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Louise Jacobs has been gardening for 24 years in a zone 2, 60-day growing season in Quick, B.C., a small northern community situated between Houston and Smithers. Over the years, she has discovered a few tricks for making the most of her challenging gardening conditions, including the secret to growing juicy red tomatoes. Louise swears by bush tomatoes, which she starts in a heated greenhouse at the beginning of March. Like other northern gardeners, she knows that starting plants from seed is essential to ensuring vegetables produce before frost. Two of her preferred tomatoes are ‘Santiam’ and ‘Siletz,’ which produce nice fruit and ripen in her short season, but neither is as large as her favourite, ‘Pilgrim,’ which provides large red juicy fruits, an uncommon trait in some early-ripening varieties.
Louise plants her tomatoes in plastic crates lined with burlap because “they already have built-in drainage and you can move them easily if you need to as the plants get bigger.” She keeps her plants in a greenhouse throughout the summer, and if they are slow in ripening, she uses a kitchen knife and helps them along with a little root pruning by cutting into the soil in a circle around the edge of the roots to hasten the ripening process. “Almost all my tomatoes ripen,” she says. Who can argue with that?