By Jan Cashman
Tomatoes are the most popular garden vegetable. We sell thousands of tomato plants each year. You can grow delicious, nutritious tomatoes, in our high mountain climate with its cool nights and short growing season by using a few tricks.
Twenty five years ago, Fantastic and Early Girl were the two commonly grown tomato varieties in our area. Today, hundreds of sweet and improved varieties are available that ripen early. Canada, Alaska, Russia, and Czechoslovakia have introduced many good, early varieties such as the Beaverlodge series, Polar Series, Belii Naliv and Stupice.
You can save the seed of open pollinated and delicious, colorful Heirloom varieties of tomatoes. Many heirloom and beefsteak varieties require a 75 day or longer growing season, but can be successfully grown with modest yields by using season extenders like Wall O Waters, row covers, cold frames, etc. Cherokee Purple, Red Brandywine, Orange Russian 117, Gold Medal, and Mortgage Lifter are a few of the longer maturing varieties we have offered over the years.
This year at Cashman Nursery we are trying the Artisan series, bicolor striped fruit in shades of yellow, purple, red, green and orange that will be fun for children to grow and colorful for salads. Unique cherry tomatoes with names like Purple Bumblebee, Sunrise Bumblebee and Lucky Tiger, your children won’t be able to resist!
Tomato plants fall into two general categories, smaller determinate (bush) varieties which ripen all at once and indeterminate (climbing), which ripen over the season, need support and pruning for best yields.
Tomatoes grow well in containers if the container is big enough. Determinate varieties or patio tomatoes work best in a container. A friend was still picking tomatoes in October by wheeling her pots of tomatoes inside each night. Earth boxes are a self-watering rectangular container on wheels, excellent for extending your growing season.
Delicious, home grown tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and K plus other essential vitamins and minerals and the antioxidant lycopene. Plant some in your vegetable garden, raised bed, or containers next summer. You’ll be glad you did!