It’s Not Too Late For Tomatoes with Mike Darcy

June 12, 2018

I once had a long time Portland gardener tell me that if tomatoes were planted in early May as compared to early June, by the middle of July, there would be very little difference in the two plants. Over the years, I have found this statement to be true.

On a recent visit to Wilco store in Canby, I was very pleased to see the large selection of tomato plants that were available. There were 4″ pots as well as gallon size and the plants were all very healthy looking. When selecting a site for tomatoes, remember that they grow and fruit best in full sun.

Tomatoes are one of the few vegetables that should be planted deeper than they are in the container. With most plants, the recommended planting procedure is to place the plant in the soil at the same level that it is in the pot. With a tomato, remove some of the lower leaves on the stem and then set the plant into the soil at a level so the plant will be deep enough that the soil will cover this stem area. Tomato plants will send out roots along the stem and these roots will help to secure the plant in the soil and the overall results will be a more vigorous plant. The exception to this is on grafted tomatoes and the graft point on the stem should never be buried, but remain above the soil surface.

I recommend that gardeners select an assortment of different tomato varieties based on days to ripen. The tags in each pot will give an estimated time, in days, that it takes for the tomato to produce mature fruit. The smaller fruiting types will flower and produce earlier than the larger types. Check the plant tags and select some that are in the 50-60 day range for an early maturing variety. Some examples would be Sungold, Sweet Million, and Bumble Bee.

Sungold is one of the most popular home garden varieties and is a very heavy producer from early spring and continuing throughout the season.

Oregon State University has developed an assortment of tomatoes that are adapted to our area and many have a maturing time in the 60-70 day range. Look for names such as Legend, Oregon Spring, and Siletz. While not an Oregon State University variety, Stupice gets good scores from home gardeners and tends to be more cold tolerant than some and fruits well throughout the season.

Beefsteak types are large and mature later in the season and many heirloom tomatoes such as Brandywine, are in this category. These are large fruiting types with excellent flavor and if we have a warm fall season, they will produce a good crop. Brandywine is a well-known heirloom from the 1800’s and is consistently a winner in taste tests.

For sauce and paste tomatoes, San Marzano is excellent.

Talk with tomato growers in your neighborhood and you will probably learn about a new variety to try. Don’t wait much longer, the sooner the plants are in the ground, the sooner you can begin picking and a tomato fresh from the garden has a taste that is hard to beat.

We would love to see your garden growing, use #mywilcolife on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tag Wilco Stores.