There's no point in elaborate methods--trellising, pruning, or
training--with dry-gardened tomato vines. Their root systems must be
allowed to control all the space they can without competition, so
allow the vines to sprawl as well. And pruning the leaf area of
indeterminates is counterproductive:
to grow hugely, the roots need
food from a full complement of leaves.
_Sowing date:_ Set out transplants at the usual time. They might
also be jump started under cloches two to three weeks before the
last frost, to make better use of natural soil moisture.
_Spacing:_ Depends greatly on variety. The root system can occupy as
much space as the vines will cover and then some.
_Irrigation:_ Especially on determinate varieties, periodic
fertigation will greatly increase yield and size of fruit. The old
indeterminate sprawlers will produce through an entire summer
without any supplemental moisture, but yield even more in response
_Variety:_ With or without irrigation or anywhere in between, when
growing tomatoes west of the Cascades, nothing is more important
than choosing the right variety. Not only does it have to be early
and able to set and ripen fruit when nights are cool, but to grow
through months without watering the plant must be highly
indeterminate. This makes a built-in conflict: most of the sprawly,
huge, old heirloom varieties are rather late to mature. But cherry
tomatoes are always far earlier than big slicers.
If I had to choose only one variety it would be the old heirloom
[Large] Red Cherry. A single plant is capable of covering a 9-to
10-foot-diameter circle if fertigated from mid-July through August.
The enormous yield of a single fertigated vine is overwhelming.
Red Cherry is a little acid and tart. Non-acid, indeterminate cherry
types like Sweetie, Sweet 100, and Sweet Millions are also workable
but not as aggressive as Red Cherry. I wouldn't depend on most bush
cherry tomato varieties. But our earliest cherry variety of all,
OSU's Gold Nugget, must grow a lot more root than top, for, with or
without supplemental water, Gold Nugget sets heavily and ripens
enormously until mid-August, when it peters out from overbearing
(not from moisture stress). Gold Nugget quits just about when the
later cherry or slicing tomatoes start ripening heavily.
Other well-adapted early determinates such as Oregon Spring and
Santiam may disappoint you. Unless fertigated. they'll set and ripen
some fruit but may become stunted in midsummer. However, a single
indeterminate Fantastic Hybrid will cover a 6-to 7-foot-diameter
circle, and grow and ripen tomatoes until frost with only a minimum
of water. I think Stupice (ABL, TSC) and Early Cascade are also
quite workable (and earlier than Fantastic in Washington).
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