Growing Tomatoes Tomatoes

Perfect Timing: When to Plant Tomatoes in Oregon

Greetings green thumbs of Oregon! Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner still brushing off the compost from your gardening gloves, one question remains as consistent as our delightful drizzle: When to plant tomatoes in our beloved Beaver State? Fear not, my fellow tomato enthusiasts, this blog will brighten your day more than an unexpected sunbreak. By the end of this read, you’ll know the perfect time to tuck those tomato seeds into Oregon’s earthy blanket. Ready? Let’s ketchup…err, catch up on our tomato-planting schedule!

Before Starting Know the Tomato Growing Regions in Oregon

If you thought the state of Oregon was just a monolith of lush forests and hipster coffee shops, boy, have we got news for you! Our beautiful state is as diverse in tomato-friendly regions as it is in microbreweries. So, let’s dig into this delicious dirt!

1. Willamette Valley

Ah, our precious valley. With its rich soil and temperate climate, it’s like the Hilton for tomatoes – luxury living at its finest. But beware of late frosts, folks!

Here, we’ve got the biggies. The state capital, Salem, fits snugly into this region, alongside other sizeable cities like Eugene and the ever-buzzing Portland. Looking at counties, you’ll find a tomato-friendly welcome in Marion, Polk, Benton, Linn, and Lane Counties, to name a few.

2. Eastern Oregon

Now, the High Desert might seem a little harsh for our tender tomatoes, but with careful watering and sun protection, they can thrive like an indie band in Portland.

Bend and Pendleton are two major cities that spring to mind. The key here is to think creatively with your watering! You might also consider growing tomatoes in counties like Deschutes, Baker, and Union.

3. Coastal Oregon

The coastline? For tomatoes? You better believe it! While it may not be their first-choice vacation spot due to cool temperatures and salt air, with a little extra care and covered growing conditions, you can raise tomatoes that are as robust as the Pacific itself!

Newport, Astoria, and Coos Bay are spots where your tomatoes can enjoy some sea views! As for counties, Clatsop, Tillamook, and Lincoln will be singing sea shanties with your tomatoes in no time.

4. Southern Oregon

With its warmer and drier climate, Southern Oregon can be a tomato paradise. Just watch out for those occasional late spring frosts; they’re sneakier than a silent cyclist on a shared path!

Medford and Grants Pass are ideal cities in this region, while Jackson, Josephine, and Klamath Counties might be the perfect spots for your future tomato plants to catch some rays.

Remember, the joy of growing tomatoes isn’t just about the destination (aka your dinner plate), it’s also about the journey.

Best Time to Plant Tomatoes in Oregon

Time to get down and dirty with the nitty-gritty details of our micro-climate regions and what they mean for our soon-to-be tomato plant parents.

1. Eastern Oregon (Think Bend, Pendleton)

  • Micro-climate: It’s a bit like a sunbaked cowboy out here, dry and hot in the summer with cold, snowy winters.
  • USDA plant hardiness zone: Zones 5-6
  • Approximate first frost date: Mid-September to early October
  • Approximate last frost date:  Late April to early May
  • Average length of growing: About 120 days
  • Start seeds indoor: 6-8 weeks before the last frost date
  • When to transplant: When outdoor soil temperature consistently hits 60°F after the last frost date
  • Risk-free time range to transplant outdoor: Around May 14th to July 8th

2. Willamette Valley (That’s right, Portland, Eugene, and Salem!)

  • Micro-climate: Mild and moist winters, dry summers, and an occasional unexpected frost that slips in like a surprise guest at a potluck.
  • USDA plant hardiness zone: Zones 8-9
  • Approximate first frost date: Mid-November
  • Approximate last frost date:  Late March to early April
  • Average length of growing: About 200 days
  • Start seeds indoor: 6-8 weeks before the last frost date
  • When to transplant: When outdoor soil temperature consistently hits 60°F after the last frost date
  • Risk-free time range to transplant outdoor: Around April 14th to August 24th

