The Q&A Archives: Setting Out Transplants

Question: This is my first garden in Iowa, and I' realizing what variety there is in Zone 5. My friends in NH and in St. Louis all have very different advice...

I started my tomatoes around 4/1, and they're already getting too big for their 4" pots. I'd like to set them out asap, but I don't know how much I can push the last frost date of May 15. Can I put them out with milk jugs over them around May 1?

Answer: This has been such a strange spring, weather-wise! I tend to err on the side of caution, and put my tomato plants out about a week after the last frost date. It's been unusually warm here in the northeast, so I may push it up a bit this year. It's always a chance you take, that a cold spell could come along and damage tender plants. You might want to lay some black plastic on the soil first for a few weeks--that will help warm up the soil. Then,
if you do decide to set them out, be prepared to cover them (even on top of the plastic jugs) with a blanket or other insulating cover. If I were you, I'd probably set out half the plants, and keep half indoors to plant out closer to May 15.

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