Tomato Family

  Potato Harvest—Photo credit: Jessica Klein DiStefano 

Photo credits: MG Gia Parsons (tomatoes, eggplant) and MG Jessica Klein-DiStefano (potatoes)

Apr. 10, 2019 — Tomato Family

The Nightshade Family (Solanaceae) includes tomatoes, potatoes, tomatillos, eggplants, and peppers. These warm season crops can be a challenge to grow in our maritime northwest climate, but by selecting the right cultivars, taking a few special measures, and benefiting from our increasingly hot summers, gardeners are becoming more successful.

Tasteless store-bought tomatoes are often the reason people want to grow their own. While they’re the most popular vegetable, they’re not the easiest to grow. We don’t get as much heat as tomatoes prefer, and our short season is often abruptly ended by the deadly Late Blight. Tips from this class will give you delicious ripe tomatoes that make all the effort worthwhile.

Potatoes come in white, red, russet, yellow, and blue. Blue mashed potatoes are a sight to behold! After learning how to chit, plant, hill, and tend, plant your own and enjoy the fun of a treasure hunt.

Tomatillos, one of the essential ingredients of salsa and one of the easiest of the Nightshade Family to grow, are fun to watch as they fill up their papery balloons, which look like green Japanese lanterns. Eggplants are a challenge to grow where nighttime temperatures drop below 50° in late spring and summer, but you will learn how devices such as cloches, hot caps, or “Walls of Water” can help retain enough heat to succeed.

Peppers cost more per pound in the store than most other vegetables. Learn what it takes to grow this heat-loving crop here and enjoy choosing cultivars from sweet bell peppers to spicy hot cayenne and jalapeños—or the insanely hot habanero and pequin peppers.

For each crop, the class will cover variety selection, cultural requirements, fertilizer needs, major diseases and pests, as well as pest management techniques. Below are resources to enhance your learning.

  • Growing Tomatoes in Home Gardens — WSU Extension Publication FS145E, a free 6-page online publication, covers planting and maintenance guidelines, and pest management with color photos to aid in diagnosis.
  • Tomatoes — Puget Sound Gardening Tip Sheet #7, a 2-page online publication, offers guidance based in part on growing tomatoes in King County Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens.
  • Growing Potatoes in Home Gardens — WSU Extension Publication FS16SE, a free 5-page online publication, gives guidelines for planting, maintenance, and pest management, with color photos to aid in diagnosis of common problems.
  • Growing Peppers in Home Gardens — WSU Extension Publication FS220E, a free 8-page online publication, gives guidelines for planting, maintenance, and pest management, with color photos to aid in diagnosis of common problems.
  • Growing Eggplant in Home Gardens — WSU Extension Publication FS149Ea free 4-page online publication, gives guidelines for planting, maintenance, and pest management, with color photos to aid in diagnosis of common problems.
  • Summer-planted Crops — WSU Snohomish County Extension, Community Horticulture Fact Sheet #16, a 2-page online publication, lists the planting dates and harvest season for vegetables that can be planted from June through September.
  • Growing Salsa in the Northwest — WSU Snohomish County Extension, Community Horticulture Fact Sheet #34, a 2-page online publication, offers techniques for growing the ingredients of salsa, including peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and onions.    

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