Monday, May 13, 2013

Ripening Tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest

So, I LOVE living in Western Washington—'wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the country.  But I also LOVE tomatoes, which aren’t quite as fond of the climate as I am.  So, here are a few of the tricks I’ve learned to have my tomatoes and eat them too... 

Choose the right varieties!  If the catalog or seed packet says it will take more than 85 days to mature, you might want to start building that heated greenhouse... 
Keep them warm!  Tomatoes are tender, tropical plants and especially annoyed by the 20-30 degree drop in temperature we often have between day and night.  Cover them up, make use of reflected heat, move them around in containers, but keep them warm.

Keep them dry!  We live in the fungus capital of the world and some of those fungi prey on tomato plants.  Remember the Irish potato famine?  It’s called Late Blight when it attacks tomatoes.  Avoid overhead watering (or rain), mulch to prevent spores from splashing from the soil to the leaves, prune judiciously to encourage good air circulation.
Just a couple months later.  Definitely in need
of that judicious pruning!

Planted in tunnel cloche



Keep them focused!  Given their druthers, indeterminate tomato plants will grow and grow and grow and...  Pinch off suckers to direct energy to flowers and fruit making.  Towards the end of the season, remove all the new flowers and teensy fruit that won’t have time to ripen.

Make them just a little nervous!  The main goal of any plant is to make seed and reproduce.  As the season winds down towards fall, start reducing the water to stress the plants just enough to make them concentrate on ripening the fruit and making seeds in case something dreadful happens. 

And remember, if the first frost is threatening and there are still green fruits on the plants, you can pick them and ripen them in the house.   They won’t be quite the same, but they’ll still be better than the ones flown in from other parts of the world.


  1. Great information...your website looks wonderful!

    1. Thanks Juli! Most of the specifics don't exactly apply to y'all down south, though!