Gardening Tips Week 5: From Here to Maturity

This time last year…

What to do this week:

This week I want to talk a bit more about days to maturity because it is a big factor in what you choose to grow in your garden.

If you look at any single seed catalog, be aware that the days to maturity might not be accurate for our climate here. That seed catalog might be coming from southern Ontario, or somewhere else that has a warmer growing season than we do here in Cape Breton. The catalog will still give you a lot of information you can use: you can depend on the information about one variety needing more time to maturity than another, and that gives you an idea of what varieties might be better for our short season. But actual days to maturity might be longer here in Cape Breton for all varieties. When a catalog, for example, says one tomato variety will take 75 days to mature, in Cape Breton it might take 85, or even 100 days.

Big beef, Brandywine organic and Chocolate tomatoes. Photos via Veseys (

Big beef, Brandywine Organic and Chocolate tomatoes. (Source: Veseys)

A local catalog from Halifax Seed or Veseys might be a little more accurate, but not necessarily. It also depends on your microclimate. We have a lot of nooks and crannies here on the island that are very different from each other, or slopes that face south, or some other less advantageous direction.

Let’s stay with tomatoes as an example. It isn’t enough to just pick the shortest days-to-maturity varieties. You may have a taste for a particular kind of tomato. Early-maturing tomatoes tend to be for eating fresh. Salad tomatoes usually mature more quickly than other types, including other varieties you might want to use fresh, in sandwiches. Most early-ripening tomatoes are thin skinned. They might not be strong on disease resistance. They mature so early, they might not have time to build up resistance, but if you are lucky, you will have them all eaten before any problems emerge. Later-maturing tomatoes are more likely to have disease resistance built in, but will we get enough summer for them?

Salads and sandwiches are great, but you might want a meaty tomato for sauces, and there aren’t many early-maturing varieties of those. Salad tomatoes are too heavy on the juice and seed for sauce, so you may also want to pick a sauce variety that needs a little more time, but will store or preserve better. It is important to be aware of this going in, as your sauce tomatoes may require assistance as the season comes to an end. They may need protection from the cold air, or even early frost, and that will take time and attention.

Scotia, Sunrise Sauce and Tiny Tim tomatoes. (Source: Veseys

Scotia, Sunrise Sauce and Tiny Tim tomatoes. (Source: Veseys)

The advantage to a sauce tomato is that it tends to have a thick skin, and a thick flesh, with few seeds. This is why it cooks down better. That thicker skin can also help protect the tomato from the cooler temperatures later in the fall.

Roma is a standard sauce tomato here in the Maritimes, and is quite tasty. San Marzano is an even tastier one but it has an even longer ripening time. If you want to try San Marzano, you might want to look at your own growing conditions in the hope that your backyard has a good microclimate.

So, you may find that it is smart to pick some early-maturing tomatoes for the joy of those early salads; some beefsteak or slicer varieties for sandwiches a little later; and some sauce or salsa varieties, too. Even so, among the different types of tomato, look for the early-maturing varieties.

I have gotten distracted by my well-known love for tomatoes, but it is not just tomatoes that requires you to think about maturity dates. Peas, as we discussed last week, all have to be planted early because they are day-length adapted, but you may still want to consider a variety of days to maturity so you can have fresh peas for more weeks. Squash also exist in early- and late-maturing varieties. Bush varieties often mature earlier than sprawling varieties, although they are not as productive in the long run. So when it comes to squash, you have to play off early ripening and days to maturity with productivity.

That is plenty to think about for this week.

Featured photo: Tomato varieties via Veseys




Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.




Backyard food gardener Madeline Yakimchuk caught the food-security bug in the early ’90s through Cuba’s Urban Agriculture Department, taking her first permaculture course and planting her first garden. She can often be found discussing food security, nurturing a plant-based lifestyle or trying to give away vegetables. Professionally, she is GRYPHON media productions but sometimes uses la bruja in her volunteer work, most notably in managing the garden column, which begins life as a telephone interview.





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