It probably dates back to the Victory Gardens, or even before, that suburban gardeners have unspoken competitions as to who would get that first ripe tomato.
For us country dwellers, it is more a matter of feeding the need to taste a sun ripened tomato again ASAP that drives us to find ways to make that a reality.
Here are a few things you can do to make it happen in your garden.
1. Starting Seeds Indoors
It is really easy to start your own seeds, and there is a lot of help online to make your efforts more successful. Usually you start 6-8 weeks before your last spring frost date, by starting sooner you can get results earlier. Keep in mind that with most tomato varieties you will need to use at least one additional method to protect those seedlings.
2. Season Extenders
These can range from a simple inverted liter soda bottle to more elaborate cold frames, row covers, and even greenhouses. What you choose depends on your budget mostly, but also on how much you want to extend the season. Wall O' Waters are relatively inexpensive and a very effective tool, plus they last for years. You can use clear plastic garbage bags or commercial plastic, just be sure it doesn't touch the plants.
Clear plastic can also be used to warm up your soil sooner, a good idea if you are trying your hand at planting out earlier, most tomatoes need warm enough soil to thrive.
3. Patio Varieties
If size doesn't matter to you, consider trying patio tomatoes. Larger than cherry types but smaller than full size tomatoes, these container friendly varieties can be brought indoors if frost threatens. Time them accordingly, but you should be able to get at least a few weeks on the season. If a Wall O' Water fits your container, even better.
4. Grow Oregon Spring or Legend Tomatoes
These varieties were developed by Oregon State University through normal plant breeding to be exceptionally cold tolerant. They can be planted outside as much as a month before the last spring frost. Barring a very hard frost, they can take the cold with out additional protection. They produce a nice tomato too.
So here's our plan:
We have started seeds indoors for Oregon Spring and 2 types of Patio Tomatoes. We will use clear plastic to get our bed ready for the Oregon Spring, and will be transplanting the Patio Tomatoes in the greenhouse. If we didn't have that, we would use Wall O' Waters.
We expect to get tomatoes more than a month sooner than we usually do.
One year we actually had some in mid-June, where late July to early August is the norm.
Can we get them even earlier than that?
We'll keep you posted.