For many gardeners the ultimate vegetable to grow is the tomato. There really is something special about the flavor of a fully ripe tomato picked from the vine and brought straight to your plate. Unfortunately, growing tomatoes can be a challenge if you live in an area with a short season.
For those of you living in colder regions your growing season for warm-weather crops may be very, very short between frost-free days. Those in very warm climates have the opposite problem; you may need to get a quick crop in before the days turn so hot you can’t grow anything! And even if neither of these applies to you, you might be in an area that is plagued by heavy pest pressure or foliar diseases that take out your plants fairly early in the season. In any of these cases, you need a tomato plant that will produce quickly and reliably.
So, today we’re going to go over what traits you should look for in a tomato variety if you need them to produce quickly and review some varieties that not only match those traits but many that can actually perform well under cool-weather conditions, which is not the norm for most tomato varieties. If you’ve ever struggled with getting tomatoes to produce in your garden before the first frost of the season hits or before the sun tries to cook them on the vine or before the insects and diseases completely destroy your plants, this episode is for you. Let’s dig in.
Vegetable Breeding Program | College of Agricultural Sciences (oregonstate.edu)
Moskvich (aka Moskovich) Tomato - Heirloom, Open-Pollinated, non-Hybrid Victory Seeds® – Victory Seed Company
Bush Early Girl Tomato – Bonnie Plants
Santiam Tomato, Santiam Tomato Seeds - Reimer Seeds
Sub Arctic Plenty, Tomato Seeds | Urban Farmer (ufseeds.com)
Heirloom Tomato Seed - Oregon Spring | Non-GMO Vegetable Gardening · True Leaf Market
Quedlinburger Fruhe Liebe Tomato, Medium-Small Tomato Seeds: Totally Tomatoes 83 Fast-Growing Short-Season Tomato Varieties for Cold Climates – Garden Betty
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Karin Velez [00:00:01]:
This is positively farming media. For many gardeners, the ultimate vegetable to grow is the tomato. There really is something special about the flavor of a fully ripe tomato picked from the vine and brought straight to your plate. Unfortunately, growing tomatoes can be a challenge if you live in an area with a short season. Welcome back, my gardening friends, to another episode of Just Grow Something. For those of you living in colder regions, your growing season for warm weather crops may be very, very short between frost free days. Those in very warm climates have the opposite problem. You may need to get a quick crop in before the days turn so hot that you just can't grow anything.
Karin Velez [00:00:42]:
And even if neither of these applies to you, you might be in an area that is plagued by heavy pest, pressure, or, like me, foliar diseases that attempt to take out your plants fairly early in the season. In any of these cases, you need a tomato plant that will produce quickly and reliably. So today we're going to go over what traits you should look for in a tomato variety if you need them to produce quickly. And we'll talk about some varieties that not only match those traits, but many that can actually perform well under cool weather conditions, which is not the norm for most tomato varieties. If you've ever struggled with getting tomatoes to produce in your garden before the first frost of the season hits, or before the sun tries to cook them on the vine, or before the insects and diseases completely destroy the plants, this episode's for you. Let's dig in. Hey, I'm Karen, and I started gardening 18 years ago in a small corner of my suburban backyard. When we moved to a five acre homestead, I expanded that garden to half an acre, and I found such joy and purpose in feeding my family and friends.
Karin Velez [00:01:48]:
This newfound love for digging in the dirt and providing for others prompted my husband and I to grow our small homestead into a 40 acre market farm. When I went back to school to get my degree in horticulture, I discovered there is so much power in food and I want to share everything I've learned with as many people as possible. On this podcast, we explore crop information, soil health, pests and diseases, plant nutrition, our own nutrition, and so much more in the world of food and gardening. So grab your garden journal and a cup of coffee and get ready to just grow something. Quick reminder we are doing our 50K Giveaway to celebrate 50,000 downloads of this podcast, so don't forget to get your entries in doing one or all of the following tasks share your favorite episode or this episode on your social media with a few words saying why you enjoy the podcast. Be sure to tag me in it so I can see it. This counts as one entry. Leave a review on Apple podcast, Audible, Pod, Chaser, or any app that allows for reviews.
