Ready to plant tomatoes in Oregon? Here’s how to get the most from your garden – OregonLive

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6Tips for growing tomatoes in OregonBy Dennis Peck | For The Oregonian/OregonLiveWhen it comes to the “when” of planting tomatoes, the rule of thumb has always been this: Just wait until after Mother’s Day.But some who have been growing tomatoes in Oregon for years would add the following question to that: What’s your hurry?“Tomatoes want warm soil and warm nights,” said Milwaukie-based landscape designer Sarah Smith (thegardensmith.com), who also teaches do-it-yourself gardeners.Smith said she’s seen a growing interest in people growing their own food during the COVID-19 pandemic.“I think everyone is craving something bright and colorful on their plates,” she said. “I think that not being able to dine out has made people a little more adventurous in their cook-at-home food choices.”Tomatoes fare best when the nighttime temperature stays above 50 degrees, which can sometimes be an issue in the Northwest, and when the highs stay below 85, which is rarely a problem.It’s strictly up to the individual what kind of tomatoes they want to plant. In Oregon, cherry tomatoes (‘Sungold’ is considered the sweetest) are the easiest to grow and have the longest fruit-bearing season. ‘Stupice,’ with 3-6-ounce fruit, ‘Striped German,’ the favorite yellow, ‘Citrine,’ and the heirloom tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ all are growing in popularity.No matter the plant, the important part when buying them is that they appear healthy and green with no flowers. But whether you started your tomatoes in February from seeds or are buying starts from Uncle Wayne’s Tomatoes in Eagle Creek (350 varieties; unclewaynestomatoes.com) or the local supermarket or hardware store, the tips — in this case, courtesy of Smith — for getting the most out of each plant remain the same.And don’t forget, no matter how many salads you put them in, tomatoes are not a vegetable, even if they’re found in many veggie gardens.“Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable,” Uncle Wayne’s Carl Barney said. “Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.”Planting tipsBury your tomatoes at least halfway up the stem.Marcia Westcott PeckDon’t let tomatoes languish in a small pot. When the plants are seven to 10 inches tall, transplant them into a gallon-sized pot with bagged potting soil, setting them deep (pinch off the lower leaves) and covering the stem with soil.Transplant into the garden in late May or early June, again removing lower leaves and planting them deep. Uncle Wayne’s Barney says to plant them “as deep as you emotionally can.” More specifically, two-thirds of the stem should be in soil. Typically, plants are placed 2-3 feet apart to allow for good air flow.Fertilize at planting with a balanced organic fertilizer plus some calcium carbonate (lime) mixed into the planting hole, following the manufacturer’s instructions for how much to use. Once the plant is starting to set fruit, fertilize again by side dressing — placing fertilizer next to the plant, not directly over its roots.Consider removing the first few sets of blooms to allow the plant to put energy into growing strong before growing fruit.Most tomatoes do best with some support. Determinate or bush-type tomato plants will do well with a stake or a regular cone-shaped cage. Indeterminate tomatoes can grow huge, so they require strong support, heavy-duty cages or a trellis.As your tomato plants grow, trim off any foliage that touches the ground and mulch under the plants with compost, dried grass clippings, or straw.Water deeply once or twice a week as needed. A regular watering schedule will help the plant to take up nutrients, including calcium that will reduce the chances for blossom end rot.Save your plant tags or take photos of them. The information on the tag can help you to determine what color to harvest and you will know the name of the varieties that did well or failed.What not to doDon’t plant a giant growing tomato in a pot. If you must grow your tomatoes in a pot, choose a determinate or bush variety instead (Bush Early Girl, Bobcat, Containers Choice) and choose as big a pot as you have space for.Tomatoes need sun, but they don’t want to bake (especially those in pots) and appreciate some relief from the hot afternoon sun.Don’t plant a grafted tomato deep. Grafted tomatoes must be planted at the same level as they came to you from the nursery.Be wary of information found on online chat groups. The OSU Extension Service is a good source for science-based gardening information.Looking for more advice?— Dennis Peck, for The Oregonian/OregonLiveNote to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.
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