When to plant tomatoes

Tomatoes are the most anticipated and pampered of the garden vegetables.  People start calling our store in early February asking if we have tomatoes for sale yet.  Unfortunately, these eager gardeners are 6-7 weeks too early, and any tomatoes that are planted out before early-April will just tread water until the soil and the night time temperatures have warmed up to sufficient levels.  If you, like me, do decide to get a jump on your tomatoes and plant them in March, try planting smaller tomatoes like cherry’s or cool weather varieties, save the larger, beef steak varieties for warmer weather.  Plant tomatoes in a full sun area in your garden and allow the top two inches of soil to dry out between waterings.  When watering, put the hose on a slow trickle and water deeply over a 20-40 minute period.  Before planting, the soil can be prepared by adding one bucketful of compost, and 4 cups each of landscape mix and worm castings into the area that you are transplanting into.  We recommend some sort of support for each plant so that the fruits are kept off of the ground while they are ripening.  This can be anything from a tomato cage, to a fence to a homemade trellis of sticks.  You will have the greatest success with growing tomatoes if you put them into your garden between April 1st and August 15t .

Tomatoes have not evolved to grow in our coastal environment, and as such they are susceptible to a wide range of diseases, and viruses like powdery mildew, rust, black spot and verticilium and fusilarium wilts.   Eventually one or more of these diseases will overtake the plant and lead to its demise.  The best you can hope to do, is just delay the inevitable, as long as possible.   This is accomplished by proactively changing your cultural growing practices.  When watering, place your hose at the base of your tomato with the volume at a slow trickle, do not shoot, or beam the water at your plant from any sort of distance.  This will splash water onto the plants and possibly kick up soil borne diseases onto the leaves, where they will multiply and eventually take over your tomato.  Water early in the day, so that the plant is dry when the sun goes down, also, let the top two to three inches of soil dry out between waterings.  It is also advisable to layer your soil with an inch of mulch.  This will keep the soil cool during the heat of summer, help to keep the soil more evenly moist and make it harder for diseases to transfer from the soil to your plant.   Tomatoes fall into two categories: Determinant which produce the majority of their crop all at once and then die back and Indeterminant which will continue to produce new flowers and fruits for as long as the weather and diseases are cooperative.

Leave a Reply