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Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Posted by seysonn 7b WA/HZ 1 (My Page) on
Thu, Jun 5, 14 at 9:38

I am in WA, just north of Seattle, in Sammamish, Issaquah area.

I started my hardening off on/about March 26 and subsequently planted out starting April 4, 5 and some later. So it has been 2 months since then. It has been a long and challenging 2 months. with lows going down to as low as 38F, without any protection. Now, I have already fruits setting on my tomatoes.

What I want to share is how slow moving PNW weather is. Per attached image , this coming night our low will be 47F. No kidding here. That happens all the time. Somebody, while back provided a link in which somebody else said that night lows under 50F can seriously damage and even kill tomato plants !! Hmmm really? Come visit my tomato garden.

I also while back read a comment that a poster quoting a German gardener saying that they consider tomato plants a semi shade plants (NOT full sun). That was also interesting because I am getting about 4 -5 hours of full sun ( depending on the spots) on top of cool PNW weather.

So this is my real garden experience and story and it is not base on any fiction or opinion and speculation.
You might have totally different experience. That is just fine with me.

This post was edited by seysonn on Thu, Jun 5, 14 at 9:48


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

I am in similar straights down here. I am starting to get some fungus spots on my tomato leaves but, like the the caterpillars I've been hunting, I'm treating them as survivable for the plant. I might have to get serious if it stays too damp.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

I see, John,
You are in USDA zone 10b but have similar coastal Pacific weather slightly better than ours up further north.
USDA zone numbers have very little meaning when it comes to summer gardening. There are zone 6 and even 5s in IA and UT that are having much warmer weather right now than your zone 10b.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

June Gloom has a pretty good Wikipedia page. It says that you have "June-uary" as well ;-)

What's really impressive is when you've had a sunny day inland, and you drive back to the coast. There is just this wall of clouds starting at a few thousand feet and going way way up. You drive under that wall to get home.

(link fixed)

This post was edited by johns.coastal.patio on Thu, Jun 5, 14 at 10:34


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Here are links to some articles and other info sources you may want to explore. I'm not saying they are definitive, just informative.

10 Tips for Growing Tomatoes in the Northwest

Tips for growing Tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest

MEN: Best Varieties for Pacific northwest

Tips for growing organic tomatoes in the Northwest

Growing: Tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest

Grow Northwest: Tomatoes

Tomato and pepper growing in the Pacific Northwest

Thene there are all the resources offered by the Washington State University extension services for home gardeners.

Gardening in Eastern, Western or Inland Pacific Northwest

Dave


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Thanks Dave,
Lots of good reading stuff.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Last night the temps went down to 47F. At this very moment it is 49F. Today is going to be nice and sunny reaching 75F. We have more lows around 49F - 47F in the next 10 days. I am a believer that, although tomato plants like warmer temps but they can take cool weather. It is no wonder we have so many tomatoes coming to us from Russia, Check republic, Germany and elsewhere. I am growing 3 of them :

--- Japanese trifle black (Russia)
--- Siberian
--- Silvery Fir Tree Russia)
--- Stupice (Check rep)
--- Matina (Germany)

They are all loaded with buds and blossoms right now and some have small fruits.

Any Western WA, NW OR grower around here? I would like to know how you are doing.

Have a nice weekend !


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Likely several over on the Northwestern Gardening forum.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nwest Gardening


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Regional Gardening Groups cover too many things (that does not interest me) and very little summer vegetable gardening once in a while.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Yeah that can be a problem sometimes but the search there pulls up over 200 discussions about growing tomatoes in that region including lots of 'best varieties' for the region, planting and harvesting times, regional disease issues, season extending tips, and much more.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: NW tomato growing discussions


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

I have read some of the materials in those links. They tend to describe the problems more than offering a solution. I think I already know all about it. The problem: COOL SUMMER TEMPS. If you get warmer , dryer summer that will do it. But if you get a rainy , wet, cool summer, tough luck.

About the varieties selection, I am ahead of many of those discussions:
--pick early varieties ( I am growing mostly those)
-- pick small fruiting ( That is what most Early varieties are, plus cherry type)
-- pick cool weather tolerant varieties : Have done that too: SILETZ, SIBERIAN, LEGEND, STUPICE,....

Season Extension:
Done that too.Have used black plastic weeks before planting covering the beds, to warm up the soil. Have made and used Cold Frame and hoops and used them as well.

