For years we didn’t even attempt to grow tomatoes because we thought it was impossible at our altitude and climate. We only have a 10-12 week growing season (last frost to first frost). During the summer months our average high is in the low 80s F, and we regularly get into the 40s F in the evenings. Tough climate for tomatoes.
But we slowly began to hear tips and ideas from this person or that person, and then we found some great tomato varieties from Russia and Eastern Europe, and suddenly we were harvesting tomatoes like crazy.
Last year we harvested 75 lbs of tomatoes from 31 plants. About 2.5 lbs per plant.
This year we harvested 183 lbs of tomatoes from 20 plants. About 9 lbs per plant.
So how do we do it?
We pick appropriate varieties, start them under lights, and harvest them before the first frost, even if they are green.
There are several varieties that we have found really do well in our climate:
- Independence Day
- Russian Red
- Russian Yellow
- Mother Russia
- Mt. Roma
We save the seeds from our first ripening tomatoes for each variety each year to use the next year.
Starting and Transplanting
We start the tomatoes indoors under lights in mid-March.
Then we transplant them out in the garden in Wall-O-Water plant protectors about 4 weeks before the average last frost.
Once the danger of frost has passed we remove the wall-o-waters.
Some tomatoes are able to ripen before our first frost, but not very many. There are a LOT of green tomatoes on each plant before the frost. We cut them off when we see that there is a chance for frost. We leave the vines on the tomatoes, and place them all one layer deep on tables in our basement.
Within a month they will all have ripened and we use them or can them.
It is such a blessing to be able to grow our own tomatoes now without a greenhouse! It just takes a different process than your average garden.