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Tips for Growing Tomatoes in Winter

If you live in a warmer zone, you may be able to grow tomatoes all year long

tomatoes in a bucket
Like all winter tomatoes, 'Stupice' is an heirloom tomato plant that will produce until a hard frost. Photo: 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 in SoCal, but I’ve been meaning to give winter tomatoes a go.

Check local nurseries for transplants built for cool weather

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

September is the optimal month for planting cool weather tomatoes. But my timing is sometimes off, and I decide to ignore that date. This year I was on the late side and planted my winter tomatoes at the beginning of October. At least the plant was already about a foot tall.

Plant your winter tomatoes in containers 

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. The soil  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 in-ground, the raised bed would outperform the ground. Always one to go about things in a less-than-optimal way, the ‘Stupice’ ended up in my raised bed.

A few great winter tomato varieties to try 

The following tomatoes ripen in a short amount of time (under 65 days to maturity).

  • ‘Paul Robeson’
  • ‘Northern Lights’
  • ‘San Francisco Fog’
  • ‘Jetsetter’
  • ‘Mule Team’
  • ‘Glacier’
  • ‘Stupice’
  • ‘Siberia’
  • ‘Silver Tree’
  • ‘Oregon Spring’
Previous: Get to Know Heirloom Tomatoes Next: Growing Tomatoes in the Heat of Summer
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Fruits and Vegetables

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Cool-Season Crops
Warm-Season Crops