I’m always on the look-out for early varieties and was recently introduced to realseeds.co.uk by one of the Tomato Club Members.

The Race Is On!
It seems that they have a very early cherry/bush variety called Latah which was developed in Idaho, USA for short seasons. That’s a bit like the summer in the UK!

I’ve ordered some of these seeds and intend to grow this variety alongside Red Alert and one or two other early fruiting varieties to see which is the earliest. I’ll keep you up to date with the results.

About Early Fruiting Varieties – The Key To Success
The difficulty in growing tomatoes outdoors (and indoors in an unheated greenhouse) is that our summers just aren’t long enough. The temperatures are too cold in the early spring, and autumn brings the season to a close as temperatures drop and fruit stop ripening.

The most reliable way to grow tomatoes is to choose short season varieties – plants that grow fast with fruit that matures early! Recent summers have been too wet and cloudy for successful tomato growing outdoors. Wet summers also result in problems in the greenhouse too, caused by condensation resulting in fungal diseases.

Spread Your Bets
My risk profile is on the cautious side (so I’ve been told!) – that way I get a successful crop every season – because I always grow the earliest varieties along with varieties that mature later.

Red Alert is a bush/cherry variety that is always very early. I’ll let you know how I get on with Latah (above).

Stupice from Czechoslovakia, is a tall variety that produces medium size fruit, also very early.

Oregon Spring developed in the States for earliness, is another early bush variety that is larger than average in size.

The Right Conditions
Having said all that, tomato plants will grow very quickly in the right conditions. A plant that is started in early spring is more vulnerable to disease due to cold temperatures and low light levels.

A plant that is started in late spring has more favourable conditions (probably!) and is likely to grow more quickly.

This means that if you start an early variety in late spring, you should have the best of both worlds – quick growing and disease free.

Last season I was eating the early cherry tomatoes in mid June. The later fruiting varieties struggled a bit and began to mature in August through to the end of the season. It was difficult getting tomatoes to ripen owing to the poor summer.

If you are just starting out in growing tomatoes, the varieties most likely to be unsuccessful are the large ones with Italian or French names. Unfortunately, they usually need Italian and French weather!

Other early varieties include those that come from cool regions of the world. Most black tomatoes originate from eastern Europe and Russia so are likely to do well in a poor summer. Also, varieties such as Glacier, Alaskan Fancy, Siberian should also grow well in cooler climes.

These varieties may not have the exceptional taste of a “Brandywine” tomato, but they will be “first past the post” and give a much greater chance of success.

Please leave a comment below if you have anything to add – it’s always good to hear from you!

Best wishes,

5 Responses

  1. Andy
    | Reply

    Hi Nick
    Still following you. The realseed internet shop above is excellent and I wish I’d found it before. If I order some early tom seeds this weekend, do you think I can still have tomatoes in June?

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Andy,
      It will probably be tomatoes in July if you sow an early variety in mid March, but if their reputation is anything to go by – we may be pleasantly surprised!

    | Reply


    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Mary,
      Electric propatators have the advantage of keeping the temperature within a set range and tomato seedlings grow best when temperature fluctuations are minimal.
      Non-electric propagators are at the mercy of the surrounding “room temperature” which is probably quite cold at night at this time of year – it certainly is in my house!

      • Nick
        | Reply

        I forgot to answer your question!
        They are worth the money if you don’t have an airing cupboard or warm place to germinate seedlings.
        Otherwise, you can get along without them.

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