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Plant Cool Season Tomatoes Now

Did you know there are cool season tomatoes that will bear fruit in mild-winter or frost-free areas in California? Known as cool-season tomatoes, these hardy plants can be planted in late summer for tomato crops in November and in some mild-winter regions harvest tomatoes as late as December and January! For those who live in the more frigid climates of northern California or the Pacific Northwest, you can plant these varieties in spring when the danger of frost is over (or if you have a heated greenhouse). Since most of these tomato varieties are immigrants from chillier places in the world such as Russia, Czechoslovakia and Canada, they are capable of bearing flowers and fruit in temperatures as low as 38° F.

The secret to successfully growing these cool-season miracles is to plant them during the warmer months in full sun. It may seem counter-intuitive to do so, but planting them in late summer will give them time to establish vigorous root systems and lush foliage as a protective “overcoat” in order to produce fruit during the cooler fall and winter months.

Although many of the selections are indeterminate, needing at least 15-gallon-sized containers (black plastic works best with drainage holes at the bottom) or lots of room in a vegetable bed supported by 5-6 foot tall tomato cages (or bamboo poles or stakes), a few are determinate plants that fit nicely in smaller containers for patios or more limited garden spaces. The following varieties can be found at your local garden center or through seed companies.