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Varieties of Early Tomatoes

How To Grow Fast Tomatoes in a Container
Part 1 & Part 2

2009 Growing Journal: Early Girl Tomato vs. Jetsetter Tomato

2010 Growing Journal Start Page:

- Siberian Tomato vs Stupice Tomato

- Bloody Butcher vs Gregori's Altai Tomato

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So, you want to grow faster tomatoes?

Growing tomatoes can be a little like a child waiting for Santa Claus to come on Christmas Day. It can be P A I N F U L L Y slow. In fact, it's probably worse than waiting for Christmas, since it takes 6 to 8 weeks to get a seedling ready to transplant as a starter, and then it takes 2 to 3 months after that to get a tomato. That's longer than waiting to open presents on Christmas!

Fortunately, Early Season Tomatoes are available to home gardeners to take some of that edge off the wait. Early season tomatoes generally mature in 65 days or less, faster than the mid and late season varities. Although smaller, many early season tomatoes can still be a respectable size while taste and quality is not sacrificed.

Besides satisfying the demands of impatient tomato gardeners all over the world, early tomatoes serve some practical purposes.

Early Season Tomatoes

 

 

 

 

  Cold Weather Growing Seasons: Two of the fastest growing heirloom tomatoes come from a famously cold place, the Siberia and Siberian. These small tomatoes mature in 48 to 55 and 55 to 60 days respectively. In these type of locales, the cold weather cuts the growing season down to a mere 90 to 120 frost free days in some places. That's not much time to grow a tomato. Therefore, lots of time and effort were put in to developing cultivars that would mature faster, set fruit at low temperatures and under harsh growing conditions.

Many other famous early season tomato cultivars can trace their roots back to cold weather climates. They include the Glacier Heirloom (Sweden), Stupice (Czechoslovakia), Manitoba (Canada) as well as the Oregon Spring and New Yorker (United States). And another famous cold weather early season tomato is the Sub Arctic cultivars with a history that goes back to a research station in Alberta, Canada, and a reputation for having been growin in the Southern Yukon - a cold place. In fact, it was developed during WW2 in the 1940s in order to supply US Air Forcer personnel station in Greenland with fresh vegetables. Tulsa Drywall Services

Tomatoes for cold weather short growing season climates are quite popular in Northern states and countries with a reputation for cold weather. In New England, the growing season can be as short as 120 to 180 days with an average of 150 and frosts coming as late as June in some high altitude areas. Over to the West, in the mountainous area of Northern and Central Idaho, the growing season can be as short as 90 to 150 days in the low lying areas. In the Midwestern state of South Dakota, the growing season is also a short 100 to 150 days, with killing frosts coming as late as May.

However, in Oklahoma, where I live, we enjoy a fairly long season of 168 to 238 days. I am in the area where it is 238 days. :-) - Despite this positive factor, the hot weather here causes a different set of problems for tomato growers.

Hot Weather Climates: The ideal growing temperatures to produce tomato blooms and fruits is 75 to 85 degrees, (24 to 29.5 degrees Celsious). Temperatures 85 to 95 degrees (29.5 to 35) are - okay, but are starting to get into the too high region. However, once the temperatures get above 95 - and stay there for a few days - things will start to go down hill for your tomato plant pretty fast. In that higher temperature range, the blooms will fall off before they have a chance to produce a tomato. Any tomato that does happen to make it out of the bloom despite the high temperatures has a good chance of cracking under the Sun's heat.

There are some actions you can take to protect your tomato at this point. Hopefully, you planted it as deep as you possibly could. Second, you can water it at the base more often. (Never water the leaves, water at the base only). Third, you can lay down a mulch around the base to lock in the moisture and keep the roots cooler. You want to keep the temperature for those roots cooler than the outside temperatures. If you are growing your early season tomatoes in a bucket or container, this means watering more often than you would if they were in the ground or a raised bed garden. This year, I opted to lay down a white quartz river rock mulch which has worked extremely well in retaining moisture and keeping the soil temperatures cool. Read about it in my 2009 journal. [From seed to ripe tomatoes in 105 days.]

If you live in the Southern hotter states, or in Arizona, New Mexico or Nevada, careful selection of which cultivar to grow can be invaluable in getting a respectable tomato crop. For instance, you can choose one of the heirloom tomato varities for hot climates such as: Arkansas Traveler, Marion, and

 

Mule Team, or one of the famous Florida Hybrids such as the Spitfire, Sun Leaper, Sunmaster, Solar Set, Solar Fire and Heatwave. Although seed sellers claim these Florida Hybrids taste great, some reports on the internet by growers do not confirm this claim. Personally, I don't know. I'll try growing some hot weather tomatoes next year and report back. (The heirlooms have a good reputation for flavor though, especially the Arkansas Traveler which is popular).

For 2009, to get around the heat problem, I opted to grow and compare two early season varities: The quite famous Early Girl Tomato (52 to 62 days) and the fairly new Jetsetter Tomato (64 days). Our last frost free day averages April 1st, much - much earlier than the Northern states, so I am able to transplant my tomatoes around April 15. This year, from April 10 to 20th, I acclimated my tomato starters outside during the day, and brought them in at night. By April 20th, they were planted and by June 1st, they had begun producing fruit. See my 2009 growing journal for more information. By June 15th, the Early Girls were averaging 5 to 9 fruits per plant and the Jetsetter two fruits per plant.

