Planting a Tomato Garden
Are you thinking about planting a tomato garden? It’s just before Christmas as I write this, but no matter where you live, it’s time to think tomatoes!
If you live in the (really) Deep South, it’s time to plant seeds soon for a Spring crop. If you live in the frigid North, it’s time to buy those seeds for starting in just a few short months.
Yep, it’s time to think tomatoes!
Planting a Tomato Garden in the South
If you live in the really southern part of the US (like I do in S Florida), you can plant your seeds soon (even right now) or even find tomato plants at your local garden center. I planted a bunch of seeds yesterday, in preparation of a Spring crop of ripe tomatoes. But since it still can get chilly and I can even have a touch of frost where I live, I plant my tomatoes in containers. This way, if frost is in the forecast, I can move the plants into the garage for the night.
Right now I have three tomato plants of three different varieties in 5-gallon pots, one having blossoms. Seeing as it’s Winter, I have them in a spot where they can get full sunlight from about 11 am to 4 pm. I also have six more tomato seed varieties that I planted yesterday. Right now, my well-grown plants are:
- A determinate red medium-sized tomato (the one with flowers) called Patio – photo above.
- An indeterminate bicolor tomato called Mr. Stripey.
- An indeterminate really big red beefsteak tomato called Park’s Whopper.
So, if you live in the Deep South, it’s time to start your tomato seeds indoors between now and the end of January (depending on how far north on the Deep South you live). The seedlings can then be transplanted outside as soon as all danger of frost is past. You can find tomato seeds in local garden centers as well as online. I have to admit, online is my favorite way to get seeds.
A special note to anyone like me who lives in Florida; as you well know, our summers are hot & humid and the sunshine very strong. Summer in Florida really isn’t the best time of year to grow tomatoes. I’ll cover more about tomato-growing in the summer in Florida in a different post.
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones
No matter where you live, know what plant hardiness zone you live in. Here’s a link to where you can put in your zip code, and you’ll get your zone.
Like I said, local climate plays into this. You can live in the Mid South, but if you are gardening at altitude (like around the Smokey Mountains), your zone will be colder than if you were growing in a more coastal environment.
Tomato Gardens in the North
Time to get those seeds! Since you won’t be planting them right away, you have a little time to peruse your tomato variety options a bit more. You probably don’t have seeds available in garden centers yet, but you can browse and order them online.
So what seeds do you buy? It really depends on your climate, and how long and warm your summers. For example, in the Pacific Northwest, I’d choose a tomato that sets fruit early. The cooler Summer climate means it will take longer than average to grow those tomatoes until they are ripe on the vine, which is why you need an early-producing tomato. Some varieties you could try include Early Girl, Matina, Stupice, Early Wonder.
If you live in a climate with a pretty warm and sunny late Spring and Summer, you can grow both early and mid-season varieties. You can try a later-season beefsteak if you can grow your tomatoes in a greenhouse or indoors under grow lights and have good-sized plants ready to go outside as soon as the last frost is past. Some mid-season tomatoes varieties to think about include Better Boy, Big Beef, Eva Purple Ball, Sioux.
So those are some ideas for your tomato garden. It’s time to either plant seeds or buy seeds, so you can have luscious, vine ripe tomatoes as soon as possible!
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