So , really there are no secrets. You have to find ways to cope with the cool weather and I have been doing just that AND this year I will be harvesting some ripe tomatoes on or before The Fourth of July, from my own starts. That should be a record here, since most gardeners plant out in the last half of May. They cannot get any thing ripe until mid August. So in reality I am the source of best information myself.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

I had this " brilliant" idea about trying loads of new tomatoes and coming up with some "guide" which varities do better for this area only to realize that results do vary so badly even it is my own seedlings I have distributed...so much depends what people did with their soil and how they take care of them.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Yes, Lind That is true. But here we assume that the soil is perfect (pH, Nutrients, texture, drainage ..) and we are not even considering diseases, pests, insects. Even then we face a big challenge.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Sigh. It is 102 today.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Have Indigo Rose and Abraham Lincoln tomatoes growing in a cattle trough at a client's house. She has heating coils in the bottom of the trough which keeps the roots warm. I planted them out there back in early April, if memory serves. They are starting to bloom. Just fed them a few days ago with Dr. Earth tomato food and Epsom salt. They are looking good.... Slow but steady growth


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

And I am pruning off lower branches with a bit too much fungal invasion.

Maybe my future self will decide to start a year with preventative spraying.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Going Back to Results:

After nearly TWO months, I see some fruits, though not ripe. But my plan has been to have them ripe by The Fourth and probably will.
The picture is showing one of my SILETZ taken today . Some other (Bloody Butcher, Sun Gold) are also setting fruits. That is not bad , considering that our night lows are still in 46F to 52F range.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

I live in Greenlake about 5 miles north of downtown Seattle, and this is my 4th year growing tomatoes in the PNW. We've had a really nice, warm and sunny spring, with high temps in the 60s and 70s since late April, and even some days in the 80s. Most PNW gardners don't put out their tomatoes until Memorial Day since we usually have rain and cool temperatures with highs in the 50s and 60s until about July 4th. We're usually celebrating if we get any cherry tomatoes in July, not to mention beefsteaks or the larger varieties by August.

I usually don't start my seedlings until late March/early April since I usually don't plant them out until late May/early June. This year I started them in early April but lost most of them since the EB Stone starter mix I was using stayed too wet, and the seedlings rotted. I was able to save and repot 8 of them, and they're now growing but only about 2" tall. Instead, I "cheated" and went to the farmers market and nursery and bought starters in 4" and 1 gal pots.

I've tried a few of the early and yellow varieties (e.g. Kimberley, Jaune Flamme, Porkchop, Orange Russian, etc.), but they all had very mild flavor, barely better than store bought tomatoes, but that may have been because summer 2011 and 2012 were unusually wet and cold. In contrast, each year I've grown them the cherries like Sungold were sweet and delicious and the black tomatoes had such amazing flavor. I decided I'd rather wait an extra week or two to get much better tasting tomatoes, so these are the varieties I'm growing:

Cherry: Sungold, Sun Sugar, Matt's Wild Cherry, Black Cherry, Isis Candy
Black: Cherokee Purple, Paul Robeson, Japanese Black Trifele
Other: Jet Star, Green Zebra, Chadwick, Moscovich

I usually put black plastic on the ground 5-6 weeks before I plant out the tomatoes, but I was really disorganized this year and just put the black plastic over the beds when I planted the starts. I also have PVC hoops over my tomato beds and usually put clear plastic over them to keep them warmer, but since our highs have been in the 70s, I've kept them uncovered and just put 2L bottles full of water beside each plant to keep them warmer at night. The plants were about 8-12" tall when I planted them on June 2nd using Mycorrhizal Fungi and EB Stone Tomato and Vegetable Food, and many had flowers on them while the Sungold and Jet Star already had fruit. Now, about two weeks later, they're all about 2-4" taller, and they all have open flowers and most also have small fruit.

Based on my experience here in Seattle, tomato plants are usually stunted while daytime temps are in the 50s and 60s, even using plastic covers. Plants usually only start growing and producing flowers and fruit when the heat finally arrives--well, relatively speaking since "heat" in Seattle usually means highs in the mid-60s to mid-70s. In 2011 and 2012, with typical summer highs in the 60s, fruit set took about 40-50 days from planting, and color break took another 40-50 days. In 2013, which was much warmer with typical highs in the 70s and 80s, fruit set took about 25-30 days from planting while color break took an additional 35-40 days.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

I'm just a little ways north of Seatac airport, my first year with a serious veggie garden. I have two plants of each variety that I'm growing in raised beds, and decided to do a little experiment with some of them. The experiment group was put in the ground on April 26th and covered with a 6mil plastic tunnel. I kept a thermometer in there, capable of recording high and low temps. There were a few days it got above 90 and I had to vent, but more often than not the night time temps would be down in the low-mid 40's, including one night at 38.

The control group stayed in their 1 gal pots, which I performed the "tomato shuffle" with every day in and out of my garage until Mothers Day (5/11) when I put them in the ground. Both groups went through the same hardening off period.

