|I live in the city of San Francisco where summers are cool and foggy. Can you recommend some tomato varieties, and when to plant the seeds?|
|Short-season tomatoes would grow very well in your location. Try Burpee's Early Girl, which has proven itself in San Francisco trials, accoding to Pam Peirce, author of "Golden Gate Gardening (AgAccess, Davis CA; ISBN# 0-932857-10-8).
Also, there's a variety offered by Bountiful Gardens (Willits, CA; e-mail [email protected]; ph# 707/459-6410) called 'San Francisco Fog'! They are said to ripen in 70 days from transplant under your difficult coastal conditions.
Start your plants indoors and transplant them after the soil warms in the spring (sometime in May). As you know, when it's warm and sunny, tomatoes ripen easily, so you need to maximize the effects of your diffuse sunlight and moderate temperatures. Pam Peirce suggests choosing the warmest, sunniest spot in your yard for the tomato bed - a southern exposure is preferred. Place reflective material (foil covered boards) behind the bed to increase light intensity. Mulch plants with black plastic, or IRT (infrared transmitting mulch) which will increase soil temperatures. If you cage your tomatoes, as the plants grow taller, wrap the base of the cage with black plastic or tar paper, which will absorb sun and radiate it towards the plant. Some gardeners even build mini-greenhouses over their plants with row covers. This helps maintain higher nighttime tempertures, which are critical to fruit ripening. Gardener's Supply (www.gardeners.com; ph# 800/863-1700) offers various hoops, row covers and mulches for these purposes. Hope this helps!