Tomatoes need time and heat to grow. A little extra care and mother natures help can yield some great crops if you like tomatoes.
Tomatoes should always be started inside or buy transplants in the spring – they are very inexpensive. After the last frost is a couple weeks gone and the temperatures are nice and warm, plant transplants either extra deep with only the top few leaves above the soil, or horizontally in a trench so that the soil covers most of the plant.
Tomatoes with throw out new roots from any part of the stem when buried (look for the hairs). The more roots, the sturdier they are and better they will grow.
Here in the northern areas pruning of the tomatoes becomes essential to both promoting tomato growth and ripening. Trimming sucker branches from the central main growing stalk can help with a successful crop. What you end up with at harvest time tend to be palm tree shaped plants.
Need to make your tomatoes ripen at the same time? Root pruning is a method I learned here specifically for tomatoes. Approximately two weeks or so before you want to harvest, slide a shovel blade to sever half of the horizontal roots from the main vertical plant. This will cause the plant to react by putting all its efforts into ripening its fruit.
Blanched, skinned and frozen.
Or just frozen in vacuum seal bags.
Days to Grow: 65 to 100 days
Spacing: 1 per square foot
Plant: 3 weeks after last frost
Gardening Shortcut Links
- North Hardy Plants to grow
- Pre-designed garden layouts
- Gardening Basics and Resources
- Seeds available at shop:
Stir fry Garden
Three Sisters (Corn, Pole Beans and Squash/Pumpkin)
The plants listed here are available at the physical shop located with the Nipigon River Bait Shop at 21 Second Street in Nipigon Ontario. Limited quantities are available, and all seeds are fresh and have been tested to grow here in NW Ontario.
- Pollock Tomatoes
- Cylindra Beets
- Butterwax beans
- Super sugar Snap Peas
- York Rutabaga
- Laurentian Rutabaga
- Purple Prince turnip
- Buttercup squash
- Spaghetti squash
- Warted green hubbard Squash
- Baby Blue Hubbard Squash
- Endeavor Squash
- Early butternut Squash
- Atlantic Giant Pumpkins
- Tromboncino Squash
- Russian Mammoth Sunflowers
- Carrots: Nantes
- Asian Green stirfry mix
Tomato plants transplant very well, as long as they receive enough sunshine, water and heat.
Tomatoes must be started indoors where I am at, with only a maximum of 100 days of growing, we can start them indoors as early as 8 weeks before the first frost. This will give me an effective growing season of 160 days. Tomatoes need the time.
Seeds are usually started by sprinkling on a sterile soil mix in a solid pan/plate/container. Then after the first true leaves appear, they are gently plucked out of the soil and replanted separately into individual containers. Then its just a matter of watering and giving them light and heat to grow until the frost is gone.
Once the new seedlings are 4-6 inches, replant them deeper into the pot up to the first set of true leaves. The tiny hairs on the stem will form new roots and will make for a much more rigorous plant. This can be done a couple of times during the seedling phase to make for a very healthy plant.
Pollock Tomato Seedling. with fine hairs.
Once tomatoes are ready to transplant, and once the risk of frost (2 weeks after last frost day) is gone and temperatures will support the tomatoes, its time to transplant.
Transplant by first digging a trench where you want the tomato plant to grow equal or a little longer than the tomato root bundle. Tomato plants are best planted horizontal or laying down. Once they are laying in the trenches, mound them with dirt. This allows for any buried stalk to form roots, as well as the entire root ball to form larger anchoring roots. It may look funny having your tomatoes laying down however they will very quickly turn up to get the best sunning angle. I have never grown a tomato without transplanting horizontally.
Square foot gardening rules calls for one tomato plant per 4 square feet. I think that value is based on a warm climate where the plants will meet their 1m-3m optimal size, however here they are lucky to break a meter in height. Here I grow them one per foot, which seems to be about the optimal use of space where I live.
Cherry tomatoes, which tend to vine aggressively, may need more space or, as I do, aggressive clipping and tying to a vertical support.
Here in the north, with a limited growing season, the main technique for getting tomatoes to vine ripen is pruning, pruning and more pruning. As the plants grow they shoot off main leaf branches, then between the main leaf branch and stem they produce sucker branches. Typically these will just take energy away from producing the fruit. I remove them as soon as I find them which allows as much energy into fruit production as possible.
