Tomatoes, also known as Lycopersicon esculentum, are one of the most popular fruits grown in home gardens. They are perennial in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. The best time to grow tomatoes is dependent upon your geographic location. If you do this either too early or too late in the season, you may not get the bountiful harvest you were hoping for.
When Is the Best Time to Plant Tomatoes?
Tomatoes, as stated in The Old Farmer’s Almanac, thrive best when exposed to direct sunlight and the accompanying warmth. People who live in the northern areas need a daily minimum of six hours of sunshine, with eight to ten hours being the optimal amount. It will be beneficial to their continuing development in the South to have some moderate afternoon shade. According to Bonnie Plants, the optimal period to sow tomato seeds is between the end of spring and the beginning of summer. This schedule applies to all USDA hardiness zones with the exception of zone 10, in which they do best when grown as an autumn and winter crop.
When you should start planting anything will be determined by the cultivar. Growing tomatoes from seed to harvest might take anywhere from 60 to 100 days. Both starting them too early in the spring and having frost on the ground at the same time will be detrimental to the plants’ health, as would having soil that is too cold.
When you start tomato seeds inside, you have more control over the circumstances under which they will develop. It is recommended to seed them around six weeks before the final spring frost; however, the specific date may vary according on the growing zone. Choose a seed-starter tray with separate cells and a clear top, such as this budget-friendly kit, which is vented for humidity management and contains drainage holes to avoid over-watering of the seeds. Fill the cells with an organic seed-starting potting mix, such as this OMRI-listed eight-quart bag made by Black Gold, and use a continuous-spray plant mister to water the mixture as necessary.
If you are wondering whether or not it is too late to plant garden-ready tomatoes, Gardening Know How recommends checking the plant’s label when you purchase it. The number of days until maturity or harvest should be listed on the label. Additionally, you should determine the date of the first frost in your area. There is no danger of the tomatoes being damaged by frost if the date of the first harvest comes before the date of the first frost.
Different Varieties of Tomatoes
There are two varieties of tomatoes: plum and beefsteak. It depends on the kind of tomato plant as to when it will start producing fruit and when it should be planted. There is a kind of tomato known as a determinate tomato, which may grow as tall as three feet and produce more than one mature fruit at a time. These tomatoes are sometimes referred to as bush tomatoes. The paste tomato, which is often used for making sauce or canned goods, is an example of a determinate kind of tomato. They often begin producing early in the season, do not need to be staked or caged, and may thrive in confined spaces such as containers or tiny pieces of land.
An economical and dependable container for growing determinate tomato varieties is a five-gallon bucket with drainage holes drilled into the bottom of the bucket. This container offers plenty of space for the tomato plants’ roots to develop. You may save money in the long run by purchasing a set of six buckets with a capacity of five gallons from Amazon and then reusing them year after year. These sturdy, BPA-free containers are created in the United States of America and are of food-grade quality. They are available in three different hues, and the pack sizes range from one bucket to sixty of each.
Tomatoes with an indeterminate growth pattern are often referred to as vining tomatoes. The beefsteak and cherry types of tomatoes are both examples of this category of tomato. These produce fruits that are bigger all throughout the summer, up to the first frost of the year. Indeterminate tomato plants produce more leaves than their determinate counterparts, which leads to a longer and more consistent growing season for the plant as a whole. Tomatoes of the indeterminate kind must be staked and do best in bigger gardens because of their rapid growth.
Tomato cages help the plant to grow vertically, which reduces the danger of fungal illnesses. Fungal diseases are more likely to spread when fruits are in touch with the soil, therefore using cages is an effective way to reduce this risk. This five-pack of tomato cages with a diameter of 42 inches can sustain up to 10 pounds each and are constructed of galvanised steel wire to avoid rusting. They can be purchased at Walmart. Because of the brilliant red paint that has been powder-coated onto the cages, they will stand out against the greenery of your garden.
Troubleshooting When Planting Tomatoes
It may take certain plants longer to produce fruit when the weather is very hot during the summer. Be patient, because as the temps begin to lower down at night, they will begin producing tomatoes. Buy heat-tolerant tomato varieties that will set fruit no matter the temperature, such as these ‘Homestead’ heirloom tomato seeds, which produce flavor-rich fruits weighing eight to 12 ounces each. If summer temperatures in your location consistently reach the 90s, you should buy heat-tolerant tomato varieties. If your region is experiencing a drought, maintaining a consistent moisture level in the soil with soaker hoses or drip watering can help avoid cracked tomatoes and will also protect the plant from blossom end rot.
The development of fungal diseases such as blight, which may be identified by the appearance of black spots on the lower leaves of the plant, can be caused by high humidity. If you come across any more leaves that seem sick during the season, in addition to these, remove them. Tomato plants that produce fruit early in the season may exhibit indications of tiredness later on in the growing cycle. Remove any parts of the plant that have become wilted, and if necessary, give the plant medication to fight off any illnesses or pests it may have. Providing your plant with organic liquid food once every one to two weeks, such as Neptune’s Harvest, will not only offer nutrition, but will also boost growth and prolong its life.