Karin Velez [00:02:50]:
If you leave it anywhere other than Apple podcast, though, be sure to let me know by messaging me because I only get notifications from Apple. Do this and it will count as another entry. And for those of you not on social media or not using an app that allows for reviews, I've got you covered, too. Send me an email or a message telling me what you like about the show or a specific way the show has helped. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. This includes if you've left a rating on a podcaster like Spotify that doesn't allow for reviews. I've already had someone reach out on Facebook and tell me they left a five star rating on Spotify and that she loves the way I present the information here. I'm like the Alton Brown of the garden, which was the ultimate compliment.
Karin Velez [00:03:34]:
I love Alton Brown. So thank you. This is entry number three. So three different ways that you can enter, but what are you entering for? A prize package that includes a 16 ounce bottle of Elm Dirt's plant juice or bloom juice, your choice. This is not sponsored by them. A Clyde's Garden Planner, which is a handy, easy to use sliding chart that shows the proper indoor and outdoor planting times for both spring and fall according to your frost dates. Also not sponsored by Clydes. And a custom designed personalized travel cup that nobody has yet, not even me, because I am still designing it.
Karin Velez [00:04:13]:
It's a prize package worth $50 to celebrate 50,000 downloads. Of course, this is only available for you if you are in the US. Or Canada. If you enter and you are outside of those two countries, I will make other arrangements with you to get you a prize. You have until May 31 to do any or all of these tasks to get yourself entered one, two, or three times. All right, let's talk tomatoes. What are the key things that we want to look for in varieties grown in short season or otherwise challenging tomato growing climates? The first thing to look at is the days to maturity. As far as I'm concerned, less than 60 days from transplant is going to be ideal.
Karin Velez [00:05:00]:
So when it says days to maturity, generally speaking, with tomatoes, they're referring to from transplant date, not from the date that you start the seeds. Now, remember, this is going to be dependent on the day length in your area during the growing season and the temperatures that you experience. Plus, it's going to depend on how close or far from the equator you are, so adjust your expectations accordingly. That's why I say 60 days, because if you live someplace where you have shorter days or the daylight isn't as strong, it might actually be 70 days before that tomato starts to produce. Now, oftentimes this means you're going to be looking at determinate plants, these that set their fruit early and all at once. But there are indeterminates that are ready less than 60 days from transplant. This also means sometimes that these are smaller tomatoes. Cherry, grape, and salad sized varieties tend to start producing earlier than like a full sized beef steak tomato.
Karin Velez [00:06:06]:
But it doesn't mean that there aren't varieties out there that are sort of medium sized slicers that also fit the bill here. Now, if you are in a short season climate due to a limited number of frost free days, you're also going to want to look for varieties that either come from regions with colder climates. These are often indicated in the name anything that references Siberia. It's a good chance that this thing is going to do better in a colder climate or that have been bred by universities. Specifically for this challenge. I'm kind of partial to my alma mater, Oregon State University. Their breeding program often looks at varieties of plants that are well adapted to these types of challenges. Oftentimes the names that you see for these tomatoes are going to match that development.
Karin Velez [00:06:57]:
I mean, San Francisco Fog is a tomato variety that is aptly named for the weather conditions that it can tolerate. Now, conversely to this, if you're in a climate that faces heat challenges early in the season, you want varieties that tend to set fruit even when it's hot or when the air is so humid the pollen just sticks and the pollination is difficult. I'm going to shout out OSU here again, because they have been really good at working on parthenocarpic varieties. And parthenocarpic means that it will produce fruit without being pollinated. So when you get into that time of the year when it's just so humid that the pollen doesn't move, it just stays stuck. Well, it won't matter if you're using a parthenocarpic variety. And finally, if it's specific pests or diseases that you're concerned with the fastest maturing varieties, specifically those that are determinate so that all the fruit sets within a few weeks of each other would be your first consideration. Then also look for varieties that have specifically been bred to be tolerant of those pests or diseases.
Karin Velez [00:08:06]:
This doesn't mean the plant won't get it, it just means it will be able to continue to produce while it's battling that disease. Now, if you can combine that trait with one that matures quickly and all at once, well, now you have a better chance of getting more fruit to maturity than if you picked, say, an indeterminate heirloom variety that takes 80 days to mature and it has zero resistance to any of the pests or diseases in your area. So picking our varieties doesn't necessarily mean that we're just picking it for the size or the shape or the color or the flavor. Its growth habits and its disease tolerance are also very important. And just as a side note, this is all the perfect reason why developing your own landrace is a good idea. So a landrace is a local variety of a species of plant that has developed distinctive characteristics from adapting over time to the conditions of a specific geographic region. So when we're saving the seeds from the best specimens in our garden, from the plants that have survived the drought or the floods or the winds or the diseases or whatever it is that's prevalent in our area, and we do that over and over and over again, those traits begin to be inherent in that variety. It makes that plant perform very well in our localized area because the genetics that survive and thrive under those conditions are handed down through the generations of plants.
