Learning when to plant tomatoes is essential if you expect to achieve any fruits during the growing season. Tomatoes are a summer crop and planting them too early will result in the seeds failing to germinate properly. Planting tomatoes too late will also cause problems, as tomatoes will flower or bolt, but not produce fruit unless the temperature remains warm enough. Without planting the tomatoes at the proper time, they will not be able to thrive properly and your garden will suffer significant losses.
When To Plant Tomatoes
Figuring out the exact time when to plant tomatoes depends a lot on the gardening zone you live in. Like all summer plants, tomatoes should only be planted in the ground after the last frost date has passed. Even if the weather seems warm, planting tomatoes outside before the frost date almost always results in failure. The problem with this method is that gardening zones only give a rough estimate as to when the last frost date will be. It’s not uncommon for this date to pass while gardeners are still experiencing cold weather.
Gardeners can avoid the challenges of learning when to plant tomatoes outside by planting them inside as seeds instead. Tomatoes will need direct light and heat from a lamp source to grow, but will thrive temporarily as the weather outside warms. Seeds should be started indoors 8 to 12 weeks before the last expected frost date. By the time the frost date approaches, tomato plants should be about 12 inches tall unless smaller varieties, such as patio tomatoes, are being grown.
Once you’ve mastered when to plant tomatoes, your next step is learning the correct time to transplant them. Ideally this is done one to two weeks after the frost date has passed, though it can be as much as four weeks if the weather doesn’t allow it. Tomato plants must be introduced to the temperature outside slowly. Start by moving the plants outside during the warmest time of day. The temperature will be much cooler than the plants are use to experiencing under the lamps. This can shock the tomatoes if they are left unattended too long. Instead, slowly increase the amount of time the plants are left outside. Start with a few hours, then increase to leaving them outside all day if the weather allows it. Never place the plants outside in cold weather. If the weather should turn cold, keep the plants inside to prevent damage. Tomato plants should also be brought inside at night until they are ready to be transplanted.
When To Plant Tomatoes – The Conclusion
Tomato plants can be planted outside once the soil reaches 55 to 60 Fahrenheit. The nighttime air temperature should never dip below 55 degrees. In most cases, this won’t happen after the soil has warmed up to the proper temperature. If it does, plants can be temporarily covered at night with plastic, newspapers, cardboard or fabric bed sheets to help prevent frost form forming on the leaves. The cover can be removed in the morning. While learning when to plant tomatoes is most important, it’s the aftercare will help ensure the plants are heavy producers come harvest time.