Who doesn’t love homegrown tomatoes? I think most of us do, and I’d say they are my favorite thing to grow. Every time I buy a tomato from the grocery store I tell myself it isn’t worth the bother and tell myself never do it again. But, there always comes a time I don’t have a garden, there’s red tomatoes at the store, and I cave in and buy them anyway. Even if they are organic and have a nice color, they’ll end up having no flavor. The first tomato I picked from the garden this year reminded me once again of the magnificent flavor of homegrown! It certainly is worth it to grow your own.
That said, I knew from the get-go that growing tomatoes at this elevation would be a challenge, and may not be productive. I’d heard that it is possible to grow tomatoes here with special care and extra warmth at night, so I planned ahead. They were planted in a bed that would be covered every night with plastic. On the coldest nights, frost cloth would also be laid over the tomatoes as a blanket for added warmth. Dark colored plastic bottles filled with water could soak up warmth from the sun during the day, to be released at night inside the plastic dome.
June 15th (approximate last frost date, the day I planned to transplant) to September 15th (first frost date) is 92 days, so the tomatoes I chose were listed with 65 days or less to maturity, and considered cold-hardy. I thought those would work well for us. I started them indoors, under lights, 6 weeks prior to transplanting outside. In my former garden, 6 weeks was plenty of time for my starts, and I felt that pushing to 8 or more weeks just made the plants taller and leggier—there was no advantage to starting them any earlier than 6 weeks, which made a good, healthy plant.
So, all that being said, I was a bit surprised that the first tomato wasn’t ready to eat until a full 79 days after transplant. That was only one tomato, 24 days after the 55-day estimate. I was able to harvest quite a few tomatoes, but September 23, the night before our first expected frost, we harvested the majority of the tomatoes, which were green to yellowish-green at the time. I was able to ripen many of them indoors, but some of the greenest ones just weren’t that great. The indoor ripening made them mealy and with little flavor (kind of like the ones you get at the store).
All of these tasted good, I would plant any of them again. One odd thing: the Glacier tomato was supposed to be red, but two of these plants ended up being yellow tomatoes—that was a surprise! Somehow I’ve lost most of the photos I took of tomatoes, but what you see here is what I have.
Tomatoes planted in the future will be grown in the greenhouse, even in the summer months. There, I will be able to start some earlier and others later, in succession, to keep a small supply on hand for several months. I won’t be planting large numbers of tomatoes for canning, but will only keep a few for eating fresh.