Karin Velez [00:09:50]:
So you can do this in your own garden with open pollinated varieties, or if you have access to plant breeding groups or seed companies in your area that have developed land races for your area, hit them up. Many of them sell the seeds or the plants as starts and will help you get started in seed saving and furthering those genetics. Use it to your advantage. Okay, so let's look at some tomato varieties that mature very quickly. Very quickly. The top two, or the only two in this category, are the speedsters of the world of tomatoes. These both mature in 45 days or less from transplant and they are both very tolerant of colder temperatures. The first is Keelenberger Froya liba.
Karin Velez [00:10:48]:
It's a German salad sized heirloom tomato variety. I'll say it again. Keelenberger Froya liba. I believe that roughly translates into early love of keelinberg. My German is a little rusty, but it is ready to harvest in just 40 days after transplant, just a little over a month. It was originally developed for cool rainy weather in and around Keatlenburg, Germany. Remember, look for the names. So these fruits have a great flavor and an acid level.
Karin Velez [00:11:20]:
They are round, red salad sized tomato. They set fruit in clusters of four to six. This is a potato leaf plant. We usually see this in the old Brandy wine varieties, but this is a salad sized that is ready in just 40 days. Keelenberger fria liba. The next one is the Chili Willie or it's also, I think the original name is Subarctic Plenty. This one was bred in Alberta, Canada in the 1970s. It is a determinate.
Karin Velez [00:11:50]:
So the Keelin burger fruit Lieba. It is an indeterminate. It will continue to produce. It'll set its first fruits in 40 days and then continue to produce after that. Chili willie or subarctic? Plenty. It is a determinate and it is going to set its fruit in 42 days. So it is also a salad sized one, about two to three inches or five to 8 CM. So slightly larger than the keelenberger free Aliba.
Karin Velez [00:12:18]:
But since it's a determinant plant, it is a really good choice also for growers in hot climates to be able to get a good flush of tomatoes before the heat kicks in. So those two varieties are kind of anomalies. I mean, they both mature in less than 40 to 42 days. Let's talk about some just early maturing varieties. In general. We're going to look at the ones that are maturing in 60 days or less like we talked about at the beginning. We'll look at the determinants first. These are going to be best for very short season areas or those that need to get it all in and done before the heat hits or the diseases kick in.
Karin Velez [00:12:56]:
Many of these determinant varieties will bloom earlier and will set fruit under cooler conditions. I'm going to shamelessly plug the Oregon State University vegetable plant breeding program here again, they have developed several tomato varieties that have become kind of prominent in many of the kind of Pacific Northwest gardens because the conditions there can be wet and cold in the spring, depending on where you're gardening. So with OSU located in the heart of the Willamette Valley, they are primed to work on breeding plants that thrive in these conditions. So all of these ones that I'm going to talk about are determinate varieties. They mature in 60 days or less, give or take, and we'll just kind of talk about the attributes of each of them. So the first one is Amber. It is a 60 day variety. It is a yellow orange salad tomato.
Karin Velez [00:13:47]:
Aurora is the next one at 59 days. It is a sort of four to six ish ounce red slicing tomato. Beaver Lodge is another one. It matures in 54 days. It's another red salad variety. Bush early girl. This is a 50 day variety. So very early maturing.
Karin Velez [00:14:09]:
This is one that we actually have in our gardens here right now. For such an early determinate variety, it is a decent sized tomato, about six to seven ounce red slicing tomato. We have seen really good results with this one. The next three. Early Annie, early boy, early doll. Oh, and also early wonder. So all of these early. Again, look for the names.
Karin Velez [00:14:32]:
They are all 60 days. Early Wonder is actually 54 days. They are all medium sized red slicing tomatoes. Gold Nugget. This is one that's from OSU's breeding program. It is 60 days. It is a yellow orange cherry tomato that was developed in the 1980s. It is open pollinated.