The temperatures will start to increase dramatically after the 4th of July and stay high until August. Therefore, I will have to fight hard to keep my tomatoes cool. (I was wrong about all this, read my journal).

One interesting point that you will read in the 2009 journal is that my early season tomatoes, although planted 6.5 weeks AFTER my later season Brandywine's and Beefsteaks, quickly shot past those older tomatoes in both height and size - despite the age difference.

Have it both ways: You might be starting to think, "Wouldn't it be nice if they had a hot climate AND early season tomato I could grow? That way, I could kill two tomatoes with one stone." Well, they do have a couple of tomatoes like that. The Bloody Butcher is a fair producer of 2-inch 3-4 ounce fruits on a compact indeterminate vine in only 55 days. It is fairly resistant to hot weather and produces good tasting tomatoes.

Another early season tomato that has high heat resistance is the Gregori's Altai, which is also heavy producer of pinkish-red beefsteak style tomatoes up to 8 ounces.

The Porter is a 4 ounce, deep red tomato that matures in 65 to 75 days (variance of opinion on days), is resistant to cracking and sunburn, and does well in hot temperatures. The Super Sioux matures in 70 days, and is technically not an Early Season tomato, but it does mature faster than many of the other heat tolerant varities. It's an old time favorite heirloom that produces 4 ounce fruits on indeterminate vines and is worth trying if you are aiming for both benefits.

How can I speed it up more? So you have chosen your cultivars of early season tomatoes and you want to know "how can I grow my tomatoes even faster?"

Well, there are a few key points you have to remember, and follow, if you want faster growing tomatoes. These are simple rules that must be followed since at the very least, you don't want to do anything that will slow down your tomato growth.

First off, if you have started your seedlings indoors between Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's day (which is when you should have started them), then you have to keep that seedling either in front of a Sunny window, or under a grow light. Here in Oklahoma, the Sunlight is adequate during the Spring months for my tomato seedlings. I recently ran an experiment with one seedling directly in the window and Sunlight, and another about 2 feet away from the window, and out of the direct Sunlight. The difference was amazing. At about 4 weeks, the direct light seedling was 5 to 6 inches tall. The one away from the window was only 2 to 3 inches tall. That's quite a difference and shows you how important Sunlight is on a young tomato.

The three other important factors you want to have present is highly rich composted soil. Never grow your tomatoes in plain top soil. That's just not good enough and you will be very disappointed with the results. Just as important, you definitely need to mix in a large cup of garden lime, or crushed eggshells, in your container, or ground garden hole. Either one provides much needed calcium which will prevent blossom rot - a problem in tomatoes that tend to grow too fast.

Second, you need to pray for lots of Spring rain. In 2009, for a 2.5 week period during late April, it rained nearly every day in Tulsa, OK, - and I'm glad it did. Our young tomatoes shot up like they were on steroids. Rainwater is always better than gardenhose water. Old time gardners will actually put empty buckets and containers outside during Spring rainy days to catch extra rainwater to use for their plants. If you don't happen to get enough or a lot of rain after your transplanting, you can try faking it by making a compost tea.

Finally, fertilizing with organic fertilizer or tomato food won't hurt either. I usually put some in the hole when I first transplant my tomatoes, and follow up once a week with "tomato food," a fertilizer sold specifically for tomatoes under the common noun of "tomato food."

Timing, Sun, Rain, Composted Soil with Calcium, Rock Mulch, Watering, Guarding

There are a lot of products and gimmicks on the internet which promise to grow tomatoes faster, but I am skeptical and dismissive of them. First of all, my philosophy is if I can't grow it the way the old timers did, than I need to be doing something else. Second, if this recession gets worse and turns into grow your own food for survival situation, do I really want to be dependant on a bunch of gimmicky products when the chips are down? Now, I will admit that I am considering buying some Bloom Spray this year, to keep my blooms going when the temp's are too hot, but this is mostly an attempt to salvage tomato production when the temp's are too high - not something one uses to grow tomatoes faster.

Early Season Tomato Yield Averages: Some often asked questions about tomato growing is, how many pounds of tomatoes will I get from each plant? - First off, let's not count our chickens before they hatch, or our tomatoes before they come out of the bloom. This will largely depend on the growing conditions, soil, watering and temperatures. However, in a March 2006 report from the Alaska Agricultural and Forestry Experiment station, production yields for some early season tomato varities were taken and averaged together for a 3 year period that included 2001, 2002 and 2004. Their results on the average yields per cultivar/plant included:

Cultivar Avg. Yield Mean Wt/Plant Avg. Fruit Size
Glacier 4.2 lbs 1.9 oz
Prairie Fire 4.3 lbs 4.3 oz
Stupice 3.2 lbs 2.1 oz
Sub-Arctic 25 4.0 lbs 1.4 oz

Source: Alaska Agricultural and Forestry

These 4 varities are discussed in greater detail here.

If you are interested in Roma Tomatoes for paste and sauces, please check out our sister websites, Roma-Tomato.com or San Marzano Tomatoes (link opens New Window).

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