Growing Tomatoes in Cool-Summer
or Short-Season Gardens

‘Enchantment’ is a Great Tomato for Cool-Summer Gardens
‘Enchantment’ is a Great Tomato
for Cool-Summer Gardens
© Steve Masley...Click IMAGE to Enlarge

Growing tomatoes in cool-summer or short-season gardens can be a real challenge. I grew tomatoes at the edge of the fog belt south of San Francisco for 15 years, so I know how difficult and frustrating growing tomatoes in cool climates can be.

Here’s a few tomato growing tips for cool-summer, short-summer, or alpine climates:

Select Early Varieties. Early tomato varieties set fruit at lower temperatures. They tend to be smaller tomatoes—cherry and salad types—and usually start producing tomatoes within 60-70 days of planting. Many are bush (determinate) varieties, but there are several vining (indeterminate) early tomatoes as well.

Plant tomatoes in your warmest microclimate. If you have a south-facing wall, plant them along the bottom of the wall.

Get the plants in early. You may have to use season-extenders like cloches, heavy floating row covers, or wall-o-waters to protect them from frost or cold weather early in the season, but an early start is critical in a cool-summer or short-season climate.

The idea is to maximize the number of tomatoes on the vine when peak summer heat arrives.

Use a dark-colored mulch, or no mulch at all. I’m a big advocate of mulch, wherever keeping the soil cooler and holding in moisture are advantages. When growing tomatoes in cool-summer areas, this is not the case, so a dark mulch or no mulch is better.

Red Plastic “Mulch” reflects red frequencies of light and may increase ripening up to 20% in cool-summer climates.

If you have an apple tree, toss windfall apples under the tomatoes. Apples give off ethylene gas, which acts as a ripening hormone.

Harvest all fruit that shows any color before the first frost. Place slightly ripened tomatoes on windowsills indoors, or on a tray on top of the refrigerator. The tomatoes will continue to ripen indoors. They won’t be anything like vine-ripened tomatoes, but they’ll be better than anything you’d find in the supermarket.

Growing Tomatoes in Cool-Summer Gardens (Top)
Cherry Tomato Varieties  |   Salad Tomato Varieties
Growing Tomatoes

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