Karin Velez [00:14:52]:
Lata. This is a 55 day, two to three ounce red slicing tomato. So a little bit bigger than a salad tomato, but not quite your medium slicer. It is an heirloom Manitoba, 58 days. Again, look for the names right. Six ounce red slicing tomato. Orange Pixie. This is 52 days.
Karin Velez [00:15:12]:
It is a yellow orange salad tomato. Oregon Spring. This is another one from OSU. It is a 50 day tomato. It is a four to six ounce red slicer. It is open pollinated. And the cool thing about Oregon Spring is it does really well in cool, wet weather. But it also does well in the heat.
Karin Velez [00:15:31]:
So it's great for Southern gardeners who are kind of growing on those shoulder seasons where it starts out kind of cool and wet, but then very quickly moves into the heat. I think this is one that we're going to try here next year. Polar Baby is a 60 day red salad tomato. Red Robin. I've grown this one before, too. These are red cherry tomatoes. It's a 54 day tomato, and it's a pretty compact plant. Santium.
Karin Velez [00:15:57]:
This is a 60 day tomato also from OSU. This is a three to five ounce red slicing tomato developed in 1984. This is not to be confused with Santium Sunrise. That is a completely different tomato. It's an orange one, and I think that one's like 70 or 75 days. Sasha's Altai, 60 days. This is a mid sized red slicing tomato. Scotia Shoshoni.
Karin Velez [00:16:22]:
These are both 60 days red slicing. These are heirlooms. Siberia. Okay, we'll get that name there. So that one's good for the cold 50 days. It is a mid sized red slicing tomato that is also an heirloom. There is another variety out there called Siberian that is a completely different one. You're looking for Siberia silvery fur Tree and Sophie's Choice, both medium sized red slicing tomatoes, both heirlooms, around 54 to 55 days.
Karin Velez [00:16:53]:
Sugar Baby, this is a red salad tomato that is open pollinated, 54 days. And Tiny Tim. This one falls into the dwarf tomato category. It is a 50 day tomato. They generally only get to be about 18 inches tall, so they're really good for containers or balconies. These are red cherry tomatoes. You can also do these even in a hanging basket. And then finally, the last of the determinants is the Washington cherry.
Karin Velez [00:17:24]:
It's a 60 day tomato and it's 1oz. Red cherry tomato is also an open pollinated variety. A lot of these determinants are open pollinated or heirloom varieties. And then we have three semideterminate tomato varieties. So your determinants will produce the majority of their crop all at once within just a few weeks of each other. A semideterminate will have that initial determinate type flush of fruits and then take a little bit of a break, and then it will continue to produce sporadically after that. So if you're in an area, well, maybe we need it pretty quickly, but sometimes the weather is a little iffy and you might get away with a few more growing days, then this might be one that you want to try. The three that I found that mature in less than 60 days are Alaskan Fancy, which is a red salad tomato, and then Bellina, Leave and Glacier.
Karin Velez [00:18:27]:
Those are smaller red slicing tomatoes. They are all ready in 54 to 55 days. There are some other semideterminates out there that mature a little bit more slowly. Celebrity is one that is very popular, but I believe if I remember correctly, that's a 70 day tomato. So that might be a little bit too late for some of the areas that we're talking about. As we head into the summer heat, our garden plants may need a little help to get through. Now's the time I start using my bloom juice from Elm Dirt as a foliar spray in my garden for all my flowering and fruiting plants. Elm Dirt has a new code for friends of the podcast with a buy one, get one free offer.
Karin Velez [00:19:11]:
Just go to justgrossomethingpodcast.com dirt and use Code WolfCreek. All caps, all one word at checkout and get your second item of equal or lesser value for free. Justgrowsomethingpodcast.com dirt with Code WolfCreek. The link is in the show notes and then we're going to look at the indeterminate tomato varieties that start to produce in less than 60 days. But of course, these are indeterminates, so they're going to continue to produce until either it's too hot or they get killed off by a frost. Now these might be an option for you if your first frost dates in the fall are very unpredictable. You might decide to combine growing a few of the determinants and then a few of these indeterminates to get a kind of continuous set of fruit for as long as you can. For very hot climates, these might hang on for you through the summer, so they'll likely get their first flush of fruit and then pause during the hottest part of the season.