3. Coastal Oregon (Seaside cities like Newport, Astoria, and Coos Bay)

  • Micro-climate: A maritime climate full of cool summers and mild winters. It’s a bit like a constant spring break for your plants!
  • USDA plant hardiness zone: Zones 8-9
  • Approximate first frost date: Early December
  • Approximate last frost date:  Late March
  • Average length of growing: About 210 days
  • Start seeds indoor: 6-8 weeks before the last frost date
  • When to transplant: When outdoor soil temperature consistently hits 60°F after the last frost date
  • Risk-free time range to transplant outdoor: Around April 10th to August 30th

4. Southern Oregon (Hello, Medford, Grants Pass!)

  • Micro-climate: A bit like Goldilocks’s favorite porridge, this region is warm and dry in summer with cool but not harsh winters.
  • USDA plant hardiness zone: Zones 7-8
  • Approximate first frost date: Late October to early November
  • Approximate last frost date:  Mid-April
  • Average length of growing: About 180 days
  • Start seeds indoor: 6-8 weeks before the last frost date
  • When to transplant: When outdoor soil temperature consistently hits 60°F after the last frost date
  • Risk-free time range to transplant outdoor: Around April 30th to August 20th

Remember, friends, these are approximations. Mother Nature doesn’t always follow the playbook, so keep a keen eye on your local weather forecast!

Best Tips and Tricks to Prepare Tomato Seeds in Oregon

It’s time to roll up those flannel sleeves and dig into the fun stuff: seed prep, bed prep, and babying those little green beauties until they’re ready to brave the great outdoors.

1. Seed Prep

At first pick your seed variety. Remember, you’re the sommelier of your own salad. Choose seeds that match your culinary ambitions and your growing region.

Once you’ve got your perfect seeds, it’s time to wake them up from their snooze. Oregon’s chilly springs mean we usually start seeds indoors about 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. To kickstart germination, soak seeds in warm water for 12-24 hours before planting them. It’s like a spa day for your seeds!

2. Seed Bed Prep

Your seeds are pampered Oregonians and they want a cozy bed just like the rest of us. Use a seed-starting mix in small pots or seed trays.

Fill them up and make a 1/4 inch deep divot for each seed. After planting, gently cover with soil. Remember, these seeds aren’t gophers; they don’t want to be too deep underground!

3. Care until Transplant

Your seedlings are like infants: they want food, warmth, and light. Oh, and they can’t change their own diapers – that’s on you! Keep them in a warm spot (70°F is their sweet spot) and give them plenty of light.

If you’re not blessed with abundant sunshine indoors, fluorescent grow lights can do the trick. When it comes to watering, think of baby bear’s porridge – not too much, not too little, just right.

Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. You want your seeds to sip on a fine Oregon Pinot Noir, not drown in a tsunami.

When seedlings are about 2 inches tall and have a couple sets of true leaves, it’s time to introduce them to Oregon’s weather.

Start hardening them off by giving them short outdoor field trips, increasing the time day by day. Just like Oregonians on a sunny day, they need to adjust slowly to avoid getting burned.

If you follow these steps, your seedlings will be fit, fresh, and ready for their big move into your garden.

How to Transplant Tomatoes in Oregon

Time to put on those trusty overalls and gather round. We’re about to talk transplanting – moving those pampered seedlings from their cushy beds into the Wild West of your backyard, raised bed, or planter.

1. Dig a home, not a hole

Just like us, tomato plants need room to stretch out. Make sure the hole is deep and wide enough to easily accommodate the root ball. Remember, it’s a tomato home, not a tomato-sized pothole on the highway.

2. No one likes cold feet

Tomatoes prefer a cozy bed. If you’re transplanting in early spring, warm the soil with black plastic a week before. It’s like heated seats for your tomatoes.

