Tomatoes are a warm season fruit. Choosing the right tomatoes to grow in Oregon is important. The shorter growing season and damp springs can make the harvest difficult. Choose plants that ripen in 60 to 70 days for best results. There are tomato varieties developed just for the Oregon climate. They are bred for crack resistance, short ripening time and the ability to ripen in the cooler weather.
Best Determinate Tomatoes
Determinate tomatoes ripen over a few weeks, and then stop developing. This is important when desiring a large harvest in a short time for preserving. There are some good determinate tomatoes for Oregon. The most notable newcomer is "Legend." This tomato ripens in two months on a sturdy disease resistant plant. The tomatoes are large, round and flavorful. It has three similar predecessors: "Oregon Spring," "Santiam" and "Siletz." All of these are good choices, but have smaller fruit, and are slightly less vigorous. They will ripen a few days later than "Legend." For many years the "Willamette" tomato has been an Oregon staple. This is for good reason since it is a reliable, dense, flavorful tomato. "Willamette" will take about 10 days longer to ripen than "Legend." All of these selections were developed at Oregon State University.
Best Indeterminate Tomatoes
Indeterminate tomatoes ripen a few at a time throughout the growing season. The plants are generally larger and need to be staked or supported. Plant some of these to have consistent fresh tomatoes all summer. Many people claim that the best flavored heirloom is the "Brandywine" tomato. It takes 85 days to ripen but does not deter the true tomato lover. It is a large sweet tomato that is so good it is usually eaten out of hand. Heirlooms have become increasingly popular in Oregon. Organic tomato plants and seeds are also in demand. Pair the "Brandywine" tomato plant with a proven early season tomato "Early Girl." This tomato will ripen in approximately 62 days. There are Oregon gardener's who will always plant a "Beefsteak" tomato regardless of the new varieties. This is one of the largest slicing tomatoes suited for the Oregon climate. It has an attractive smooth circular appearance and has proven to be reliable over many years.
Best Cherry Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are the first to ripen in Oregon, and will provide small sweet fruit all summer long. The yellow varieties are the sweetest and have gained in favor over the red. Three yellow cherries suitable for the climate are "Golden Cherry," "Golden Nugget" and "Sun Gold." Red cherries are still well loved and many gardener's plant one of each color. The variety "Sweet Baby Girl" appears to win out over the other reds for flavor. Another good red cherry is "Oregon Cherry." Cherries have a habit of cracking after a summer rain so those bred for Oregon are bred for crack resistance. An early grape tomato that has done well in Oregon is the "Honey Bunch Grape." Grape tomatoes ripen early like cherries, but have an oblong shape.
Growing Tomatoes in Oregon
There are ways to get a head start on the tomato season in Oregon. Tomatoes can be planted out between mid-May and the first week of June. Each year is different depending on the weather. Purchasing gallon-sized plants will assure you an earlier harvest. Many gardeners start seed indoors in February for robust plants by June. There are always larger nursery grown plants available at farmer's markets, and at garden centers. Loose rich soil that allows a deep root system will boost plant growth. Using cages for support will allow good sun exposure to all parts of the plant. Always plant tomatoes in full sun. Use a variety of plants that will ripen at different stages for a good supply of tomatoes.