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The 2020 Victory Garden growing great tomatoes


Growing tomatoes in Wyoming doesn’t have to be difficult or result in green tomatoes in October.

Tomatoes, like very warm soil to grow in, 65 degrees or warmer. The best way to achieve that is by using black plastic or black weed barrier fabric to cover the soil and keep it warm. Use a meat thermometer to take the soils temperature.

After you’ve prepared the soil with, either or all; peat moss, grass clippings, kitchen compost, or a slow release fertilizer like osmocote, but not manure. Place soaker hose or drip tape down next, this will go under the black fabric, not on top. Having the irrigation under the fabric helps conserve water, reduce weeds and keeps the water going to the roots and not on the leaves.

Lay-out your black plastic or black weed fabric. Lay out your irrigation lines under the fabric. Next; dig trenches along the edges of the fabric and bury the fabric edges with soil to hold the fabric in place and prevent it from blowing away.

Once you have the irrigation and black fabric in place, cut a 6 inch diameter hole next to your irrigation line. This is where you will plant your tomatoes. Tomatoes need generous spacing for growth and ease of harvest give them at least 3 feet between plants. You can use tomato cages or stake and attach them to the stake.

Like all vegetables tomatoes are not drought tolerant and want a consistent watering schedule. Using a garden water timer will make the watering chore much easier, more consistent, uses less water and gives you the opportunity to take off without worry. The best time to water a vegetable garden is mid to late morning when the plants have time to warm up. This also helps prevent tomato splitting and cracking later in the season. The length of watering time depends on your soil and weather. Plan on watering every other day, time of watering depends on the size of your garden.

Tomatoes can be planted the last week of May, be prepared to cover them when night temps drop below 45 degrees.

Do not over fertilize tomatoes especially with a high nitrogen fertilizer (the first number on a bag or box). Too much nitrogen will result in huge growth and a lot of green tomatoes, but few ripe ones. If you do fertilizer use something with a number combination like: 5-10-5 or 5-20-5.

The best tomatoes for success will be the smaller ones under 10 ounces. This, sadly, exclude the giant beefsteak tomatoes as our growing season it’s long enough for them. Our growing season can be as short as 90 days or as long as 120 days. The best way to get the tomatoes you want is to start them yourself. Look for tomatoes with a “harvest or matures in” under 80 days.

To figure out when to start, vegetable seeds, count backwards from the “harvest or matures in” number, add 7 to 14 day for seed germination, 14 days for the plant to reach transplant size and another 14 days for the plant to get over transplant shock and start growing. If you want ripe tomatoes mid-summer you need to start seeds early April with a transplant date in late May.

Some varieties of tomatoes that will do well here in Wyoming are: Bush Steak Hybrid 65 days, Orange Wellington 75 days, Celebrity Hybrid 70 days, Early Girl Hybrid 59 days, Sweet Tangerine Hybrid 68 days, Tasti-Lee 75 days, Mountain Merit 75 days, Katana 65 days, Glacier 55 days, Silver Fir Tree 55 days and many more. Additionally, almost all of the cherry tomatoes will be 70 days or less,

Some good seed catalogs to check out: Burpee, Johnny’s Select Seed, Territorial Seed, Park seed, Seed Savers Exchange, Baker Creek and many other.

Written by; Catherine Wissner, University of Wyoming Laramie County Extension Horticulturist. [email protected] or 307-633-4480.


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