Originally printed April 19, 2009
By Valerie Easton, former Natural Gardener author
” ‘SUNGOLD’ WINS THE tomato taste-off yearly,” says Wally Prestbo. “It’s the sweetest tomato out there.”
And Prestbo is aware of his tomatoes. This green-thumb volunteer raises 3,000 crops from seed, most certain for the Master Gardener spring sale [there is no spring sale scheduled for 2022], the remainder to the Bellevue Demonstration Garden, the place the annual tomato taste-off is held each September.
Not solely is ‘Sungold’ deliciously candy, it’s additionally vigorous sufficient to ripen reliably, making this little golden fruit the one tomato all of us ought to contemplate planting.
Which brings us to the amnesia we gardeners are inclined to endure with regards to tomato disappointments. Forget blight, rot and final summer season’s punky climate. Every spring, we plunge in with tomato seeds and begins, gleefully anticipating bumper crops of ripe, juicy fruit. But the chilly reality is the Seattle space ranks next-to-lowest within the nation for annual warmth items, the measure of what tomatoes require to ripen.
Unfortunately, as Prestbo places it, “Tomatoes like weather that starts out warm, gets warmer and stays warm.” But don’t despair. Prestbo has developed easy methods for rising tomatoes efficiently with out sprays or chemical substances:
● Choosing: Get the appropriate sort to your rising circumstances. Tomatoes are available in two varieties: determinate and indeterminate. The former are bushy and compact, preferrred for containers. They cease rising earlier within the season, ripening all their fruit over a two- to three-week interval. Determinates don’t must be caged, staked, pruned or pinched (a lot).
Indeterminate sorts (aka vining) are bigger and lankier; they want extra pruning and durable caging, which they make up for by producing fruit till killed by frost. These infants can develop 10 toes excessive. Whichever form you select, search for wholesome inexperienced leaves and durable stems.
● Siting: Plant the place they’ll get a minimum of six hours of solar and essentially the most warmth doable. The preferrred is a raised mattress basking in mirrored warmth off a south-facing wall.
● Timing: Tomatoes normally can go into the bottom by mid-May, when soil temperatures attain 50 levels. “I’ve found that late and early planted tomatoes usually end up pretty much the same,” says Prestbo. He offers his crops a warmth enhance by masking them with hoops draped in clear plastic throughout their early weeks within the floor.
● Fertilizing: Prestbo digs a balanced (5-10-10 or 10-10-10) natural fertilizer into the soil at planting time, then doses his plant with a liquid feed on the first of June and July.
● Watering: Tomatoes want a lot; hold water off the leaves.
● Pruning: Prestbo merely prunes up from the underside of the plant in order that no leaves are touching the soil, to guard from mould and blight.
Does a man who grows so many tomatoes for the general public additionally plant them in his personal backyard? “Oh, yes,” enthuses Prestbo. “I have 14 raised beds at home. I always grow ‘Sungold’. ‘Juliette’ is a globe-shaped red, good for salads; ‘Burpee’s Burger’ is a great slicer; ‘Sweet Tangerine’ is a golden tomato.”
He’s eager to attempt Burpee’s ‘Sweet Seedless’ (“a bit of a novelty”) and likewise the compact ‘Window Box Roma’, as a result of his many shoppers are at all times asking for the perfect tomatoes in containers.