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When should I plant my tomatoes in the garden?

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  • When should I plant my tomatoes in the garden?

    Hey everyone! my tomatoes and peppers are doing fantastic! Most of my tomatoes are now about 8 to 10 inches. My peppers are about 6 to 7 inches tall! I've been hardening them off during the day for about 2 weeks now. The weather has been decent, in the mid-60s with today supposed to be in the low 70s. They've been brought indoors during the night however. The nights have been usually in the mid to upper 40s, with last night being the first night in the 50s as a low.

    My question is, when is it safe to plant out in my garden? The peppers I understand will take at least a few more weeks, but the tomatoes I'd love to get outside ASAP.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    I'm reading in a few places that it's safe to put tomatoes outside when the average nightly temperatures are around 45 degrees, and yet other places are saying 55. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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    • #3
      I put my tomatoes outside after the danger of the last spring frost has passed. I don't know what zone you are in, but you can look it up online, as well as the date of the last frost for your zone.

      Good luck!

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      • #4
        55F as an avg night temperature sounds awfully conservative to me (and waiting that long wouldn't work too well in Texas), but I don't know your area.

        In general, most folks wait a week or two after the last avg frost date for their area to be safe, and also to give the soil a chance to warm up a bit.

        Talk to a couple of old timers in your area if you can - ask them when they like to plant their tomatoes. They usually know the weather patterns and the best planting dates from experience. Or, see if your extension service has recommended planting dates or a planting calendar available.

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        • #5
          I'm in Western Washington near Olympia. Most of the people say around here, wait until late April to early May. It hasn't froze overnight here in a little over a month, but it looks like this upcoming Monday is supposed to dip into the low 40s to about 41 or 42 degrees. According to http://www.plant-power.com I am in Zone 8.

          Think I'm safe to put them out now?

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          • #6
            Well, it is probably safe if you haven't had frost in a month...but I'm in Minnesota so am not sure what your weather patterns are like. When the danger of frost has passed and nights don't dip into the 30s anymore I will generally put them out.

            I know what you mean, when my tomatoes get big & unruly I do start to get anxious to get them outside!! You could leave a couple of them outside at night in their pots to ease your mind & so you know they'll be fine.
            Good Luck, I still have another couple weeks to wait (generally Memorial Day here)!
            Susan

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            • #7
              Put them out when you want, but be ready to protect them from frost, which might kill them. But, as far as the nightly temps are concerned, you need to realize that tomatoes have a threshold temperature of 50 degrees. This means that when tomatoes go below 50, they just sit there and survive. They do not actively divide cells and advance toward maturity until the temperature is above 50 for them. Farmers have realized this for many years, and every crop has its own threshold temperature. This is how to figure out how beneficial it is to set a crop out or not.

              If the night time temperature is 40, your tomato will not die, but will just sit there and survive. Then, suppose that the daytime high goes up to 80. You average the low with the high temperature by adding the 40 plus the 80 together, giving you 120. You then divide by two, which gives you 60. The average temp for the day was 60, which is 10 degrees above a tomato's threshold. This means that the tomato has gained 10 heat units.

              Very early-maturing tomatoes like those from Siberia, need about 1100 accumulated heat units to mature a ripe tomato. Other early tomatoes, like Oregon Spring and Silvery Fir Tree tomatoes need about 1300 heat units. Tomatoes like Early Girl need about 1500 heat units.

              So, you can determine whether it is advantageous or not to set out your tomatoes yet or not. Are you average daytime temps getting above the 50 threshold? Or are they getting more heat units by sitting in your house under grow lights or out in your greenhouse?

              If you create a microclimate for them, you can increase the amount of heat units accumulated. But, remember, your soil temperature is also important. Your tomatoes will appreciate a warm root zone for good growth, too. Also, daylength figures in. The longer the day, the quicker they will mature. Many people mistakenly think they can put out their tomatoes in March, and protect them from frost by taking extreme lengths. But, the tomatoes don't actually advance toward maturity very quickly, because they are sitting out in the garden in cold soil and decreased sunlight from oblique angles of the sun and decreased daylength. A tomato put out into the garden in March will not usually give you many ripe tomatoes much quicker than a tomato put out into the garden when the conditions are getting to the point where the tomato will take off to a quick start.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by slander View Post
                I'm in Western Washington near Olympia. Most of the people say around here, wait until late April to early May. It hasn't froze overnight here in a little over a month, but it looks like this upcoming Monday is supposed to dip into the low 40s to about 41 or 42 degrees. According to http://www.plant-power.com I am in Zone 8.

                Think I'm safe to put them out now?
                I would plant them immediately. Low 40's are a non-issue.

                Believe it or not, North Houston, parts of Florida, Southern California, and Seattle, WA are all USDA Hardiness Zone 8. Yet we face different gardening realities.

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                • #9
                  I put my tomatoes in the ground this morning. Buried them deep basically up to the first leaves. Ground temp is warm this morning, right about 60 degrees @ 5 inches deep. Watered immediately as well.

                  I started hardening off my peppers today as well. They are all about 6 to 8 inches tall. Going to wait probably a week before I put them in the ground, and I'll probably put a bucket over them at night for the first few weeks.

                  But I got my sweet corn, beans and peas in the ground over the past few days. 13 rows of corn 40 feet long, and 1 row each of beans and peas both 40 foot long as well.

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                  • #10
                    That sounds like it will be a lot of produce coming in at one time. Four separate plantings of beans worked out perfectly for my family last year, even got to save seed and freeze beans. I need more space this year.

                    As for when to plant, "never" is the right time for me, as soon as my tomato were in we narrowly averted a frost and quarter size hail just missed us today by about 10 or 12 miles. I ruined the beautiful weather we were having by planting my tomatoes..........

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                    • #11
                      40 feet of beans. You are going to make some neighbors and friends very happy.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by feldon30 View Post
                        40 feet of beans. You are going to make some neighbors and friends very happy.
                        Don't worry. You can take Beano.

                        dcarch

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