks about planting tomatoes out under a cloche, before the last frost date, but he is in the Williamette Valley, and in any case he probably has a better cloche than my jury-rigged PVC and plastic job.

Granted waiting later might be a better idea, but my home-grown starts are going to be around 10 weeks old at that time, and I don't want them to stay in the pots too long. Can I get away with putting them under the cloche around May 1? Also, we do have Walls'o'water, but I am not sure how much they can extend the season compared with a full cloche.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 6:00PM
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jwr6404(8B Wa)

I have grown Sunset Red Horizoon/Rostova and got a lot of tasty 2+ pound tomatoes. I several have seedlings started of SRH this year also. In fact my dilemma is just beginning as I have 60 plants and room for 15. Life is not fair. The other varieties I have to choose from are:
Big Zac
Stump of the World
Marianna's Peace
Super Beefsteak
Steak Sandwich(hyb)
VB Russia
Break O' Day
Brandywine Red(Landis)
Eva Purple Ball
506 Bush(hyb)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2009 at 11:35AM
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tallclover(Zone 8 Maritime Pacific NW)

Here's a list of the best homegrown tomato varieties that I grew in 2009.

Here is a link that might be useful: Best Tomatoes in my Seattle Garden & Photos

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 11:38PM
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blameitontherain(8 PNW wetandwetta)

Since this post was bumped, thought I'd add my 2 cents:

Another rave for Sun Gold. Can't get enough of that blend of fruity, tropical, tomato taste. Big, sprawling plants that produce non-stop.

As with grapes, many French varieties do well in our area. My new favorite is Cuostralee, a big (over 1 lb.!), meaty, beefsteak type with rich, complex flavor. I'm growing two plants this year and I have never grown more than one plant per variety in years past.

Plantslayer, if you see this, check with Hemnancy. She gets her plants into the ground by the first of April and is quite successful, I believe.

Looking forward to that first, messy bite of home-growns,


    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 2:14PM
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Yes, the cloche helped a lot when I planted around 4/21. I am a little tempted to grow even earlier this year, but I don't know if it would really give me a big advantage.

One problem I had was some of the plants I had in the tent did not set blossoms until they were out of the tent (the plants that did were Siletz, which are parthenocarpic and do not need to be pollinated in order to set fruit). So I am wondering if this time I need to ventilate better. But ventilating means less warmth too I guess.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 4:33PM
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Last year I grew sungold, better boy, early girl, and sweet million. The sungolds were amazing in both yield and flavor. The better boy were preferred over the early girl due to the thinner skins and more tomato flavor. Both produced well and were still ripening into October until they finally gave out. The sweet million had some kind sickness and the fruit would turn pinkish red but never fully ripen. Taste was poor as well. Last year we planted out on May 1 with improvised plastic cover for a few weeks. (basically a clear plastic trash bag over each cage, not sure it did much)

This year I am planning to set out my plants a week or two earlier under plastic tunnel. I am better prepared this year. I have started 8 varieties from seed and they will be 6 weeks old by mid april. I plan to grow 6 of them in the beds and 2 in 10 gallon containers. Varities this year are:

Oregon Spring
Green Zebra
Beaver Lodge Plum

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 6:03PM
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blameitontherain(8 PNW wetandwetta)

Patrick888 wrote:

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we saw a real "Tomato Summer" this year?!

Boy, howdy did we ever have a real Tomato Summer last year. If it weren't for my nemesis, Mr. Mole (curse you, Mr. Mole), summer '09 would have gone down in history as a personal best. Per the Farmer's Almanac, planting earlier than usual should be a good bet. As our summer temps are expected to be a bit lower than the norm, I'm gonna chance early planting this year in hopes of getting some of the late varieties to ripen before first frost.

"April and May will be warmer than normal, with near-normal rainfall in Washington and drier-than-normal conditions elsewhere.

Summer will be drier than normal, with below-normal temperatures, on average, in Washington and above-normal temperatures in California and Oregon. The hottest periods will occur in late June and mid-July."


    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 6:23PM
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Last summer i enjoyed Black Cherry and Black Prince.
The earliest were Taxi (yellow det) and Oregon Spring. I planted them in the pots and moved under cloche for nights.
Tomatoes that i grew in open soil i surrounded with my "wall of water" (plastic jars with water) and covered together with jars with row cover. They were not early but i got a good crop of ripe tomatoes last summer.
My seedlings are under the lamp now, pretty big. I took them outside last several days. I usually start in the middle of Feb and by end of April they will be in gallon containers flowering.
When to plant outside can be very different. If you have raised bed on south side of house you can plant much earlier then those who are planting in a bed that is located not in such a good spot.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 12:54AM
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Do you think these varieties would do well in Victoria, BC?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 1:24PM
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