Growing Tomatoes in the Cool Pacific NorthWest

To the left you will see the star of my tomato garden last summer, a variety called Stupice. Every time I tell someone about this tomato, I have to repeat myself because the name is so weird. Believe me, this variety is worth growing, especially if you live in a climate with a long cool spring or a short growing season. Stupice was by far the earliest tomato in my garden and really stood out in terms of taste. It is the only tomato I grew last year that I plan to plant year after year.

I went a bit crazy growing tomatoes last summer. My thought was, you can never have too many home grown tomatoes. I was testing a number of different varieties.


2012 Tomato Varieties

  • Stupice
  • Large Red Cherry
  • Oregon Spring
  • Martian Giant
  • Porter Improved
  • Early Girl VF
  • Fantastic
  • Principe Borghese
  • Mortgage Lifter

Source: viaPerri on Pinterest

The other outstanding variety was Mortgage Lifter. This is a big pink beefsteak tomato. It is an heirloom and tastes delicious. It was much later to ripen than most of the rest of the varieties, but it was worth it. So yummy! This year I’m going to make sure to steak these so that they don’t get damaged from laying on the wet ground. The skin of these was thin and they were soft enough to be easily damaged. They also tended to crack in the fall went heavy rains started up, but so what? Did I say how yummy they were?

Last summer the tomatoes grew well despite the sheet mulching and heavy soil, so I will probably plant them again this year in newly mulched areas. This year, I have some new varieties to try. I got these from the seed swap, so we will see how they do. I still might buy a few specific varieties that I want to try or just buy a few plants.

Tomato Varieties 2013

  • Stupice
  • Large Red Cherry
  • Oregon Spring
  • Early Girl VF
  • Fantastic
  • Principe Borghese
  • Beefsteak
  • Rutgers
  • Sunsets Red Horizon
  • Rio Grande
  • Rutgers
  • Gypsy

The Gypsy and the Sunsets Red Horizon are both heirloom varieties from Russia, so I’m hoping that they will produce well in cool weather. Gypsy is looks pink and black from the pictures I have seen and according to one grower at least, prefers cool summers. Sunsets Red Horizon is also said to produce well in cool summers and to have excellent flavor, so I’m excited about that one!

Rutgers and Rio Grande are both determinate tomatoes for making sauce, but are suppose to have good flavor for eating fresh as well. Rutgers says 55-60 days, which would make it an early tomato. Rio Grande says 75-80 days, which is a later tomato, but it is reputed to be tasty and thrive even in extreme temperatures. I’m hoping to grow a lot more tomatoes for sauce and canning this year. Last year we bought two boxes of roma tomatoes in September for processing. I think I would have to grow about 20 plants just for canning if we wanted to get enough sauce to last all winter and I just can’t see making space for that. Eventually we will be settled in a town long term and then I will convert most or all of the lawn to garden.  Gardening in grad school can be a hassle sometimes. I have so many plans, but can’t invest too much in this place.

Other tomato plans for this summer:

  1. Plastic mulch for warming the soil and increasing the harvest.
  2. Staking to keep tomatoes off the ground.
  3. Plastic bag greenhouses. (I bought these last year, but couldn’t figure out how to use them without a tomato cage.)

I’m tempted by the wall-o-water and other expensive season extension devices, but I don’t want to spend too much. Two summers ago I tried grafted tomato plants. They were very expensive! I didn’t find that they grew much better than regular tomatoes. The vines themselves were very vigorous and I had trouble staking them. At some point the wooden stakes started to bend and have trouble supporting the plants, but the number of tomatoes didn’t seem to be that amazing. I didn’t actually weigh and measure the harvest, so I have no scientific proof, but in my home garden, I figure if the difference isn’t significant enough that I notice it without measuring, it probably isn’t worth the trouble. For example, I didn’t do a formal tomato taste test last year, I just noticed that the Stupice and Mortgage Lifter tomatoes tasted really good. All the rest were fine, but none of them stood out.

How about you? What are your favorite tomato varieties? Do you swear by any specific growing techniques?

5 thoughts on “Growing Tomatoes in the Cool Pacific NorthWest

  1. Nelson

    WOW!! Indeed you do have a lot of tomatoes.. “The other outstanding variety was Mortgage Lifter” couldn’t agree more.

  2. Doug Sweet

    I have been planting Mortgage Lifters for about 4 years in both horse trough planters and in the ground. They are the best producers in the NW (SE Portland, Oregon) that I have seen although last year and this, I added Bloody Butchers to the group. These are small, round, very red tomatoes with very tart flavor and firm flesh. Great in salads. They are small, but the plants just keep on setting tomatoes and throughout the summer and doesn’t spend too much time growing green stuff. The leaves are potato plant-like.

    Also planted Paul Robeson tomates this year. They are a dark fruit and medium sized that produces many per plant. Great! Doug Sweet

  3. Tars Campbell

    We live about twelve miles southeast of downtown Portland, Oregon on the west side of a hill at an elevation of roughly 560 feet. We are sheltered from the east wind that runs down the Colmbia river that can be the bane of gardeners ner the river. We had never been able to grow a decent tomato of any variety till I did a little in depth research. Larry of Marbotts nursery told me we should try a hoop green house. I used white pic 3/4 in pipe and fittings then made a loop green house covered in semi clear visqeen. I put this over a moist spot on our lawn which was the drain field for our septic tank. I covered the area in black plastic mulch, planted probably four varieties of tomatoes, early girl, willamette, beefsteak and cherry tomatoes. I never staked them. I also put them on a water timer and pretty much let it go at that. I used a little slack lime and a little Osmacoate (spelling may be wrong), and that was it. We had to go to Colorado as our first grandson was just born, a two week trip ended up being two and one half months long. We returned home the middle of October and still had more tomatoes growing faster than we could eat em or give them away. Our neighbors said it was the best tomato harvest they had seen in many a year and much better than any other on this hill. That winter the pic hoop house was destroyed by the weather.

    The following summer we used a Costco carport frame and covered it with clear plastic, in new soil. I built tomato cages out of four foot high live stock wire fencing with a diameter of 18 inches, staked to tied to cheap steel fence post to keep them upright. Put them on a water timer, fertilized some and then pretty much ignored them. This timed we only went on short trips and had another bumper crop of tomatoes. We planted; early girl, black krim, brandy wine, Roma, sweet one hundred, yellow pear, mortgage lifter, beefsteak, Cherokee purple, willamette, and a one to two inch variety that the name escapes me. The early varieties did best, all came in before the season ended,, the bigger varieties were all very tasty but take a lot of time to ripen even in a makeshift greenhouse.

    Now years later we are down to planting just a few varieties starting with sungold and red cherry, almost always the first to ripen, new early girl and willamette, and then always a couple of new varieties to try out.

    I live for the summer and our garden, at 75 years old I hope to live for at least a few more harvest season. As a young man in Walla Walla, Washington I loved the truck farms near us and the fresh vegetables and wonderful produce they sold. I miss that even today.

    Tars Campbell

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