Jim Mast, a master gardener for the last 20 years, is now a regular contributor for our blog. He will be sharing with us his methods for growing tomatoes from start to finish. We have already posted two entries on how he prepares and sets up for tomato seedlings. We thought you might like to know a little bit about Jim, his background and experience.

Jim has been a dentist in private practice in Flagstaff for 38 years and dentist at the Coconino County jail for 20 or so years. Currently in Flagstaff he and his wife live in a town home in north central Flagstaff, and he does his gardening there in a small backyard and in containers on balconies. They also have a home in the Verde Valley in Clarkdale, AZ, and a one acre orchard on the Verde River in Clarkdale at an elevation of 3500 ft. He tends to about 40 fruit and nut trees in the orchard as well as fruit trees around the Clarkdale house.

Jim grows the tomatoes in Flagstaff in self-watering containers on a south facing second floor balcony, which gives them an ideal growing microclimate. It serves as a good example of growing tomatoes and other food crops in small spaces. Last year his tomato plants reached over 6 ft. high. He used Great Big Tomatoes, and Great Big Plants was used in his herb garden and on other plants in his back yard.

Jim was a member of the inaugural Coconino County Master Gardener class of 1991, was certified shortly thereafter and has been extremely active in volunteering his time for various Master Gardener sanctioned functions including teaching the “vegetable gardening” section of all succeeding M.G. sessions (1992 to present). He helped establish the Coconino County Master Gardener Association in 2009 and served as its first president. He lends his experience and expertise to various boards, demonstrations and talks in his community and was awarded the “Extensionist of the Year” award in 2010 by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Service. Jim has been a judge at the Coconino County Fair for tomato growing, and has his own blog at TomatoJim.com.

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Jim Mast in front of 7 foot tall tomato plants on his balcony.

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Jim Mast at his orchard.