3. Bury them up to their necks

Tomatoes are the vampires of the plant world. They love being buried! Plant them deep, so that two-thirds of the plant is underground. It might feel like you’re burying your plant alive, but those buried stems will sprout roots, leading to a stronger plant.

4. Give them a drink, but not a drowning

After planting, give them a thorough watering, but don’t leave them swimming. Remember, they want a refreshing Oregon microbrew, not a monsoon.

5. Provide a little support

Like any Oregonian after a long day of hiking, your tomatoes appreciate something to lean on. Stake or cage your tomatoes at planting time to provide them with support as they grow.

6. Room to breathe

In Oregon, we love our personal space. Give each plant a good 2 feet in all directions so they can breathe and grow without bickering with their neighbors. It’s a garden, not a mosh pit.

7. Shady Business

If the weather forecast predicts a sudden heat wave right after transplanting, provide some temporary shade to protect the seedlings. It’s like a sun umbrella on a hot day at the Oregon coast.

How to Prepare Soil for Planting Tomatoes in Oregon

It’s time to talk about one of the sexiest subjects in gardening: soil prep. That’s right, good soil is to plants what Voodoo Donuts is to a Portlander – absolutely irresistible!

1. Test Run

Kick off the party with a soil test. It’s like getting a check-up before running the Hood to Coast. It tells you what your soil has and what it lacks. Tomatoes like slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH 6.2-6.8), but don’t worry, they’re not as picky as a Portland coffee connoisseur.

2. Compost Party

Add compost to your soil. It’s the black gold of the gardening world. Not only does it improve soil structure, but it also adds nutrients. It’s like a gym membership for your soil – it’s gonna get ripped!

3. Bonemeal Bonanza

Tomatoes are a fan of phosphorus, and nothing screams phosphorus quite like bonemeal. Add it to the planting hole to encourage root growth. It’s the CrossFit of plant food – tough, but effective.

4. Balanced Diet

Consider adding a balanced organic fertilizer or composted manure. It’s like a farm-to-table feast for your plants.

4. Worm Poop

Yes, you read that right. Worm castings are an excellent soil conditioner. They help improve soil structure and increase its ability to hold water and nutrients. It’s the craft beer of garden additives – full of stuff you didn’t know you needed but now can’t live without.

5. Mulch Magic

Once your tomatoes are in the ground, surround them with a layer of organic mulch. Straw, leaves, or compost can help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and keep the soil temperature stable. It’s like that dependable Pendleton blanket you reach for on a chilly Oregon night.

6. Rotate Your Crops

Avoid planting tomatoes in the same place every year. It’s like doing the same hike every weekend – boring and you could end up with unwanted pests and diseases.

How to Fertilize Tomatoes in Oregon

Time to talk about something every gardener adores: feeding our leafy buddies. Let’s dig into the world of tomato fertilizing, Oregon-style!

1. Kickoff Dinner

Start strong. When you’re planting your tomatoes, toss a handful of organic, slow-release fertilizer in the hole. It’s like sending your tomatoes off to their new home with a hearty, home-cooked meal.

2. Follow-up Snacks

About 3-4 weeks after planting (when those first little green fruits start to show), give them a top dressing of organic granular fertilizer. Consider it a congratulatory snack for a job well done.

3. Tea Time

Tomatoes like compost tea. It’s their version of Portland’s famed Stumptown coffee. Every 2-3 weeks, offer them a drink. It’s a gentler way to give nutrients and boost plant health.

4. Go Fish

Alaska isn’t the only place with fishy business. Fish emulsion, a stinky but effective liquid fertilizer, can be a great treat for your plants. Just remember, your tomatoes may love the smell, but your neighbors… not so much!

5. Banana Bonanza

Save your banana peels, dry them out, and chop them up. The potassium in these peels is great for promoting flower and fruit growth. Think of it as a tropical vacation for your Oregon-grown plants!

