Vegetables and Fruit forum: What do your temps need to be before you put out your tomatoes?

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Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Jan 8, 2013 11:39 AM CST

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For me, right around my last frost date I start watching the forecast and as soon as I see no danger of frost coming, I plant right away.

For the rest of you: do you do the same? Or do you wait even longer? What's your criteria in deciding when you transplant your maters?
Name: Vicki
North Carolina
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vic
Jan 8, 2013 12:38 PM CST
Same here. I might even back up to 5 days or so before last frost date. Then look at the ten day forecast and if no frost, they go in the ground.

I don't remember ever having to cover them either - whew....
Name: Carole
Clarksville, TN (Zone 6b)
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SongofJoy
Jan 8, 2013 12:41 PM CST
Same here except I've been growing them in containers and hanging bags since we moved to Tennessee.
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Name: Lee
Willis, Texas
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TweedleLeeDee
Jan 8, 2013 2:45 PM CST
In recent years,.....I've always planted my maters in stages....usually because of my "part-time gardening"....starting most of my transplants from seed....but will buy most any heirloom transplantlet....if I find any/one.
I started planting a small percentage early....some years ago. (Always prepared to cover each of the early ones with a 5 gal bucket....if a cold front slips in.)
I haven't had to do that very often lately. I've lost a few plants now & then....no biggie

I meant to say that the soil temp affects the initial burst of growth in early spring....more so than the environment surrounding the plant above ground.....at least I think that's true......but,.....the soil temp is affected by the weather as well (duh!)......seems to me that if, coincidentally,....the weather is favorable after you plant "early"....the soil temp will elevate a little more than if the weather is not favorable for plant growth.....matter of gettin' lucky! ( I wait until the soil temp is up around 70 or more,...before mulching the plants....to avoid cooling the soil too soon)........ not sure if any of that makes much sense

Adding this comment: I think the last avg frost date for my area is Mar.11th....I've been early planting during the 1st week of March for a while (I've tried planting during last week of Feb....but the soil temp is usually still too cool for any significant growth.....a waste of time for me) I do enjoy gambling though!
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Name: Paul
Utah (Zone 5b)
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Paul2032
Jan 8, 2013 4:27 PM CST
Mid-May here without protection but I have had them out in Walls-of-Water as early as Mid-March. Then depending on the season I remove the Walls of Water and put on my tomato cages that I have covered with Clear plastic and sometimes put a trash bag over the top. Sometimes they are 3 feet tall when I remove the plastic.

Early July......
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Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
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tveguy3
Jan 9, 2013 4:49 AM CST
I never seem to get mine planted as early as I could, but ususally the last two years it's been around the first of June. By then the ground is so warm that they take off and catch up. Years ago, when I started them earlier, I was told that if you plant them side ways, they will do better as the soil is warmer near the top. I always do this anyway and bury most of the stem which seems to build lots of extra roots. I have had them freeze in June on a couple of years, but they didn't die, and just took off from the roots again. It hasn't done that in about 25 years now though.
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Name: Kristi
east Texas pineywoods (Zone 8a)
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pod
Jan 9, 2013 10:56 PM CST
In ground, I find it really doesn't matter how early I plant, the plants sit and pout until the soil warms up before they take off. I have considered trying to heat the soil with black plastic prior to planting.

Good idea to plant horizontally to the surface where the soil will be warmer.

Those planted in containers grow more quickly for me due to the soil warming up faster because of the black container surface. I also plant the tomatoes low in the containers and fill in dirt as the plants grow. That way if there is a frost, the plants are sheltered by the containers and can be covered easily if needed.

Name: Lee
Willis, Texas
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TweedleLeeDee
Jan 10, 2013 8:08 AM CST
"In ground, I find it really doesn't matter how early I plant, the plants sit and pout until the soil warms up before they take off. I have considered trying to heat the soil with black plastic prior to planting." - Pod

Kristi......good way to put it! The plants will just sit there until the soil is warm enough....they survive....but that's about it...."pouting" .....like I'd be if I was taken from my relatively comfortable surroundings.....stuck in the dirt up to my shoulders.....feet barely warm,...(if at all).