Results? Control group is almost twice the size if the early group, have way more flowers and some with good looking fruit already. Pic below is of a bloody butcher from the control group. I may continue to experiment with tunnel/greenhouse setups, but it seems to pay dividends to keep a portable group of seedlings that can be brought indoors overnight and planted when things are definitely warm enough.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

kpn,
That is a great success story with good results.

I do think that hoop and some small low tunnel is very dandy in our PNW climate. We have a very loooong cool spring and if you go by general standards of planting out , you have to wait til July. (lol). right now there are lows down to 46F in a couple of days (coming Sat. night) and we have not seen any lows nearing 60F so far. This is a COOL country.

MY UPDATE:
Things are normal and happening slowly. All my mato plants are flowering and maybe half of them have some kind of fruits. They are mostly about 4 ft tall. I am using some cages and more stakes as support.

OK. let us hear from all of you folks along the PNW, from Oregon all the way to Canada.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

seysonn, I'm only growing 3 plants this year which I put in the ground Mothers day. I took 7 gallon nursery pots, cut out the bottoms and put them about 1/3 of the way in the soil of my raised bed and filled with good potting soil and all are doing great (two siletz and one stupice) The stupice is about 4 ft tall and loaded with flowers and toms, while the other two siletz (which are more bushy) but also with many small toms and flowers. The black nursery pots really help with warmth and will be doing this method from now on.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

I am growing 33 tomato plants this year, of 10-ish different varieties. I have 21 determinates in my raised beds and 12 indeterminates in large pots and planters along the south wall of my house. I planted out on Mother's Day weekend and everything is blooming and setting fruit. This year I am growing:

Glacier
Siberia
Silvery Fir Tree
Italian Roma
Martino's Roma
San Marzano
Stupice
Japanese Trifele Black
Cherokee Purple
Black Krim
and two mystery tomatoes that came out of my Glacier seed packet. They are RL and Glacier is PL, so we're growing them out just for fun! And actually one of the them was the first fruit set of the year, so it might be a good variety to grow again.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Good to see you here, good neighbors.

Seems that we have a lot of common varieties ;
stupiece, Siberia, Siletz, Cherokee Purple, Silvery Fir Tree, Japanese Trifele Black,

I am growing 2 varieties developed by OSU:

Legend, Siletz,
Plus few more early ones. My plants are all loaded with buds, flowers and small fruits too. We need some warm temps. The night lows are still very low. We need them to climb over 60F. Today it is very nice and sunny, high around 75F. Ten days forecast is about the same.

Okee Dokee. Have a good season and keep posted. We can all learn from each other.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

The 70 degree weather is perfect for tomatoes to set. I'm using Fox Farm liquid fertilizer for the first time and everything looks green and healthy with no leaf curl even with the cooler weather we have had.


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The 70 degree weather is perfect for tomatoes to set.
%%%%%%%%%%%%

You are right, vinny. I take it.Do you have any pictures ?

My plants are as healthy as they can be. They are growing and setting. But seems that the thing are on the low gear.
I am using MG liquid (4 x 16 oz bottles. ). I feed them 1/2 strength but more often. This way I can read my plants. I have also used MG Shake n Feed in plant out time.

here is my Silvery Fir Tree . it is potted


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

I don't have a camera and don't even have a cell phone. I guess I will because it looks like fun to post pictures. I'm still in the dark ages. BTW your toms. look very nice. I try to stay with cool short season tomatoes but have done late season also. I'm only 57 but have severe arthritis already which is why I only grow a few, but I look forward every year for tomatoes. BTW I live in Cedar Hills, which is about 6 miles west of Portland.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Just curious......what tomato that you're growing this year are you most looking forward to? For me, it's Japanese Trifele Black. I've never grown it before and the pictures I've seen look so cool!


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

As of last Wednesday, I have 42 small fruit (21 just on Sungold) on my 14 plants. The largest is about 1.5-2" in diameter on the Jet Star, which was planted from a 1 gal. container on June 2nd.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

The Japanese Trifele Black plant has 5 fruit, with the largest about 1" in diameter. However, the fruit don't have the characteristic pear shape. For those of you who have grown JTB, does it always have the pear shape, or do you get some fruit that are rounder? I got this plant from the farmers market, so it may not be JTB.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Mariev, your plants look absolutely beautiful with the size of fruits on them.

On JTB, I am growing one. Mine has no visible fruits yet BUT it is a POTATO LEAFE with real big leaves. Is yours PL ?

You are right. It is supposed to have pear shaped fruits not round.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Here's a pic of my biggest JTB to show the shape of the fruit. My plants are setting fruit like champs!