6. The Golden Rule

Don’t over-fertilize. Tomatoes are kind of like Goldilocks – they want their nutrients just right. Too much nitrogen, and you’ll get lush leaves but not many fruits.

7. Warning Signs

Watch out for yellow leaves – they can mean your tomatoes need more nitrogen. Purple leaves can indicate a phosphorus deficiency. But don’t worry, your plants aren’t joining a punk rock band, they’re just letting you know what they need.

Remember, Oregonians, your tomatoes are just like you. They need good food, plenty of water, and a little love to flourish. So, grab your fertilizer and let’s get growing!

Tomato Plant Care Tips and Tricks in Oregon

Let’s talk tomato TLC! The rain may fall most of the year, but that doesn’t mean our tomato pals can’t feel the love. Here’s how to keep your tomatoes happy, healthy, and heavy with fruit in the Beaver State.

1. Location, Location, Location

Tomatoes love sunbathing. Find them a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Remember, tomatoes are the Californians of the vegetable world – they love the sun!

2. Quench Their Thirst

Keep the soil evenly moist, especially once they start setting fruit. It’s like giving them a steady supply of local craft beers instead of making them binge drink.

3. Stake Your Claim

Your tomatoes will grow tall and need something to lean on. Use a stake, cage, or trellis to give them a hand. It’s like having a trusty hiking stick on a challenging Pacific Crest Trail trek.

4. Mulch Much

Mulch helps keep the soil moist, and it prevents soil-borne diseases from splashing onto the plants when it rains. It’s like giving your tomatoes a cozy Pendleton blanket and a protective raincoat all at once.

5. Prune Those Suckers

Remove the suckers that grow at the base of the plant and in the leaf axils. Your tomatoes will have better air circulation and fewer diseases. It’s like a rejuvenating trip to the spa for your tomatoes.

6. Feed Me, Seymour

Fertilize regularly, but don’t go overboard. Your tomatoes like a balanced diet, just like us after we’ve had one Voodoo donut too many.

7. Keep An Eye Out

Scout for pests and diseases regularly. The sooner you catch a problem, the easier it is to deal with. Remember, we’ve got enough slugs in Oregon, we don’t need tomato hornworms too!

8. Harvest Time

Pick fruit when it’s fully colored but still firm. If a late-season cold snap is on the horizon, pick your green tomatoes and let them ripen indoors.

How to Water Tomato Plants in Oregon

It’s time to talk about one of our favorite pastimes – yep, you guessed it, watering our green babies! Let’s dive into how to quench the thirst of those precious tomato plants of ours, Oregon-style!

1. Deep Dive

Tomatoes prefer deep watering. It encourages their roots to go down further into the soil, making them more drought-resistant – not that they need to worry about that in our rainy state! So, when you water, give them a good soak. Think of it as the tomato version of Oregon’s Crater Lake, deep and beautiful.

2. Timing is Everything

Morning is the best time to water your tomatoes. It helps set them up for the day and allows the leaves to dry out before nightfall. Remember, a dry leaf is a happy leaf in the world of tomato plants!

3. Don’t Shower, Use a Soaker

Tomatoes don’t like getting their leaves wet. Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation instead of an overhead sprinkler. It’s like choosing a peaceful soak in Bagby Hot Springs over a shower under Multnomah Falls.

4. Regular Schedule

Keep a consistent watering schedule. Tomatoes, like most Oregonians, hate uncertainty. Inconsistent watering can lead to problems like blossom end rot and splitting.

5. Finger Test

Not sure if your tomatoes need water? Stick your finger about an inch into the soil. If it’s dry, it’s time to turn on the hose. It’s like dipping a toe in the Pacific Ocean to decide if you want to brave the chilly waters!

6. Mulch Magic

Mulching around your tomatoes helps retain soil moisture and prevents water from splashing onto the leaves. It’s like the reservoirs in the Cascade Range, storing water for when it’s needed.

