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Growing Tomatoes Successfully Despite Cold Temperatures and Rain

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You can have success growing tomatoes in cold wet weather.

Even if you’re growing tomatoes in cold wet weather, it is possible harvest great fruit. But, it may require some extra careful gardening practices. And, you may need to choose tomatoes cultivated for shorter climates like Seattle tomato growers have learned to love.

Growing tomatoes in cold weather is possible as this harvest shows

First, choose the right tomatoes for your cold, wet climate.

Picking up any old tomato plant for short season, cold, wet weather gardening just isn’t going to work out. Fortunately, we’ve put together a list of the best tomatoes we’ve found for cold, wet weather.

Once you’ve chosen the right plants, it’s time to plan your growing season.

For your best luck with tomatoes, you may need to start them from seed. That’s because it isn’t always easy to find starts of the best tomatoes for cool season climates. And, that’s going to mean starting early. So, you’ll likely also be potting up your plants several times. And, you may have to do multiple succession seedings.

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September: Heat-catching hoops are well vented to produce ripe tomatoes

How to keep your tomato plants healthy, dry & warm.

Keeping your tomatoes protected from rain is very important. And, this is especially true when you’re growing in cooler climates. That’s because blight loves to attack tomatoes that are wet and cold. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to do this.

  • First, if you have a greenhouse. Use it for growing tomatoes in cold wet weather!
  • But if you don’t have a greenhouse, consider trying other season extending tools like DIY hoop houses.
  • By putting these tools to work, you’ll be able to build heat.
  • And you’ll be able to keep the rain off the tomato top growth.
  • However, you’ll also need to keep air flow passing through your plants.
  • And you’ll need to be sure you don’t overheat them on sunny days.
  • Moreover, you’ll need to be sure to water the plant roots.
  • But, try not to splash water on the top growth when you water.
  • That’s because splashing muddy water can lead to disease issues.

Try our timeline for growing tomatoes in cold wet weather!

It’s important to remember that every growing season is going to be different. And, that means what works one year for growing  tomatoes may not work the next year. But, if you follow our rough timeline, like us, you may have great success growing tomatoes in cold wet weather garden zones.

  • As early as February or as late as April: Sow your tomatoes seeds to begin growing indoors.
  • Later in April & May: Transplant seedlings into larger containers and begin hardening them off to live outside in a greenhouse or cold frame until temperatures rise.
  • And by June: Transplant tomatoes into a full sun location where you haven’t grown tomatoes in the past several years. And, protect the plants from rainfall with hoop houses or other heat building systems.  But, be sure to leave a few inches at bottom or ends of the tunnels to allow for airflow.
  • Once July arrives: Diligently open the tunnels on hot days. And, close the tunnels on cold wet days. That’s because you don’t want to over heat the plants. And, you need pollinators to visit your flowering tomato plants. But, if it rains, you want to keep the plants dry. And, sometimes when you’re growing tomatoes in cold wet weather locations, this weather pattern can even show up in summer. However, you’re probably also starting to snack on some tomatoes by now too.
  • Then in August: Continue your July chores. And, by now, you may be pruning your tomatoes as well. That’s because a lot of thick green growth may lead to more disease issues. And, it may mean less fruits to harvest too. And, by August, you’re probably gathering tomatoes to eat from your plants.
  • When it’s September & October: Continue your July and August care practices. But, you may also want to tip out the plants. And cut out late suckers. Plus, it’s time to remove any new flowers. That’s because late flowers have very little chance of forming viable fruit this year. As well, by late September, remove any tiny fruits. That’s because they won’t have time to grow big before the season ends. Moreover, it’s important to have your plants protected from rain and cold. So close up your plastic hoops and keep those plants dry before the damp season returns. Otherwise, you may be in for a batch of late blight before your last tomatoes ripen. And, of course, harvest your crop!
  • Finally in October & November: Be sure to remove and dispose of your plants. That’s because allowing them to overwinter will increase the likelihood you’re growing tomato diseases in your garden.

11 comments on “Growing Tomatoes Successfully Despite Cold Temperatures and Rain

  1. Elaine on

    I just noticed that my Sungold cherry tomatoes have started to set! I’m growing them in containers alongside the south-side of my house.

  2. the inadvertent farmer on

    This is of course the year that I chose to grow 72 tomato plants in a new area of my garden. I did them in raised rows with the ground covered with plastic. There are just too many for me to do hoop houses as per my usual. I’m just praying that they will survive this spring along with doing daily sun-dances! Kim

  3. Sustainable Eats on

    I started mine under plastic but I removed it in mid May when I planted out the peppers and basil and they needed protection. Mine are thriving with no cover because of some other measures I’ve taken.