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

And here's a pic of one of my JTB plants to show the growth habit and leaves.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

NWHG,
Thank you for sharing. The growth habit matches that of mine (PL, tall and slender) Fruit shape remains to be seen on my plant. But I bet you should be able to get a ripe one for The Fourth. My best bet is SILETZ. May turn color any day. I'll post a picture when it happens.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

My JTB is potato leaf, but the fruit forming continue to be round and slightly ridged. The plant is neither very tall nor slender, and the leaves aren't particularly large. It does appear to be very prolific, though, with 7 fruit (largest about 1.5" in diameter) and three trusses of open flowers. I'm guessing it was grown from seed saved from OP fruit, so it was probably mixed with something else. I was really looking forward to the pear-shaped fruit, so although it's disappointing, I'm curious to see how the fruit turn out.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Hi mariev,

My JBT has VERY large PLs. Much larger than what I see in your picture No fruits yet (just tiny pea size maybe). I bough mine from nursery and planted it out about 5-6 weeks ago.

About Fruit Shape: Here is a picture that I got from the net. It is more pear shape to me.


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Fruit are breaking on my Sungold plant. These were fruit that had already formed when the plant was planted from a 1 gal container on June 2nd.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

O ! Wow, Mariev. That looks so beautiful. The largest on my Sun Gold is about half the size of yours. The plant is healthy and about 5 ft tall. I can't wait to see a color other than GREEN. But my Siletz seems to have a hint of color . Maybe I am just imagining. LOL. I hope my 4th of July wish will come though/true. hehe

On Another Note:

I sprayed my plants with Daconil today, for the first time, as preventive measure. I will repeat in 2 weeks. Forecast is calling for rain and cooler temps over the weekend. I may skip watering. We shall see.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Is anyone else seeing blossom clusters like this on their Stupices? This seems like an absolutely crazy amount to me! Plants are very healthy, in very big pots, and in no way are looking stressed.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Yeah: Amazing. My Stupice has real big clusters too. Never seen anything like that before. It is so big that I supported it. I don't think all those buds will turn into tomatoes.


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This is the earliest we've ever had Sungold breaking, by about two weeks. That's probably because I planted out about two weeks earlier than I did last year, and we've been having a similarly warm summer this year. I've heard of PNWers getting tomatoes by July 4th, but I always thought they had to be growing in greenhouses.

Seysonn, hopefully, your July 4th wish comes true and you start seeing some coloring on your Siletz.

Yeah, I'm also getting unusually big clusters on my Cherokee Purple and Paul Robeson plants. None have set any fruit yet, so it's too early to see if all of the blossoms will turn into fruit. One can only hope!


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Anyone have ripe tomatoes yet, other than cherries? I didn't plant any cherries this year, and I'm regretting it now. I'm nearing 60 days from transplant, and really hoping that some of my so-called earlies get it in gear soon!


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Talking about ripe tomato:
I just picked my very first ripe tomato from a Bloody Butcher. I was counting on Siletz but it disappointed me. Its fruits just keep getting bigger and bigger, maybe about 8 oz now. Sun Gold is sizing up but no color break yet.

With our current long term temperatures, we are getting ready for a big burst. Finally we are having summer like weather.

I will post some pics soon.(got to see some red and gold. haha)


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

SUDDENLY SUMMER

Our heat zone is "1" , meaning that rarely (one or two day in whole summer) high temps reach or exceed. 86F (30C). But our long term forecast for the next 10 days show highs between 88F and 98F. Also the lows climbing over 60F for the first time this season. Wow ! what a big bubble.
Now this should help my tomatoes ripen a bit faster.

here is a snap shot of weather forecast.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

sesonn, Are you worried about blossom drop with the impending heat wave? My tomatoes have a great many flowers opening right now.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Vinnybob, hi there.

I am not worried about blossom drop. I have plenty of fruits set already. Plus, I don't get a lot of direct sun and our humidity is low as well as night temperatures. I am sure that this heat wave will only last for a couple of weeks at the most and pollination should resume normally soon after.
I think of this heat wave as a plus to speed up growth and ripening fruits.
We will see.

This post was edited by seysonn on Fri, Jul 11, 14 at 0:14


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Thanks for your thoughts, I feel better. I've just never seen so many flowers on my tomatoes, your plants must be about 2 weeks ahead of mine.


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

Picked my first one last night! Not entirely ripe, but since rain was predicted for today, I didn't want it to split. It was one of my mystery tomatoes from my Glacier seed pack. A little over two ounces. Have more blushing on the same plant and fruits start to blush on both of my Stupices! So excited to start having ripe tomatoes!


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RE: Growing Tomatoes in PNW

That is great. I have picked 3 so far ; One BB and 2 siletz. BB was real small, maybe less than 2 oz but Siletz were about 6 oz.


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