The Q&A Archives: Growing Early Ripening Tomatoes

Question: How can I grow tomatoes to ripen as early as possible here in Norhteastern Wisconsin between Green Bay and Lake Michigan?

Answer: First, choose a variety that ripens early, Burpee's Early Pick and Early Girl (they aren't the earliest, but they have excellent flavor!) and start them indoors 6 weeks before your last expected frost. Build a raised bed; incorporate compost and slow-release 5-10-10 fertilizer (or whatever is recommended by your soil test lab). Cover the soil with IRT Mulch for Tomatoes (sold by Gardener's Supply Co.,; ph# 800/863-1700), which warms the soil and reflects light onto the foliage. Stake plants keep them upright, which will expose more foliage to capture sunlight. Spray foliage with seaweed fertilizer once before flowering, and twice per month during flowering and fruiting. If frost is expected, cover plants well. Your county extension office may have some specific recommendations for your region - contact them at 414/743-5511.

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