What varieties are best in the hot low desert?

Suzi AKA DesertDanceDecember 10, 2008

I have many friends here that tell me not to try tomatoes. They say they won't grow in our heat (120 degrees max and that is only one day, but 109 degrees average). I LOVE tomatoes and have great success with jalepenos, so for my guacamole and salsa, I NEED tomatoes.

Any suggestions? Please none of those bite size ones! I want big, juicy! I'll even take the dreaded horned tomato worm with it!!

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Based on all the previous discussions on this it seems the key to success is planting time, not variety. ;)

Most any variety will work IF planted at the proper times - which for you is very different than for most of us. You need to plant for 'winter' growing not summer growing according to most successful tomato growers.

I linked one recent discussion below but you will find many others here too.

Check out:

Other discussions

Growing Tomatoes in AZ

And all the discussion on tomato growing over on the Southwestern gardening Forum


Here is a link that might be useful: Desert planting strategy discussion

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 2:08PM
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desertdance, where abouts do you live. Ami

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 2:13PM
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Although growing time IS important, it's not the only thing. Since most desert homes have sand as soil, you need to make sure you amend it with lots of organic matter. My grandfather in La Quinta used to be given tomatoes by his neighbor, but he always told me they were absolutely flavorless compared to mine from Sacramento. And no, it wasn't just because he was my grandpa! :) Of course, his neighbor also grew Early Girl as his tomato of choice and I only grow yummy varieties, but I think my soil is just more "complex" than the desert sand, and that was a major factor.

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 6:00PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance

Thank you all for your comments! Dave, I will now go check out all those links you gave me. I will take your advice and start some tomatoes NOW!

I am in La Quinta Ami just like Carla's grandfather. If it is our sand that makes them not as flavorful, I'll try to ammend it with lots of fertilizer. However, I wonder if there is just too much water. Too much water might make for less flavorful tomatoes maybe?? It doesn't seem to affect the flavor of my jalepenos, though.

Our dirt is more clay than sand, and this whole area was under water for many years. There is a water line on our mountains. We are in the Coachella valley, and even though it's the desert, our water table is high. This is a big agricultural area.

I'm excited to go check Dave's links. Thanks to all of you!


    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 11:38AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Yes Suzi there is such a thing as too much water when it comes to growing flavorful tomatoes. They aren't near the water hogs many think they are and excess water in the fruit dilutes flavor.

The key I think is consistent soil moisture levels and that is best maintained by using deep less-frequent watering and thick layers of mulch to prevent evaporation rather than frequent watering.

Excess water is even more of a problem with clay soils as they retain more water longer.

I'll try to ammend [sic] it with lots of fertilizer

But when it comes to soil amendment/improvement we aren't talking about "fertilizer" but about using large amount of decomposed organic matter (compost). It is the tilth, the structure of the soil, you need to improve, not the nutrient levels. Improve the soil tilth with organic matter and not only will the drainage improve and the soil moisture level be more stable, but the nutrients will automatically follow. Important distinction. ;)


    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 12:23PM
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azruss(8b Tucson)


Check out the TomatoLady (Leslie Doyle) in Las Vegas. Her inexpensive book, "Growing the Tomato in Las Vegas in Terrible Dirt and Desert Heat" is a fun, good read and will give you lots of useful information. (I suspect that La Quinta and Las Vegas have similar climates.)You'll need to Google Sweet Tomato Test Garden, since we can't post the link here due to alleged spamming from that site.

While timing is very important, it isn't the only thing. One strategy is to select short season varieties of tomato, typically grown in northern regions with very short summers. Plant them out in time for the plants to set fruit before the daily 95+ degree days set in, because that's when pollen becomes sterile and production halts. (Now, Leslie claims that her recommended varieties produce all summer long in Las Vegas heat. I'll wait to find out for myself during July and August here in Tucson.)

Then, there are varieties that are more heat tolerant. Check the link below for more information.

Also search the forum for other Hot Weather Tomatoes threads.


Here is a link that might be useful: Hot Weather Tomatoes

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 2:30PM
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OK Suzi, I know where your at. My father had a piece of land down by Bombay Beach on the east side of the Salton Sea. Ami

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 2:58PM
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I think only experienced gardners will know what "improve the tilth" means, LOL!
So, to be specific, you need to go to Lowe's or Home Depot and buy some "garden soil" or "Amend" (I like Kellogg's), and mix in well at least 1 foot down about 1 cu. ft. per tomato, in the hole you are going to put it in. Or if you want the best, go to Moller's in Palm Desert and buy the organic soil with worm castings, but it's about twice the price. Moller's might also have some yummy heirloom tomato seedlings to choose from, the big box stores usually just have hybrids with little flavor.
After the tomatoes start growing, gradually reduce watering to about once or twice a week, or when they wilt a little. When they are a foot tall, buy some "compost" (not fertilizer!) and put an inch or two of it about one foot diameter around the plants. You don't need to "feed" tomatoes any more if you prepare the soil, because the soil you mixed in is food enough for the season, and fertilizer will only grow leaves, not tomatoes!
Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 1:47PM
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jll0306(9/ Sunset 18/High Desert)

Suzi, if you don't find good seedlings at the nursery in PD, email me and we'll figure out how to get some of my excess seedlings down to you. I have friends who live south of El Paseo, so I am in the area relatively often.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 6:55PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance

Wow! Such great information! Dave, I hear you! Use compost in the soil, NOT fertilizer. And Carla, thanks for your suggestions. Brand names are good and Lowes and Home Depot are handy!!

One of my big huge problems is the Homeowner's Association. They automatically (and I have no control) water about 6 times a day! BUT, they leave the side yards alone. I have a wall hiding the pool equipment from the golf course, and therefore, I think I will improve the soil there, control the water, and hopefully grow some great tomatoes for MY eyes and lips only!!

And azruss, I did get spam from that lady on another forum. We are here to help others, not to sell!! JMO. Most of the hot weather varieties are the cherry types that just don't work on a burger! Thanks for the link! I may try Stupice, Momotaro F1, and Mountain Princess, along with seeds harvested from the local producers at the farm stands. I KNOW they grow here!! I just buy the tomatoes, and have no clue what they are. I have the seeds though.

Sautesmom, I clipped your post. Very informative! We just bought some potting soil at a local nursery (Bob Williams) in Indio, and it seems to have it all! Even worm castings!! But you can just buy worm castings there, and it's all organic and pretty inexpensive. In fact we were surprised that this independent nursery with lush healthy plants has mulch and potting soil at equal or better prices than Lowes or HD. It pays to shop I guess!!

Thank you jil0306 for your offer of seedlings. People here are so kind and helpful!! I appreciate all of you, and I hope I can reciprocate!!


    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 7:27PM
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