How to Grow Tomatoes on the North Coast
Helpful advice from one of our organic farmer friends about how to grow tomatoes under greenhouse plastic. This originally appeared on our Freshman Farmer blog when Eddie was starting out as an organic farmer, with our support.
by Eddie Tanner, DeepSeeded Community Farm, Arcata, CA
Here on the Humboldt coast, where summer high temps are in the 60s, the only reliable way to get good tomato harvests is in a greenhouse. So, knowing how popular tomatoes are, I put up two big 30’ x 96’ coldframes for the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants (I also use them to start seedlings and grow winter salads).
PREPARING THE BEDS
The upsides to greenhouse tomatoes are: 1. They actually produce on the coast, 2. I can get them in the ground nice and early, and 3. They keep producing into December, even without auxiliary heating or lighting.
RAKING THE BEDS
The downsides are: 1. Greenhouses are expensive, 2. It takes way more work to keep them healthy in this artificial environment, and 3. Even with these big greenhouses, I’m limited to just 260 plants if I want any room for peppers, etc.
LAYING OUT THE PLANTS
But it’s well worth it for the pleasure they bring to my CSA members. And with this in mind, I’m planting just heirloom and cherry varieties. Greenhouse varieties are more prolific and more disease resistant, but they just don’t have that great flavor that screams Farm-Ripe Tomato!
The varieties I’m growing this year are Sungold (cherry), Brandywine, Rose, Black, Delicious, Carmelita, Orange Strawberry, Cherokee Purple, Tigerella, and one more that I can’t think of right now.
WATERED IN AND READY TO GROW
When the plants get bigger, I hope to do a how-to video on coastal tomato growing, showing techniques for pruning, trellising, watering, ventilating, and fertilizing.
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