Growing Tomatoes in Oregon: Varieties that Work
Tomatoes belong in vegetable gardens. Regardless of what else is planted, the gardens here in the Willamette Valley almost always have some type of tomato. In spite of this fruit’s popularity, the Northwest doesn’t really have the best climate for growing them. We have a relatively short growing season for tomatoes with moderate temperatures, which isn’t exactly ideal. This is why you want to get your tomato starts in the ground no later than early June. Whether you’re just getting started in the world of tomatoes or are looking to try out some new varieties, 2014 may prove to be a good year due to the early start in warm weather and the predictions for a hot summer. All Oregon Landscaping is an award-winning landscape design and installation team working throughout the Portland Metro Area and today, we are happy to provide advice for growing the best tomatoes in Oregon.
Choosing the Best Tomatoes for Your Garden
If you are just getting started, cherry tomatoes are a great way to test the waters. They come in different colors and sizes, bear early, and are a good choice if you have limited sun exposure. This doesn’t mean to plant them in the shade, they still need at least six hours of sunlight, but if you have limited space, you still have options. The yellow varieties like Golden Cherry and Sun Gold are well suited for the climate and are a little sweeter than their red counterparts, but if you want a good red try Oregon Red or Sweet Baby Girl.
For tomatoes that you wish to slice and eat fresh, try heirloom varieties for superior texture and flavor, such as Cherokee Purple. Heirlooms generally take longer to mature and ripen so choose ones with fewer days to maturity and get them in the ground as soon as possible. OSU (Oregon State University) has also developed several great varieties bred specifically for our climate that have great texture and flavor. Legend and Oregon Spring are two early producer hybrids that are fantastic eating tomatoes.
If you are looking to process/preserve tomatoes this year, be sure you have enough space with lots of sun for 5-10 plants. Look for tomatoes marked “determinate” because the fruit ripens during a short window, then stops producing. This gives you a larger harvest in a shorter time which is best for canning. Roma tomatoes are most often used for sauces, but if you want something a little easier to grow and maintain, Oregon Star and Oroma are two varieties that are excellent for sauces and pastes.
Other Varieties of Tomatoes Well-Suited For the Willamette Valley
- Super Sweet 100
- Yellow Pear
- Sweet Million
- Black Cherry
- Gold Nugget
- Early Girl
- Amish Paste
- San Marzano
- Viva Italia
While you can be successful with many types of tomatoes, certain varieties require less attention than others. It all depends on if you plan to preserve them, or just have some to eat fresh, how long they take to mature and how much sunlight they will get. Fortunately, because there are so many, it’s easy to find one or three that will suit your needs.
Heirloom Tomatoes by Monitorpop at English Wikipedia [CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
Cherry Tomatoes by Jon Sullivan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons