The Q&A Archives: Planting Tomatoes, Peppers

Question: How can I tell, each year, the best date to plant seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc.? Michael J. Antonucci East Marion, NY

Answer: The crops you mention--tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant--are all heat-loving crops, so you need to wait until all danger of frost is past and the soil has warmed up. Of course, no one can tell the exact date of the last frost (they would be a millionaire if they could predict the weather like that!) but, in the Northeast, Memorial Day weekend is the traditional planting time. If you are prepared to protect your plants with row covers, hot caps, or a cold frame, you can try setting them out a week or two earlier. Often, though, the colder temperatures and cool soil slow the seedlings' growth down so that there's really no advantage to setting them out early. Cool-weather crops like peas, lettuce, and broccoli can go out a few weeks sooner.

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