Posts Tagged ‘growing tomatoes in cool climate’

This is how the garden looked in August 1998.  All those beautiful raised beds are rotting into the ground after 15 years and need to be replaced.

This is how the garden looked in August 1997. All those beautiful raised beds are now rotting into the ground after 16 years and need to be replaced.

Trex-built raised bed 5-5-13

Trex-built raised bed 5-5-13  Don’t look at the background…it’s messy.  I’m linear.  I can only work on one bed at a time!

We built most of our raised beds in 1996 and ’97.  The lumber came from a small sawmill using white cedar that had been passed over by the big timber companies.  It was sawn to a full 2 x 10 x 16′ (5.08 cm x 25.4 cm x 4.87 m)  It was beautiful wood.  We had less personal time then but more energy…lots more.  As good as that wood was, it still rots when in contact with the soil.  So after 17 years all those 16 beds have got to be replaced.  We found this decking material on close-out.  It’s not cheap but is supposed to outlast wood.  It’s a little wobbly so I had to set the corners in concrete, but if it outlasts wood, it’ll be worth it.  We’re trying to replace ONE raised bed a year now.  The green one was built last year out of old siding…much cheaper than this one, but won’t last as long.

Soil leveled, drip water grid laid out, tires centered over drip holes in pvc.

Soil leveled, drip water grid laid out, tires centered over drip holes. The tires extend the warm temps into the cool evening.

Hoops added with 1x2x8 re-enforcement.

Hoops added with 1 x2x 8 re-enforcement.  I use this to hold the tent open  too.

Don't glue any of the pvc like I did for many years.  That way you can have more options like this swing-away hose connection

Don’t glue any of the pvc like I did for many years. That way you can have more options like this swing-away hose connection

Clear plastic over hoops, held up rope and the re-enforcement wood.

Clear plastic over hoops, held up by rope and the re-enforcement wood.  Why have ‘tents?’  Our night time temperatures will dip to 45 deg. F (7 deg. c)  even in the middle of summer.  Use 6 mil UV stable greenhouse film. It’ll last for years of opening and closing every day.  We like our tomatoes to be warm and happy.

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Our nights get down to a chilly 47 degrees F (8 deg. C.) so without extra care it would be impossible to grow things like peppers and eggplants.

Water grid in place, hook up hose and place transplants where the water drips out.

Add hoops, deer netting and the plastic film weighted with 1×2’s nailed to  2×2’s.

This is what it looks like now (after 3 1/2 months) with some calendulas that my wife won’t let me take out and a volunteer Swiss Chard.

The green peppers are small because the nights are so cool, but at least we get some.

Japanese eggplant (the only one that will ripen here because it’s smaller) is finally ready to be picked.

Tomatoes are coming on strong…ready for sandwiches or to be roasted.

Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, string beans, carrots, beets, basil, (and other herbs like oregano and thyme), onions and garlic slathered with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  Roast it at 425 deg. F for about 25 minutes or until the tomatoes start to brown.

After this cools, we throw it in the blender, then it goes into the quart size freezer bags so it will stack up well.  It can be used over rice or potatoes, or as a spaghetti or pizza sauce.

Check out planting tomatoes in a cool rainy climate.

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The tomato bed has weathered through the cold wind and rain. They’re looking good so I added the cages.

Tomatoes prove their worth and get supports
Likewise the Red Pontiacs are looking good

Potato bed gets hilled up.  These were planted April 9th and harvested August 1 to make way for buckwheat.

Greens Grow the Garden

Our supply of salad greens. Pick it, eat it 15 minutes later for lunch. I wonder what’s cooking in the Solar Oven

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Growing tomatoes on the Oregon Coast calls for special measures. This clear 6 mil UV resistant film ‘tent’ shields the soil from the drenching rainfalls of April and May. To get ripe tomatoes by early August we must often plant in inclement weather.

Beating the late blight is the name of the game in a cool climate. We don’t use fungicides so since the mid to late 90’s we follow some strict rules…NO overhead watering, drip watering only. Trim lower branches a so no leaves touch the ground. Do not follow tomatoes with potatoes or vice-versa for at least one year (two years are better).

After gardening in the same location for over 35 years, we always add amenities to enhance the soil…cottonseed meal, kelp meal, bone meal, blood meal, dolomite, gypsum. This is in addition to trenching in deciduous leaves, crab shell, and coffee grounds in the fall.

The water grid is 1/2″ pvc with 1/8″ holes drilled in the proper spacing for tomatoes. It can be gravity fed from the tank that is powered by solar, delivering the water directly to the roots.

The tires are centered over the holes to add extra warmth into the evening.

Pinch off lower leaves, add a bit of fish meal, place in ground with lots of compost and plant deep.

Next add the hoops…these are 3/4″ pvc that fit loosely into 1 1/4″ pvc sockets. These hoops are strong and last for years (Schedule 40) Strengthen them with rope and 1×2’s.

Use a taut-line hitch to take up slack when rope stretches.

This is 6 mil, UV resistant film. 2x2x8’s are butted up to each other and 1×2’s are nailed to hold them together. Then the film is nailed to them using more 1×2’s. That forms the weight to hold the film over the hoops. If you “under roll” the film and tie it to the hoop with a slip knot it will stay up all day. At night or during a rain, we always close the tents to keep water off the leaves. Tomatoes need air circulation, so it’s important to open the tents whenever possible.Tent is closed protecting the plants from the cool night air. Since we like to eat tomatoes in the winter, we plant about 60 plants. This is the first tomato bed this season and holds 15 plants. The cages will be added later when after we’ve treated them with bleach water.  Check out the cages here…added a month later.

Preserving the tomatoes.

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We always start our tomatoes, peppers, eggplants under fluorescent lights in the house. This year we added poppies to the mix.

These tomatoes must be ‘hardened off’ by exposing them in increasing amounts to the sun and wind everyday…but no rain and no overhead watering.


This poppy seed (St. John’s Wort) is the only one to germinate so far. It looks good and I’m looking forward to the bees crawling all over the blossoms in three or four months.

Four squares on left are Island Bush Poppy, (Dendromecon)   No they’re NOT Island Bush Poppies, they are St. John’s Wort, (Hypericum) pollinated by our bees last year and planted from that very fine seed.
4 squares on right is a store-bought seed mixture. It sure takes a long time to grow. I should have started in January.

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