The Q&A Archives: Tips for Planting Tomatoes Early

Question: I purchased Burpee Northern Exposure' hybrid tomato recently. According to a garden expert here, he has planted tomatoes in March, then in May, and finally in July. He says the tomatoes from the July plants do not ripen on the vine. He stores them and has home grown tomatoes in January and February when the rest of us are dreaming of home grown ones. In other words he has home grown tomatoes year round. What I didn't catch was what he did for the March planting. I was excited when I got to the garden store and found your Northern Exposure' hybrid tomatoes. I picked up peat pots and some planting "stuff" This "stuff" is supposed to be wetted and placed in the peat pots. And the seeds are placed on top of that with some more "stuff" on top. I am not sure what I should do once the plants are ready for planting. I remember he said he planted them using warm water. However, what I don't remember him saying is if I should cover them with mulch or straw then or wait until later. Or if there is anything else I should do. Could you give me some feedback on this method? We love the Burpee Products and always have success with them. Thanks for your help. Jan McHugh Dayton OH

Answer: You can start your tomatoes indoors in March to be transplanted out early (late April) and get an early harvest. Place two seeds per pot in the potting mix you purchased and keep it moist. After about one week, you'll see the new plants emerge. Put the pots under fluorescent lights keeping the lights within a few inches of the plants. Keep the plants well watered and fertilized weekly with a liquid plant food. Once the plant's height is three times the diameter of the pot, repot into a pot one size larger. After 6 weeks growing indoors, place the plants outside in a cold frame or under a floating row cover to keep them warm for the first month. By the end of May they should be fine to grow on their own.

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