Remember, water is to tomatoes what craft beer is to Oregonians – an absolute necessity! Use these tips to keep your tomatoes well-hydrated and ready for that delicious summer harvest.

Common Tomato Diseases in Oregon

Let’s chat about the unfortunate underbelly of tomato-growing: diseases. Yes, even in our pristine state, tomatoes aren’t always immune to the maladies of the world. Here are ten common tomato diseases that might have you crying into your locally brewed IPA:

1. Early Blight

This fungal disease causes dark spots on older leaves. It’s like your tomato plant got a bunch of regrettable tattoos it can’t cover up.

2. Late Blight

This one’s a cousin to the infamous potato blight. It causes greasy-looking spots on leaves and fruit. It’s the equivalent of a tomato plant having a really, really bad hair day.

3. Verticillium Wilt

This soil-borne fungus causes wilting and yellowing of leaves. It’s as if your tomato plants suddenly decided they wanted to be impressionist art.

4. Fusarium Wilt

Similar to Verticillium wilt, but it usually strikes one side of the plant first. It’s like your tomato plant is doing its impression of a weeping willow.

5. Septoria Leaf Spot

Little spots with grey centers and dark edges appear on the leaves. It’s like your tomato plant had a wild night out and came back with polka dots.

6. Bacterial Spot

This causes dark, raised spots on leaves and fruit. It’s as if your tomato plants have started to accessorize… in a gothic style.

7. Bacterial Canker

This leads to wilted leaves and streaks on the fruit. Your tomato plant’s version of a punk rock phase.

8. Blossom End Rot

This isn’t a disease, but a symptom of calcium deficiency. The end of the fruit turns leathery and dark. It’s like your tomato is trying to grow a leather jacket, Grease-style.

9. Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus

The leaves and fruit get bronzed or distorted. Your tomato plant might look like it got a cheap spray tan.

10. Southern Blight

This fungal disease causes wilting and a white, cottony growth at the base of the plant. It’s as if your tomato plant decided to take up knitting, but only at the very bottom.

Remember, the best way to keep these diseases at bay is through prevention: practice good hygiene, rotate your crops, and keep an eye out for early signs of trouble.

How to Harvest Tomatoes in Oregon

Well, you’ve worked tirelessly in your gardens, rain or shine (okay, mostly rain), and now it’s time to reap the rewards. Harvesting tomatoes, my friends, is the gardening equivalent of a Portland food festival – it’s a feast for the senses. So, let’s talk about how to harvest your tomatoes, Oregon-style!

1. Color Me Ripe

Look for a deep, even color. Depending on the variety, it could be red, yellow, orange, or even a funky stripe! It’s like your tomatoes are finally showing their true colors, just like the crowd at the Pride Parade.

2. Soft Spot

Give the tomato a gentle squeeze. If it has a slight give, like a stress ball after a challenging Trail Blazers game, it’s probably ripe.

3. Twist and Shout

To remove the tomato from the vine, grasp it firmly, then twist and pull gently. It’s a little like doing the Twist, but without Chubby Checker’s soundtrack.

4. Leave the Stem

Try to keep a bit of the stem attached to prevent the tomato from spoiling. It’s like your tomato’s own personal hat!

5. Watch the Weather

If a cold snap is coming, pick your green tomatoes and let them ripen indoors. Even tomatoes don’t like to skinny dip in Oregon’s chilly autumn temperatures!

6. Don’t Bruise the Beauties

Handle your tomatoes gently to avoid bruising. Think of each one as a precious microbrew – you wouldn’t want to shake that up, would you?

7. Daily Harvest

Check your plants every day or two. Tomatoes can go from ripe to overripe quicker than a hipster’s love for an obscure indie band.

