Setting Out Transplants - Knowledgebase Question

Iowa City, IA
Avatar for deborahzeid
Question by deborahzeid
April 19, 1998
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 from NGA
April 19, 1998
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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