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Quick Garden Tips

  • Plant tomatoes outside as small plants (called “starts”) when the soil temperature is at least 55 degrees F and nighttime temperatures are above 45 degrees F.
  • For best results, choose sturdy tomato starts that are short and dark green. Avoid starts that are leggy (tall and floppy), yellow or have started flowering.
  • Plant the starts deeper than the pot they were grown in, with only a few sets of leaves showing above the soil.
  • Add an all-purpose fertilizer in the bottom of the planting hole at planting time and around the plant about every 3 weeks until tomatoes ripen. Follow directions on the fertilizer container.
  • Most tomatoes need extra support. Provide a sturdy tomato cage, stake or trellis at planting time.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist until tomatoes appear, then water deeply 1 or 2 times a week.

Season and Location

  • Tomatoes need at least 8 hours of direct sun each day.

Growing Pattern

Often listed on the plant or seed label.

  • Determinant: bushy plants need less support; tomatoes ripen at about the same time. Can be grown in containers or in the ground.
  • Indeterminant: taller, wider plants must have support; tomatoes ripen over a longer season. Better for growing in the ground.

Container Gardening

  • Choose a determinate type with smaller sized tomatoes.
  • Plant one tomato in at least a 5-gallon container. Larger containers allow for a bigger harvest.
  • Requires frequent and even watering.

Key Pests and Diseases

  • Tomato hornworm: pick off worms
  • Aphids: hose off with water
  • Blossom end rot: mulch plants and keep soil moisture even. Some varieties, such as Roma, are more prone to this condition, so choose other varieties if it is a problem in your garden.

When to Plant and Harvest Tomatoes in Oregon

  • Central and Eastern: Plant seeds indoors early March. Plant May through early June to harvest July through September.
  • Willamette Valley: Plant seeds indoors late February through early March. Plant late April through May to harvest July through September.
  • Coast: Plant seeds indoors early March. Plant May through June to harvest July through August.

chart showing when to plant and harvest tomatoes in Oregon for each of 3 regions

Recommended Types to Grow

There are over 4,000 tomato types in many colors, shapes and sizes!

  • Small fruited/cherry: Chocolate Cherry, Juliet, Sungold, SunSugar, Sweet Million
  • Slicer/Early: Oregon Spring
  • Slicer/Mid season: Carmello, Celebrity, Fantastic
  • Slicer/heirloom: Black Krim, Brandywine, Cosmonaut Volkov, Green Zebra
  • Paste: San Marzano
  • Container: Early Girl, Patio, Gold Nugget, Red Robin, Little Napoli

When and How to Harvest 

  • Harvest tomatoes before they are completely ripe. Twist tomatoes off the vine or cut the stem with clippers or scissors to avoid hurting the plant.
  • Unripe tomatoes that are starting to turn color can be taken indoors to ripen. Harvest these tomatoes when outdoor temperatures go below 50 degrees F.

Storage and Cooking

  • Store tomatoes at room temperature away from direct sunlight. Plan to use within a few days after they ripen.
  • Refrigerating ripe tomatoes can help delay softening but may reduce flavor.
  • Tomatoes are enjoyed raw and cooked. Add to pizza, sandwiches and salads or use in sauces, soups and salsas.
  • Try this Food Hero recipe: Baked Tomatoes with Cheese


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