Growing tomatoes is one of the simplest and most rewarding farming experiences you can have. Unlike many other fruits, tomatoes can grow in droves on just a couple of plants.
While you can plant seeds whenever you wish, most plants give the best results when they are planted at an optimal time. Knowing this, people sometimes wonder When to Plant Tomatoes.
The answer to this question largely depends on your location and the weather conditions there. Below is some useful information that we thought can help you make this decision.
When to Plant Tomatoes?
1. Temperature Considerations
The first important consideration is that tomatoes fall in the category of warm weather plants. As the name suggests, they thrive most when they do not have to deal with cold or frosty conditions.
Tomato plants do not grow at temperatures under 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, you run the risk of killing the plant entirely by exposing it to such temperatures.
Your nighttime temperature is also very important here as tomatoes bear fruit in areas where nighttime temperatures fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
The temperature of the soil is also an important consideration. Ideally, your soil is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Springtime Planting
Since tomato plants cannot grow or bear fruit in cold temperatures, you can only plant the seeds in either spring or summer. Any other season is subjecting your plants to certain doom, which doesn’t help anyone.
If you’re planting your tomato seeds in the garden during the spring, we recommend doing so about two weeks prior to the last expected frost date where you live. This allows time for the frost to pass so your plants can grow healthily.
Seeds that are planted inside have a slightly different requirement as they are not fully exposed to the outside environment. If you’re looking at planting tomato seeds indoors, simply wait until the nighttime temperature is above the 32-degree mark mentioned above.
3. Summertime Planting
Summer is the ideal season for tomato planting and growth as it provides the warmth needed for effective tomato growth.
Whether you opt to do your planting during spring or summer, the idea is to ensure that your tomatoes get enough time to grow and bear fruit before fall.
Once the first frost date in fall rolls around, it’s the end of the road for your tomato plants. It wouldn’t be much fun to spend time growing the plants without any reward to show for it thereafter.
4. Space Requirements
Once you plant your tomatoes during the required time period and provide the requisite care, growth is inevitable provided they have the space they need.
If planted indoors, seeds are to be sown in small pots initially. They should be transferred to 3.5-inch pots after the first two leaves have developed. If they are being kept in pots, they must again be transferred to 9-inch pots or growing backs when the first truss’ flowers start opening.
If planted outdoors, the plants should at least two feet apart if stalking is involved, and at least three feet apart with cages. If unsupported, there must be at least 24 inches up to five feet of spacing.
Inadequate spacing leads to complications such as air circulation difficulties, which is a recipe for the death of your precious tomatoes.
5. Cultivar Consideration
Tomato cultivars do not all yield the same result. The amount of time taken for the plant to get to its mature phase can vary. This rule holds true for the time taken for fruit production to begin.
The only way we can recommend for you to be certain is for you to pay keen attention to plant tags. Doing so gives you the information you need on the specifics of your cultivar.
To put this into perspective, there are some varieties that start yielding fruit in less than two months. Others can take a minimum of 80 days before the fruit-bearing process begins. To illustrate this, we can look at the Sub Arctic Plenty, Celebrity, and Roma variations.
The Sub Arctic Plenty offers a very quick turnaround. Just 45 days after planting, you can expect to see tomatoes emerging. These tomatoes weigh between three and four ounces.
The Celebrity is more of a mid-range variation. This main-crop variety has a harvest period of 70 days, and it yields tomatoes that weight 10 ounces each.
Paste tomato variations such as the Roma usually prove to be some of the slowest of the lot. The Roma takes 75-80 days to start bearing fruit.
Once you have planted the crops, maintenance is all that’s necessary until harvesting time comes around. Tomatoes enjoy moist soil conditions, so it’s up to you to water the soil around them regularly to preserve this condition.
For best results, use a balanced liquid fertilizer to feed the plants every 10 – 14 days. Whenever you notice the setting of the first set of fruit, switch to a high potash.
Note that a lack of calcium presence in the soil combined with irregular watering patterns is unfavorable to the plant. The result of this is a situation where the fruit’s base becomes sunken and black. This is known as blossom end rot.
7. Season’s End
As we’ve stated before, tomatoes are very temperature-sensitive crops. This is the reason that the frost has an immediate effect on them. As soon as the first frosts begin, the tomato plants instantly stop producing fruits, and they also cease growing.
When this happens, all you can do is to harvest every tomato that is available. This includes those that are not completely ripe. Even away from the plant, the fruits respond in a similar manner to temperature.
Therefore, you can simply store them somewhere where the temperature is in the range of 55 degrees Fahrenheit so that they can ripen on their own.
The question of when to plant tomatoes is mostly dependent on warmth, as they don’t grow well or produce fruit when conditions are too cold. Therefore, the only suitable times to sow the seeds are either in the spring or in the summer.
There must be enough time for the plants to grow and produce fruit before the first fall frosts come along. The plants usually take between 45 – 80 days to do so.
You must ensure that you give these plants the space and the care that is necessary for a healthy set of tomatoes.