By Barbara Pleasant,
In almost any climate, the best time to start most tomato seeds is six to eight weeks before your average last spring frost. This tried-and-true schedule provides juicy tomatoes by high summer, but many gardeners and cooks become impatient for sun-ripened tomatoes earlier. You can satisfy this premature tomato craving by learning how to grow extra-early tomatoes. By choosing varieties that mature quickly, starting those seeds a month ahead of your typical schedule — 10 to 12 weeks before your last spring frost — and then giving the plants special care, you’ll harvest tomatoes at the beginning of summer, when main-crop tomatoes are only beginning to bloom.
Most tomato varieties thrive in warm soils, so plan to grow your earliest tomatoes in containers for best results. In spring, when the plants start spending time outdoors, their roots will stay warmer in containers than they would if planted in the ground. You won’t need huge vessels because the stress from slightly cramped roots will push quick-maturing tomatoes to produce flowers and fruits in less time than usual. A 3-gallon bucket or a 12-inch-diameter pot or hanging basket will be about right for each plant. Ideally, each container should have a lip or handle for easy lifting.
Extra-Early VarietiesIn the garden, indeterminate varieties that produce for many weeks are usually best, but certain compact, determinate varieties will provide you with more tomatoes sooner. Choose carefully — some early determinate varieties have much better flavor than others! The following open-pollinated, determinate tomato varieties have well-deserved reputations for delivering rich, main-season tomato flavor in record time:
‘Sophie’s Choice’ is a cool-tolerant heirloom tomato from Edmonton, Alberta, that produces round, red slicers on compact, 24-inch plants. Fruit size varies from egg-sized to baseball proportions, and the flavor of ‘Sophie’s Choice’ is mildly sweet with a pleasing balance of tangy aromatics.
‘Glacier,’ a smaller, red slicer, comes from Sweden and has potato-leaf foliage and a bushy growth habit. The bulky ‘Glacier’ tomato plant grows to 30 inches tall, and needs staking to support its concentrated crop.
Read the full story via Expert Tips for Growing Early Tomato Varieties – Organic Gardening – MOTHER EARTH NEWS.