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Tips for Growing Tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest

Growing tomatoes successfully in the PNW begins with choosing the best tomato variety for your garden. The best varieties will always be short season because of our cool nights throughout the summer. Tomatoes need lots of heat to ripen, and we just don't have enough heat for long season, beefsteak tomatoes to thrive. A short season tomato is one that is listed in the seed catalogue or on the seed packet as 70 days or less to maturity.

Another way to deal with our mild climate and cool nights is to create some kind of framework that supports a plastic cover, in order to trap daytime heat. This can be as complicated and high tech as a greenhouse. A mini hoop house that fits over your bed and can be opened and closed is most within reach for most gardeners. Something as simple and low-tech as a few bamboo stakes with a clear plastic bag that gets thrown on in late afternoon or early every evening and then removed again in the morning, will also do.

A transparent, plastic cover is essential to use during rainfall, in order to prevent airborne blight spores from splashing onto the plants. This is also why you should never use overhead watering to irrigate your tomato plants and why it is best to water in the morning, when the sun and winds of the day can dry off any water that lands on the leaves. Having good air circulation between plants is another must, in order to keep mold spores from finding their perfect home. Pruning all the non-fruit-producing branches can help with this. I know from personal experience that it can be difficult to keep up with this task!

Mini Hoop House -Great for Tomatoes and Cucumbers

Tomatoes can be harvested and taken inside once they develop a blush of colour. This is what I do in the autumn when I know a killing frost will surely be coming soon. Setting the tomatoes in a fruit bowl with a banana allows the tomatoes to ripen sooner.

If you have any more advice on growing tomatoes, please leave your own tips in the comment section. Thanks!


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