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Old September 10, 2017   #1
MichelleInWASt
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Default Dwarf tomatoes/Pacific Northwest question

I'm a newbie this year and have managed to check off a truly impressive number of beginner's mistakes all in one growing season. (What can I say, I'm an overachiever! )

(No doubt I could have skipped making at least some of those mistakes firsthand if I had either found my way here sooner or found Epic Tomatoes sooner, but at least, tomatoes being the hardy critters they are, even with all of my mistakes we're still now awash in tomatoes.)

Anyway, having now learned about all of the fascinating new dwarf varieties, I'm wondering if it would make sense next year to focus mainly on those? I'm thinking that, if I did that, I could start them quite early and still be able to keep them indoors under the lights, without running out of space as I would doing the same thing with indeterminates, until the soil is warm enough to plant them out.

(For those not familiar with Pacific Northwest conditions -- our big issue here is a short growing season, which tends to limit people to mostly "early" varieties.)

So, the question for y'all here of far more experience and wisdom than I have: Is my reasoning sound? Is there a "poison pill" I'm missing as I contemplate this?

Thanks for your thoughts!

Last edited by MichelleInWASt; September 11, 2017 at 03:18 AM.
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Old September 10, 2017   #2
seasyde
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Hi Michelle,
I'm in Seattle, so not very far from you. I've grown dwarves last year and this. Last year I started them with the other tomatoes and they did just fine. This year I did as you propose and started them with the peppers. They got the benefit of an early start, without the problem of getting unwieldy.

As for our short season, I would like to grow early tomatoes, but the ones we like best are later varieties. . No matter, I grow them anyway and hope for the best. This year I'm growing dwarf Mr. Snow - one of the latest. It got a slow start (as did everything this year ) but grew into a beautiful plant with a good crop of tomatoes. I expect the first two to be ripe in the next couple of days! The only issue I've had with dwarves is that a couple of fruits have become overripe because I missed seeing them in the dense foliage!
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Old September 11, 2017   #3
MichelleInWASt
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Thanks, Seasyde -- good to know I'm not completely barking up the wrong tree!

Yeah, it seems all but universal that the best-tasting varieties are the later ones. I also see the occasional note on early or mid varieties that the early fruits are often bland, but they improve as the season progresses. I assume there's some relationship -- drier later in summer? Hotter?

Although I had a really strange experience this year with Jaune Flamme: It was actually the first tomato to ripen this year, and THAT tomato was terrific (albeit really small) -- but then subsequent tomatoes after that very first one were bland! I did conclude along in there somewhere that the the container plants (including that one) weren't getting enough water and stepped up the drip, so I assume that's why. But I will say that it made me realize that my quest to find "my favorite BLT variety" might not be as straightforward as I initially expected it to be, now that I know I can't really even compare, say, plants in containers vs. plants in the ground... LOL!
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Old September 11, 2017   #4
KarenO
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The season is not short at all here on Vancouver Island. All but the latest varieties should do well here in my opinion
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Old September 11, 2017   #5
LDiane
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The season is not short, but our nights are cool. So unless you buy seeds from
local sources, like Territorial, you have to add a lot of days to what the seed
packet promises.
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Old September 12, 2017   #6
zipcode
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Dwarves are rather susceptible to foliar diseases, so not sure they are that suited to that climate.
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Old September 12, 2017   #7
GrowingCoastal
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Depends on the year, I guess. This rainless summer was great for the three dwarfs I grew.
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Old September 12, 2017   #8
rwouhaybi
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Hello Michelle,
I am in Portland and I am able to grow many of the late varieties including Brandywine. This year was especially tough and for the first time I lost several plants. However, I will be picking today my first brandywine and I have been harvesting many others for at least 6 weeks. I do start early indoors though. In fact, the late varieties have been started this year on Dec 26th. First in small cell packs, then moved to into a typical 3 inch pot then again moved 8 weeks later into a gallon container. By the time they went outside they were large and supported. I will probably harvest at least 6 to 8 tomatoes per plant from these large slicers. In previous years, I harvested at least 15 per plant because our springs were not as harsh (we had hail in May!).
I love Jaune Flamme, but it is a smaller tomato. For the flavor comment, I think for me, I find that adding a bit of lime and epsom salt tends to help.
This is my first year growing dwarfs and they were not earlier than the regular varieties.
For early candidates for BLT, try something like Silvery Fir Tree if you haven't already. Also, Pink Berkeley Tie Dye tends to ripen early for me. Marmande this year was also early for me. You can also try protecting a couple of plants when planting outside. The trick is to offer them an environment where the temperatures don't drop below 50 at night in the spring to keep them going. Also, covering the soil with plastic (trying this for the first time this year) seemed to help a bit!

Good luck,
Rita
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Old September 13, 2017   #9
Nan_PA_6b
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Hi Michelle,

For a short season, have you tried Early Girl F1? It does have flavor and some folks like it. Rita above writes that she gets as many as 15 tomatoes from a Brandywine. Last year, my mom harvested 105 Early Girls from a single plant. Even if you get half as many as she did, that's 52 tomatoes. Even if they're only half the size of a brandywine, that's 26 brandywine-equivalent-size tomatoes. If they're not your favorites for flavor, they still cook up well & make tasty sauce & soup. Plus they have some disease tolerance for wilts.

Try one!

Nan
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Old September 15, 2017   #10
MichelleInWASt
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Wow - Thank you all so much for the terrific info and suggestions! Sounds like I should hedge my bets more than I had been going to. I really appreciate having the benefit of such great brains to pick, so that I don't have to make Every Single Humanly Possible Mistake all for myself!
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Old September 15, 2017   #11
Gardeneer
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I have gardened in Redmond, WA area for 4 years, in a place that I use to get about 5 hours of direct sun.
SHORT SEASON ?: if you take LFD and FFD as gauge, the season is not short at all ( mid April to mid November ). But as somebody has already mentioned (?) it is the cool temperatures that slows down quite a bit when it comes to growing tomatoes and pepper. The night lows stay in 50s until mid July, even though I used to plant in mid April. Come end of September it get cold again and the rain season begins, casing grey mold disease. Plus the tomatoes on the vines won't ripen. So that is a short warm weather crop season. But despite all that I manage to grow and harvest just about any variety that I wanted. But the amount of ripe tomatoes harvested was very limited in quantity and time span.
Don,t be misled by USDA zoning numbers. For example it is tha same (8a) in Seattle, Atlanta GA, Dallas TX and where I am at the southern Southeast tip of NC ( near Whiteville, NC).

DWARFS are not really early. Some of them are mid season at the best. Their advantage is requiring less garden space. Actually lots of them can be grown in 5-6 gallon containers.
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Old September 16, 2017   #12
GrowingCoastal
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As well with the dwarfs. Someone mentioned pruning out some of the very tight foliage and suckers to increase air circulation. I did that around the base but still lost two; one to mildew and one to grey mold - both Rosella Purples. I will grow it again as they were productive and very tasty, on the sweet side, a clear winner in a weekend taste test with family. It did have a lot of tomatoes with odd shapes. I am wondering if this is normal for the variety.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #13
NewWestGardener
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Seattle is probable a bit warmer than Vancouver. So you can pretty much grow any varieties.
Everything is fantastic this year because of the dry hot summer. Other milder years I've found that the black varieties do not taste as good as they do in other places with hot summers.
Indian Stripe is a very good variety for our climate. Early, productive, and tasty. Another bonus, the plants do not get too big.
Jaune Flamme produces really well here too, and beautiful. But they can be bland in some years.
Maglia Rosa can tolerate cold pretty well, and can be started very early as they do not get big, and they are fantastic.
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