Tomato Gardening in Bend, Oregon

I’ve been a gardener my whole life. Even as a child, I’d spend hours per week watering and weeding. Having grown up in the warm, humid state of Kentucky, my family always had a tomato garden and a perennial flower bed. 25 years ago, My wonderful wife and I moved to Bend, Oregon and I brought my passion for gardening with me. To be clear, gardening in Bend has its challenges. Summers are sunny and dry, but being at 3,600 feet of elevation brings crisp night time temperatures.

Heirloom tomatoes Bend, Oregon

Heirloom tomatoes Bend, Oregon

For instance, Bend’s average high and low temperatures are:  May 65/36. July 82/47. September 74/39. These low night time temperatures are a challenge for tomato gardeners but not an insurmountable one.

Some important tips for successful tomato gardening in Bend, Oregon:

1. Select your garden location wisely. Bend has countless different micro-climates. There is a huge difference between the growing season on the top of Aubrey Butte and near the Deschutes River in the downtown area. Tomatoes want warm night time temperatures and the mass of concrete in the downtown area is helpful for retaining heat well into the evening. Large rock formation or large rock walls surrounding a garden will have the same effect as downtown concrete.

2. Sunlight. Tomatoes prefer 8 or more hours of sunlight per day. Believe me, it matters.

Bend Oregon Vegetable garden

Bend Oregon Vegetable garden

3. Start Early. I start slow maturing varieties indoors a couple months before I intend to plant them.

4. If you don’t have the option of starting your own seeds indoors. Select early maturing varieties.

5. Optimize everything. Yes that is a very generalized statement but nighttime temperatures are problematic in Bend and optimizing all the things you can control gives your tomatoes a better chance of thriving. I amend my soil at the end of a growing season  and before the beginning of a growing season.  I water my tomatoes daily during the heat of summer and I fertilize a couple of times during the summer.

In future blog entries, I’ll go into specifics regarding some of these points of emphasis, so check back often or feel free to leave any questions. you might have in the comments section below!