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Kitchen Gardening

Winter Tomatoes?

I think I'm going to be sorry that I didn't use my Earthbox for this little experiment.

Like all winter tomatoes, 'Stupice' is an heiloom tomato plant that will produce until a hard frost.    Photo by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Yes, you read that right. There are those tomato plants that set extremely well with the cool weather and short days. Of course, the best zones to plant them in are the ones that either get very little in the way of freezes or none at all.Southern California would be perfect to grow these gems. Even here in the San Francisco Bay Area, our weather is surprisingly different than So Cal, but I’ve been meaning to give winter tomatoes a go.

I didn’t get around to getting any last fall, but I spotted them this year at a local nursery and had to try them. I chose a indeterminate, heirloom tomato called ‘Stupice’ that needs only a mere 55 – 62 days to bear harvestable fruit.

September is the optimal month around here for cool weather tomatoes, but as usual my timing is off and I decided to ignore the date. This time I was on the late side and planted it in the beginning of October. At least the plant was already about a foot tall.

The other thing to note about growing winter tomatoes is that at this time of year they actually perform better in containers as opposed to the garden bed. I’ll bet you can guess why. Exactly. Soil in a container has a much better chance of being warmed by the winter sun in a container as opposed to the garden bed. Although, if it was between a raised garden bed or flat ground, the raised bed would out-perform the ground. Always one to go about things in a less-than-optimal way, the Stupice ended up in my raised bed.

I think I’m going to be sorry that I didn’t use my Earthbox for this little experiment.

“Winter” tomato varieties to try are:

  • Paul Robeson
  • Northern Lights
  • San Francisco Fog
  • Jetsetter
  • Mule Team
  • Glacier
  • Stupice
  • Siberia
  • Silver Tree
  • Oregon Spring
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