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How to Grow Front Yard Tomatoes that Ripen even in a Record Cold Summer

April 04, 2012
June: Tomatoes Transplanted & Protected in Hellstrip

June: Tomatoes Transplanted & Protected in Hellstrip

Got questions about how to grow tomatoes successfully?

Here’s a timeline we put together to help you grow your way to a bumper-crop of these delicious nightshades. Time to get growing now!


(The following was originally posted 9/21/2010)

This afternoon I enjoyed lunch on my patio in the sun. I watched the honeybees visiting late bloomers as I gobbled up a sandwich and soaked up some much needed daylight. Then, of course, I had to take a stroll through my garden to see what’s what.

At this point most of my summer veggie crops are pretty much kaput. I am letting my runner beans fatten up for drying. A few chard continue to produce as do a couple of cucumbers, beets, yellow wax beans, zucchini and some sad corn. Really, it’s all about the tomato crop this year. And, honestly that’s kind of surprising given how cool and wet it’s been. Then again, with just a little extra care, several of the right kinds of plants and some luck against blight, its pretty apparent Seattlites really can enjoy a decent tomato harvest.

July: Tiny-looking Tomatoes Thriving in the Heat

July: Tiny-looking Tomatoes Thriving in the Heat

Here’s the rundown:

  • March: Seeded tomatoes into sterile mix. Grew them on without supplemental light or heat in unheated greenhouse.
  • April & May: Potted tomato seedlings into 4″ and 1 gallon containers, keeping them in the greenhouse and cold frame. Fertilize with slow release, natural organic.
  • June: Transplanted tomatoes into parking strip / Hellstrip. Buried stems deeply in shallow trenches. Installed square cages. Covered cages with plastic to continue greenhouse effect, leaving a few inches at bottom of cages exposed to allow for airflow. Fertilize with slow release, natural organic.
  • July: Removed plastic wrapping from tomatoes. Trimmed tomatoes multiple times. Encouraged volunteer borage to go crazy among tomatoes. Bees love it. Bees visit borage and then tomatoes — honeybees as well as bumblebees!
  • August: Continue trimming out tomatoes. Water as needed. Fertilize for final time.

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

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

  • September: Tip out plants. Thin out any late suckers. Cut out all new flowers, which have zero chance of forming viable fruit this year. With hold fertilizer. Replace plastic, using hoop houses now that plants are large. Don’t cover completely as airflow is critical to keep out blight and to allow water to reach roots with minimal splashing on plants. Check regularly for any fungal infections. Remove and dispose of any immediately. Harvest every few days & preserve & EAT!

Next year this strip won’t be used for tomatoes. Gotta think crop rotation, right? Last year it was corn, squash and beans. Next year I’m thinking a field of edamame may be in order!

Need help planning ahead for next year? Get in touch with Garden Mentors to set up your edible garden consultation now. Believe it or not, its never too soon to get started!

Mid-September: A Bounty of Garden Tomatoes

Mid-September: A Bounty of Garden Tomatoes

Tonight I look forward to another large harvest of mixed Peron, Saucy Paste, Oregon Springs, Sweetie and Late Keeper Tomatoes. Likely, after harvest, I’ll be preserving yet another large batch like this one. The question is: do I make soup, marinara or just chunk them up for any number of fantastic winter meals. Or maybe, we’ll just eat a huge salad of them instead!

If you had this mountain of tomatoes to ponder, what recipe would be first on your list? Although I have any number of ideas, I welcome your input and look forward to new recipes! Remember: we have a mix of slicers and paste tomatoes going this year, so be creative and inspire us!


  1. Patty Hicks says:

    Great info! I am going to share this with a group I have worked with to teach them more on gardening and growing their own food. Loved the detail and that it was simply put.

  2. rhaglund says:

    Thanks Patty. Always glad to help!

  3. […] the past weeks and months, I’ve shared quite a bit of information about why I think the tomatoes have produced so well. One reason: my plants were grown from seed. […]

  4. Laura says:

    Very impressive, and great tips to keep in mind for next year! I’m in Renton and got quite a few cherry tomatoes but not a single slicer or heirloom variety this year. Maybe next year, if I follow your tips, I’ll have more success even if it is cold and wet again!

  5. […] year I offered up this harvest season post outlining my tomato growing timeline. In a year when few had great tomato growing — and […]

  6. […] ugly hoop should, I hope, help me produce another great crop of tomatoes and other veggies. Last year’s tomato hoop houses were an extraordinarily huge success. We’re still enjoying tomatoes from that harvest! Since we do practice crop rotation, the […]

  7. […] help figuring out how to help how to help your tomatoes through a cool, wet season? Read more here! var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname="Hope for the Tomatoes"; […]

  8. […] managed to fine-tune our tomato growing techniques to produce even in the coolest summers. Details on tomato tricks here. Potatoes seem to perform pretty darn well so long as they aren’t planted and left to rot in […]

  9. […] growing season. In fact, that’s exactly what they’ve been bred to do. Following our month-by-month care guide may help as […]

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