Karin Velez [00:20:20]:
But if you can keep them well watered and shaded in the afternoon, they'll likely pick up production again in the fall when the weather cools. Now, the other option for you is just to do one early set of determinants and then plant these indeterminates in the late summer so they can begin fruiting in the fall and can continue to produce until your first frost or the daylight hours drop below 10 hours per day. Now, if your goal in some of these plantings is to avoid pests and diseases, then the indeterminates are probably going to be the less likely pick for you because again, these are going to start producing and then just kind of produce continuously. So while you might get a harvest at the very beginning, if you are battling a lot of diseases, they are likely going to take these plants out before you can get really a full harvest. So in that instance, you likely want to stick with the determinate and the semideterminate plants. So these again are all indeterminate varieties that start producing in less than 60 days, with the exception of this first one. This is kind of my honorable mention just because it's one of my favorites. This is the black cherry tomato.
Karin Velez [00:21:30]:
It is a dark purple cherry tomato. It's an heirloom. It's technically 64 days or 65 days. But in my experience, it has been a very tough plant. It has produced under pretty adverse conditions for us here. So I wanted to include that on the list not to mention. The flavor is just phenomenal. It's one of my favorites.
Karin Velez [00:21:50]:
The next one is bloody Butcher. It's a 54 day tomato. It is a smallish red slicing tomato. Early Girl. So this is the indeterminate version of that bush, early Girl we talked about earlier. This is the kind of standard for fast producing indeterminate tomatoes. It's a 52 day tomato and these are decent sized, half pound red slicing tomatoes and they are a very consistent producer. This next one is another favorite of mine I discovered last year.
Karin Velez [00:22:25]:
It's Moskovich. This is a 60 day heirloom. These are medium sized red slicing tomatoes. These did phenomenally well for me later in the season. Last year I actually got them in late and I thought for some reason that they were a determinant and they were not. They were an indeterminate and they continued to produce and put boatloads of fruit on for me all the way through until frost again. Watching the names here, the name Moskvich in Russian loosely translates to a person living in Moscow. So this one was developed in the early 1970s at the Ni Vavalov Institute of Plant Industry in Moscow.
Karin Velez [00:23:04]:
So that tells you the conditions that it was bred for. So this one would do pretty well, I think, in just about anybody's garden. Northern Lights, that's a 55 day. It is a yellow and orange bi colored tomato. These are the biggest ones on this list out of any of the tomatoes. These are about a half pound to a full pound slicing tomato. So if you were looking for a big slicer and you were kind of disappointed by everything else on the list, this is your guy. Northern Lights, 55 days.
Karin Velez [00:23:37]:
That's pretty impressive for such a large tomato. The next one is Nova. This is a grape tomato. They are orange or reddish grape sized tomato. They produce in 60 days. stupis, which is a 55 day red slicing tomato, and then Zarnitza, which is a 60 day, slightly larger red slicing tomato. And those are both heirlooms. Now, there are plenty of other varieties out there that do mature in less than 70 days.
Karin Velez [00:24:09]:
So if your season is just a bit longer, those might be good options for you. But I like to err on the side of caution with these things because like we mentioned, the days to maturity could be longer for you if you're in an area with shorter daylight hours or you are farther from the equator and your daylight isn't as strong. So if your goal is fast maturing plants, then sticking with varieties that mature in less than 60 days from transplant I think is probably your best bet in order to get a good harvest. Now, I know that this was kind of like a laundry list of these varieties and so I will put an article out on the website this week that will list all of these different varieties. I will try to find links for you for where to find them. If you are not on the mailing list, our email list go to justgrowsomethingpodcast.com and if the box doesn't pop up for you, you can scroll right to the bottom to get on the email list. I send out these new articles every single Friday. Usually they are pertaining to something that we have just recently talked about, so it kind of further gets that idea into your brain in a different way so you've heard it and then you can read about it.
Karin Velez [00:25:23]:
And also I include a lot of links and stuff too in those articles to get you additional information. So until next time, my gardening friends. Keep on cultivating that dream garden and that dream tomato harvest and we'll talk again soon. You just finished another episode of the Just Grow Something podcast. For more information about today's topic, go to justgrowsomethingpodcast.com where you can find all the episodes, show notes, goals, courses, newsletter, sign up, and more. I'd also love for you to head to Facebook and join our gardening community in the Just Grow Something Gardening Friends Facebook group. Until next time, my gardening friends keep learning and keep growing.