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The Accidental Tomato Experiment

The Accidental Tomato Experiment

With one of the wettest springs on record in Western Washington, I may be a bit “touched” as some say (a little crazy or odd) to have thought I could grow tomatoes this year. But with long-term forecasts suggesting a warmer than usual summer, I threw caution to the wind and planted more than a dozen varieties of tomatoes.

Pictures of tomatoes May 20 and June 20I started my plants from seed indoors last winter, carefully potting them up until they were big enough and the weather was warm enough to take them outside. Once that happened in April, I left them on my deck where they would get sun part of the day and gradually acclimate to outdoor living.

Little did I know that despite warmer temperatures, we would experience incessant rain in the Olympia area for several more weeks.

When the rain finally broke, my tomatoes were still growing but looked pretty sorry. Almost all had yellowed to some extent and one showed considerable susceptibility to disease.

There were two bright spots to this sad state of affairs:

  1. I could easily remove the diseased foliage, leaving the plants to outgrow their rough start, and
  2. I was able to unintentionally test which varieties were the most disease resistant!

Pictures of diseased Candyland tomato May 20 and healthy candyland tomato June 20

Being especially ambitious this year, I had grown over a dozen varieties of tomatoes to try. All were selected because of their shorter than average growing season and thus potential to do well in the maritime climate of Olympia. None were treated with fungicides or any other pesticides, nor did they have any outdoor cover. It was truly tomato vs. nature.

Based on my accidental experiment, here are the best and worst varieties for surviving a wet spring.




1. Green Zebra – Green Zebra is a green striped tomato and was the definite standout. It was the only tomato to show virtually no yellowing. As one of my favorite tomatoes, this will continue to be a standard in my garden.

1. Candyland – This is a new tomato for me and it was the most impacted by disease without a doubt. It had yellowing and spots all over the leaves as well. I’m hopeful the flavor and production will make this one worth the trouble.

2. Black Vernissage – Another striped tomato, I received these seeds free and it was a very strong contender. Never having grown these before, I’m hoping the taste matches their vigor.


3. Rapunzel – My favorite new tomato last year, this plant grows super flavorful cherry tomatoes in long bunches.


4. Rosella – Another new variety for me this year, this tomato was specially bred for cooking by Gourmet Genetics. It appears to be a winner in the garden and I look forward to pretending that I am a gourmet cook with this cherry tomato.


5. Wapsipinicon Peach – Rounding out the top 5 is one of my favorites. This small, yellow tomato is just a little bit fuzzy – rather like a peach. Not surprising that this one did well in a northern environment since it is an Iowan heirloom.



The good news is that after removing the yellow and diseased foliage, my tomato plants have indeed bounced back! Now if only the deer would leave them alone.

Garden on!

Follow more of Karla's gardening adventures at

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