Common Tomato Varieties in Oregon

Well, hello there, fellow Oregonian! If you’re keen on growing tomatoes as hip as our Portland coffee shops and as diverse as our high desert and coastal landscapes, you’re in the right spot. Our great Beaver State offers a fantastic array of tomato varieties that are as unique and hardy as us folks. So whether you’re after a tomato that ripens faster than Portland’s latest fashion trend or one that’s as reliable as our Oregon rain, we got you covered. Grab your flannel, your gardening gloves, and let’s dig into Oregon’s top 25 tomato varieties:

  1. Early Girl: Hybrid, Indeterminate, 50-60 days, VF. Always ahead of the game, this one.
  2. Stupice: Heirloom, Determinate, 55-60 days. No specific resistance but tough as old boots.
  3. Cherokee Purple: Heirloom, Indeterminate, 80-90 days. No specific resistance, but the taste is worth it!
  4. Brandywine: Heirloom, Indeterminate, 80-100 days. As lush and juicy as the Willamette Valley.
  5. Green Zebra: Heirloom, Indeterminate, 75-80 days. Ever seen a green zebra in Oregon? Now you have!
  6. Roma: Heirloom, Determinate, 75-80 days, VF. Like Rome, but in Oregon.
  7. Sungold: Hybrid, Indeterminate, 55-65 days, Fusarium Wilt. Shining brighter than a July day in Bend.
  8. Oregon Spring: Hybrid, Determinate, 60-70 days, VF. Our very own homegrown!
  9. Sweet Million: Hybrid, Indeterminate, 65 days, FNT. More fruitful than our state’s craft breweries.
  10. Beefsteak: Heirloom, Indeterminate, 85-90 days. A meaty tomato for our veggie-loving folks!
  11. San Marzano: Heirloom, Indeterminate, 85-90 days. Italy meets Oregon – bellissimo!
  12. Better Boy: Hybrid, Indeterminate, 70-75 days, VFN. Good boys? We got better boys!
  13. Black Krim: Heirloom, Indeterminate, 80-90 days. More hipster than a Portland record store.
  14. Celebrity: Hybrid, Determinate, 70 days, VFFNT. Famous in our gardens, but without the paparazzi.
  15. Big Beef: Hybrid, Indeterminate, 73 days, VFFNT. This ‘un’s big and beefy, just like our lumberjacks!
  16. Yellow Pear: Heirloom, Indeterminate, 70-80 days. Like a pear, but way better on a salad.
  17. Grape Tomato: Hybrid, Indeterminate, 65-70 days, VF. Wine’s not the only grape thing in Oregon!
  18. Supersonic: Hybrid, Indeterminate, 79 days, VF. Faster than the rush to Voodoo Doughnut!
  19. Red Cherry: Heirloom, Indeterminate, 75-80 days. Poppin’ these like they’re marionberries!
  20. Jet Star: Hybrid, Indeterminate, 70 days, VF. Shining like our Crater Lake on a sunny day!
  21. Golden Jubilee: Heirloom, Indeterminate, 80 days, VF. Celebrate good times, come on!
  22. Mortgage Lifter: Heirloom, Indeterminate, 85 days. Great tomatoes, without breaking the bank.
  23. Super Fantastic: Hybrid, Indeterminate, 70 days, VF. Just like our Oregon folk – super fantastic!
  24. Amish Paste: Heirloom, Indeterminate, 80-90 days. Perfect for canning like Grandma taught us.
  25. Lemon Boy: Hybrid, Indeterminate, 72 days, VFNASt. As zesty as our Oregon spirit!


Alright, fellow Oregonians, we’ve journeyed through the rain-soaked world of tomato growing in our beloved state, from when and where to plant those ruby-red gems, to how to shower them with love (and water), all the way to the joyous harvest. Remember, whether you’re planting ‘Early Girl’ or ‘Oregon Spring’, in Salem or Pendleton, tomato growing in Oregon requires patience, a sense of humor, and a willingness to get a little muddy. So, grab your gardening gloves and let’s get growing. Let’s turn our state into Tomato-topia, one garden at a time. Happy planting, Oregon!

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