Once you start pruning you have to make sure the plant is supported (cage, stake, netting) as they will become top heavy.
When the first flower pods appear, its usually safe to prune out all the branches below the flowering branch – this can be done gradually if you are worried about to few leaves all together. Pruning below the flowers promotes them to grow more which, now that they are flowering, will also have a higher percentage of flower branches. They will at times almost look like little palm trees. In addition lower branches will naturally turn yellow with age and these as well can be pruned out.
The last major prune occurs about a month before first frost date. Since at this time you want full energy into ripening fruit, pruning the apex bud (point where tomato plant grows vertically) thereby halting vertical growth of the plant. At this time you can also thin out the main leaves. All additional new flowering branches should also be clipped as they will not have a chance to ripen. Unless of course you want small green tomatoes. So now you should have a nice thinned out tomato plant with some nice fruit ripening.
In my opinion, the stress of all that pruning actually promotes the ripening off of tomatoes in a survival effort. Like using the plants own biological need for reproduction to drive the fruit ripening. The final step is of course a final pruning of the tomato plant. This final pruning occurs about 2 weeks before last frost date (or sooner if need be). Simply take a knife or small garden spade and prune the roots on one side of the tomato plant.
If you’ve planted the plants horizontally, simply visualize where the main root is underground. About 1 – 2 inches from where it is, sink the knife/spade parallel to along the length of the root; This effectively severs the side roots on one entire side of the main root. This will stress the plant but not kill it. This stress however seems to tell the plant to put as much energy as possible into ripening, and they do. I’ve always had problems with green tomatoes at the end of the season until I started the heavy pruning and with the edition of root pruning i can actually time when they will all ripen. Root pruned plants seem to take 1 to 2 weeks to ripen off however I’ve noticed a difference in a couple of days.
Climate: Tomatoes like warm to hot weather
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
SFG Spacing: 1 per square foot (locally acceptable for cold climate)
When to plant: 4-8 weeks prior to last frost indoors, transplant 2 weeks after last frost.
Soils: Deep loamy/sandy, loose, well drained
Germination: 5-10 days (above 22 degrees C)
Heirloom varieties (from wikipedia):
San Marzano, Brandywine Gardener’s Delight
Lollypop Cherokee purple Mortgage Lifter
Black Krim Amish Paste Aunt Ruby’s
German Green Big Rainbow Chocolate Cherry
Redcurrant Three Sisters
Some tomato terminology:
Determinate: Produce a full crop all at once. Good for storage and can be timed using root pruning to force ripening.
Indeterminate: Produce consistently over the life of the plant. Good for eating, salads and giving away/selling a small portion at a time.
Slicing tomatoes: Usually round, mod to large sized fruits. Indeterminate growth and ideal for eating/salads/etc. They tend not to be “mushy” when processed.
Paste tomatoes: Usually smaller plum/pear shaped tomatoes. Softer than the slicing tomatoes but perfect for canning for making of tomato sauce and pastes. Usually you want these to be a determinate variety, then use a root pruning method to allow for one large processing.
Cherry tomatoes: Always an indeterminate variety, small cherry/plum shaped. Usually sweet and soft skinned. perfect for snacking on or in salads.
Square Foot Gardening
Information and resources for square foot gardening here in NW Ontario.
Excel Garden Planner
An excel worksheet I developed to help plan and track my square foot gardening.
North Hardy Plants
Not all plants will grow here, but a lot will.
The following are additional resources and information as well as basic information for growing this and many other garden plants here in NW Ontario.
Square Foot Gardening Basics
High productivity, small area
About Garden Planning
Laying out your garden and pre-planning what to plant is best accomplished over the winter months. It gives you escape from the north winds, allows for ordering of seeds and allows you to put some time and effort into laying out your garden.
Since I use the square foot gardening method, I have created a garden planner using Microsoft excel. It allows you layout your garden using the cells in excel, then based on what plants you choose it will calculate planting/harvest times, potential yields, how many seeds you will need and more.
The Garden planner is provided as is, I can and will answer questions on using it and I have made videos on using it. I am hoping to have a full updated version ready for 2019 planning season.