Hilarious!
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Name: Joanne
Calgary, AB Canada (Zone 3a)
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Joannabanana
Jan 10, 2013 8:33 AM CST
Above freezing Hilarious! It's much better to wait than take a chance. I usually wait until night temperatures are consistently above 6ºC (43ºF). Late May, early June here.
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Jan 11, 2013 9:47 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

Thank you all for your replies! I'm glad to have a more solid understanding of this from other points of view. Thumbs up
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
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MaryE
Jan 11, 2013 11:05 AM CST
I've thought about pre-warming the soil, and plan to do that this year. My neighbor is a market gardener. He puts down the drip tape and black plastic a week or two before transplanting tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. I helped him last year, and the soil was nicely warmed under the plastic. My knees were cold as I was kneeling on the ground beside the plastic. The soil under the plastic felt warm. I'd guess it made at least 10 degrees difference. This year I will remember to take my soil thermometer to test it. We had a light frost a couple of nights after planting. A few leaves were nipped, but it didn't faze the plants. I planted some of his plants in my ground which had not been pre-warmed, then put used plastic around them. Mine sat, his grew. His tomatoes ripened at least 2 weeks ahead of mine. Our growing season is about 120 days with cool nights. Last frost is usually about June 1, and first frost sometime in early October.
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Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
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kqcrna
Jan 12, 2013 1:24 PM CST
Though most "last frost" charts report dates in April for my area, gardeners I know wait until more like mid May, or Mother's Day as a rule of thumb. While the weather warms pretty early most years, we can and do get very late frosts. Like Dave, I start watching the weather forecast around that time, and I don't plant them out until it looks like smooth sailing.

In recent years I've been wintersowing my tomatoes, so they tend to still be very small when they're transplanted into the garden. They show very little above ground growth during those cooler, early spring days, but they have amazing root systems. This is May 2012, after transplant.
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This is those same plants in August
Thumb of 2013-01-12/kqcrna/bb493c

I'll never start my tomato seeds under lights anymore, it's wintersown all the way for me.

Karen
Name: Vicki
North Carolina
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vic
Jan 12, 2013 1:26 PM CST
WOW Karen - Hurray! Hurray!
Name: Joanne
Calgary, AB Canada (Zone 3a)
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Joannabanana
Jan 12, 2013 2:38 PM CST
That's awesome Karen! I think my season is a bit short for ws tomatoes, but I may try some early varieties this year and see what happens
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
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chelle
Jan 12, 2013 6:37 PM CST
There's a lot of good information here! Thumbs up

Our (heirloom) fruits generally don't ripen until mid-August, regardless of when the plants go out. I used cages wrapped in clear plastic, with black plastic beneath, in pre-warmed soil one year. I found that it was a neat experiment, but hardly worth the extra effort involved.

Now, I usually wait until the first of June to set out plants. For comparison, my next-door neighbors' tin can protected plants don't appear until mid-June. Plants I set out this year in the first week of June didn't produce ripe fruit any faster than the ones I set out in early July. Shrug! It was weird year, however; we had no rain to speak of until August, I think.
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Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
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tveguy3
Jan 12, 2013 7:10 PM CST
Here's a pic of this years tomatoes that I started from seeds and planted out about the end of the first week in June. I've been using black plastic for years, and it seems to help hold in the moisture and keep the soil warm. Because of the very hot summer and dry conditions, I watered every day, and yet they didn't set fruit until later when the temps got below the daily 90+ degrees. I ended up with a small crop of ripe tomatoes, and loads of green ones.
These pictures were taken in July
Thumb of 2013-01-13/tveguy3/237e95 Thumb of 2013-01-13/tveguy3/8e5417
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Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
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kqcrna
Jan 12, 2013 7:18 PM CST
Yes, last year was very dry! My tomato plants did grow tall, and they were healthy looking, but with the soaring heat and no rain, we harvested way less fruit than normal. No matter how much I watered, I couldn't compensate for the drought.

Karen
Name: Joanne
Calgary, AB Canada (Zone 3a)
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Joannabanana
Jan 12, 2013 7:37 PM CST
I use water wells around mine since we have cold nights. Here's Mid June & Early August
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Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
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Newyorkrita
Jan 12, 2013 8:07 PM CST
I plant mine in May. Beginning of May I watrch the long range weather forcast. Last two years I have gotten them in around May 5th. Can't go much earlier here. Sometimes if the weather is cold I have to wait till around the 15th. But I like to get them in as soon as possible.

Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
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psa
Jan 14, 2013 5:04 AM CST
Last frost date works well around here. While tomatoes won't grow too much in cooler temperatures, you want them to get a chance to settle in and put out some roots before the heat pushes them to grow. Additionally, if your tomatoes don't come from a source that grows them cool, they will need the cooler weather to help them harden and trigger early bloom and fruit set.

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