Red Tomatoes and Crazy Weather in my Garden

I rec’d an interesting question from one of my customers. He asked me how my garden was growing and what was my favorite red variety. Every year I grow different tomato varieties, not all of them red. This year, I am loving the Marbella, Red Pear, Willamette and Giant Tree Tomato, all of which are red and very prolific. I won a grand prize at the fair for my Willamettes, an aspiring early heirloom from Oregon.

As for how my garden is doing, I’ve had the worst season ever. Every slug, every flea beetle, aphid and spider mite for miles afround has attacked my vegetable and flower garden. Powdery mildew, early blight, physiological damage (ie curly leaves) from the hot/cold/wet/dry weather we’ve had this summer, has blessed my plants too. Aaaagh!

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“Early” Season Tomatoes

In our neck of the woods (Inland Northwest – Spokane and surrounding areas) summer seems to come later and later. Lately, June seems to be more rainy than usual. Last year, I started telling everyone that tomatoes were a fall crop!

I entered several in the fair and by the time it rolled around in the beginning of September, I still didn’t have any large tomatoes to share. I had plenty of cherry tomatoes and some smaller varieties but no prize winners… until two weeks after the fair. Sigh. After that, I had billions of tomatoes to eat and share and can (I put up 75 quarts).

One of the ways we cope with our shorter climate (and I have absolute sympathy for Deer Park gardeners) is to plant “early” tomatoes. One thing I have found is that they aren’t substantially earlier than mid-season tomatoes. As for late season, I always get beautiful crops of those also, probably due to our actual frost date being sometime in later October. Here is some info on early tomatoes.

Early season tomatoes ripen fruit in 55 to 70 days after being transplanted to the garden as 6-8 week old plants.

Because great tomato flavor comes with just the right combination of sugars and acids that are the product of sunlight and photosynthesis, early season tomatoes are often dismissed as less tasty than mid- and late-season tomatoes (which require 80 to more than 100 days to ripen) because they spend fewer days in the sun.

Many “early” tomatoes—which are often smaller and less leafy than later season tomatoes–can flower and set fruit in cool, early-season conditions. Given optimal conditions, early-season tomatoes can produce fruit equally flavorful to the best late-season varieties. I like the pink “Early Wonder”, “Stupice”, “Anna Russian”, and “Subarctic Plenty”. Those are very tasty.

Cherry tomatoes are also earlier than the larger varieties but that is another post.

Anna Russian (open-pollinated). Slicing tomato. Pink-red, heart-shaped, 10 oz. fruits; juicy, excellent sweet flavor. 70 days. Indeterminate.

Early Wonder (open-pollinated). Slicing tomato. Dark-pink skinned to 6 oz.; full flavored. 55 days. Determinate.

Stupice (open-pollinated). Slicing tomato. Red-skinned, small to medium-sized to 4 oz.; sweet, juicy. 50 days. Dwarf determinate, compact. For short-season regions. From Czechoslovakia.

Sub Arctic Plenty (open-pollinated). Slicing tomato. Small, round to 2 oz.; good flavor. 50 days. Determinate. Compact. Sets fruit in cold weather. Those were the last to succumb to the weather and I loved the taste.

In order: Anna Russian, Early Wonder, Subarctic, and Stupice.

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Not Much Too Look At…

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Not Much Too Look At...

…but they will be someday. On Sunday, March 3rd I and a friend planted about 1500 pepper seeds. This is what they look like pre germinating. this year. This year I will have 41 varieties, including red, yellow and caribbean red habaneros, purple and red cayenne, anaheims, poblanos and sweet purple bells. Did you know that poblanos and anchos are the same thing? When they are dried, they become anchos.