Magazine article Sunset

A Reno Tomato Grower Must Be Wily

Magazine article Sunset

A Reno Tomato Grower Must Be Wily

Article excerpt

Short growing seasons and unpredictable frosts can make growing tomatoes diffcult for mountain gardeners. But Felix Stumpf grows more than a hundred varieties in his Reno garden (zone 3 in the Sunset Western Garden Book).

Three 8-foot-long redwood planter boxes hold small patio tomatoes; other tomatoes grow in rows. Each year, Mr. Stumpf tries new varieties--as well as old favorities--from mail-order catalogs; this year he'll plant seeds from other foreign sources.

What are the tomato success secrets?

Start plants indoors from seed, making sure young plants are tough before planting them outdoors. Plant in closely spaced rows so that the resulting dense foliage protects fruit from forst.

In mid- to late April, Mr. Stumpf sows seeds in growing trays filled with vermiculite, barely covers seeds, and waters them. He keeps trays in a shed under fluorescent lights (operating 12 hours per day); temperature is kept between 65[deg.] and 70[deg.].

When first true leaves appear, usually 4 weeks after sowing, he transplants seedlings into 4-inch pots. Plants are gradually acclimated to cooler temperature outdoors; Mr. Stumpf moves them out each day for two weeks or more (depending on the weather), then back into the greenhouse each night. …

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