    1. Raised beds with gravel surrounding – provides good drainage and retained heat (think hot rock massage)
    2. Red plastic mulch covering the ground
    3. Metal roofing material 24″ tall inside the raised beds keeps the rats out but also has the added benefit of absorbing heat and reflecting the sun’s rays, the red from the ground cover and the heat from the north and east sides of the tomatoes. It’s worked so well, in fact, that I already have tomatoes turning red on my 4th of July but also have tomotoes on stupice, sweet 100, brandwine, san marzano, cherokee purple and jaune flamme that I started from seed in mid February indoors.

    I couldn’t be happier about the tomatoes this year – they are going crazier than the potatoes despite this crummy weather!

  4. Shauna on

    I am also in Seattle and have been trying to grow Juanne Flam and Purple cherokee tomatoes. The plants look big and healthy, but have failed to produce fruit yet…..My Juanne Flam has flowered, yet no tomatoes have formed. The purple cherokee has yet to flower. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  5. rhaglund on

    Have the flowers simply closed and fallen off or are they blooming and just need a pollinator? Also, what are you doing for fertilization? Too much nitrogen can cause the plants to put on a lot of green growth but can also keep them from producing as many flowers &/or fruit. You may need to adjust to maximize your production.

    Try putting the blooming plants near plants that attract bees. Thyme, borage, lavender and many annuals bloom at the same time as tomatoes and can help lure in the pollinators to do the work. Bumblebees do most of the tomato pollinating, so definitely attract those.

    Another trick is to put them somewhere you get a good breeze (not wind). Tomatoes can set fruit when breezes blow the pollen around. Some cultivars are harder to get fruit set on than others. Purple cherokees tend to set fairly well. I’m not familiar with the Juanne Flam.

    Good luck!

  6. Sustainable Eats on

    Shauna, those are later varieties and we’ve had a BAD tomato year so don’t be disheartened. I started mine from seed end of January and I don’t have any of those varieties ripe yet, and all the tomatoes on them are tiny. I even have other measures that caused our tomatoes to ripen early this year, we have been eating the 4th of July tomatoes since end of June.

    Last year even though we had an unusually warm and early year for tomatoes my purple Cherokees were the last to ripen. Just keep them in fish fertilizer and it will happen.

  7. doreet on

    thanks, all; I have just returned to Eugene, Oregon, (I am a native, worked in California for many years) and I am very frustrated trying to grow anything here, again,to the point of depression.

    We did not have any summer, at all, last year, it was the coldest on record; everything rotted,molded, cause there was no sun,no heat,in July.All summer it was cold, rain,no sun,no heat, we had ALASKA FOR SUMMER. iT Gets worse every year here, everyone will have to grow anything INSIDE greenhouses, or the house. Farmers all having bad year, like last year,it will destroy all farming here. World Climate Change has hit; it also hit California, the same, my sister told me, from there. Tomatoes ? I cannot grow anything here, much less tomatoes.

  8. Judy on

    I’m also trying to grow tomatoes in this wet, cold summer we’re having in the Seattle area. I made a big mistake and built a small hoop house using clear plastic from Home Depot. The plastic continually has condensation–big drops of water all over that drip down on my tomatoes. As cold as it is today, I’m going to remove the plastic because tomatoes are not supposed to be wet all the time. I have opened the ends and provided some ventilation, but this does not work. There is still condensation. I also have a couple of determinate tomatoes growing in large pots. I put plastic over their tomato cages also, and the condensation is really extreme with these plants.

    Any advice? Can I used some sort of row cover instead of plastic?

  9. Garden Mentors on


    Thanks for writing in. A few thoughts:

  10. Change out the clear plastic for something semi-opaque, which will filter the sunlight more than just intensify it, which can fry your plants.
  11. Try taking a hole punch to the plastic and add in some ventilation that way.
  12. Not only ventilate from the ends of the hoop house, but also open the base of the hoop house a few inches, which will help pull air through the space
  13. Reduce watering significantly. If you’re getting that much condensation, it may be that you’re adding too much water into the system itself.
  14. Certainly, you can switch to using row cover instead of plastic. This won’t keep as much moisture off the plants & it won’t increase heat as much, but it can help just a little bit.
  15. Good luck!

  16. Paulo on

    No, I still can’t do tomatoes here in Iceland. They grow very slowly and set flower but no fruit yet,

    What are the summer temperatures of you guys?

    Mines are lows 45ºF, Highs 56ºF, often rain. And I am trying with siberian tomatoes.

  17. Garden Mentors on

    Paulo, Although we have relatively cool (for the US) summers, we do get long days that can get very warm during the day (even breaking 100F at times). Your best bet is probably going to be varieties like ‘Siberia’, which can apparently set fruit even in cold temperatures. Growing determinants, which don’t put excessive energy into green growth, may be a good way to go too. They get to one size, set fruit and that’s about it. They’re good for short season locations. Good luck & let us know how well your tomatoes turn out!

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