When are you starting/transplanting your tomatoes?

tylermaster195April 14, 2011

I live in western Washington. I am new to growing tomatoes. I have started them as seed 2 day's ago. I was wondering when you guys normally transplant your tomatoes here? Specifically a date?

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In your case, if you just started your seeds you should just transplant them when they are 6-8 weeks old. The weather should be fine in early June, and they'll probably have time to make some tomatoes for you by late August, depending on the variety. Any later than that and you might not give them enough time to grow. They can keep producing and ripening through mid September or a little later, but that's about as long as they will last.

In general, if you plant to transplant mature seedlings in the ground out in the open, they'd need to transplant around May 15 or later. If you put them under a low tunnel of some kind (clear plastic over hoops) you can do it as early as late April in a good year (April 20 is the last possible frost date in Seattle). However looking at the 10-day forecast, I wouldn't do that this year since it's still rather cool and overcast. In your case you started them a bit late, but I think you have enough time to get a harvest in, late in the season.

I am in Seattle, so the info I provide here might be a little off where you are.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 7:48PM
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There are no specific dates, only specific conditions.

Of course you do have to commit to planting seeds by a certain date. Ours were planted last weekend.

Your outdoor soil should have warmed somewhat and become workable. Keeping is loosened will help it warm up faster. If the forecast is for nights well under 50 degrees, wait until after then before planting out, even if there has been some warmish weather already.

If waiting means your seedlings are outgrowing their pots, you may have to transplant into bigger pots.

The date you planted seed and an early June target for planting out are about right for this year's weather.

Don't forget to gradually accustom your seedlings to the outdoors before putting them in the ground.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 11:21PM
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Thanks! I in Woodinville so Seattle weather is a bit warmer. I was afraid to start them earlier due to wacky weather. Next year I hope is better and I will start them early April. I chose to plant Roma. How well do they normally do here?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 11:22AM
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I plant my seeds in March and if weather not cooperate in May and seedlings get too big, i just transplant them to bigger pots and keep them in unheated GH. Before i got GH, i just used big box where i put my seedlings outside. I covered box for night and they were fine waiting for good weather to go to the garden.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 3:35PM
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You should consider building a little hoophouse and covering it with clear plastic. And maybe covering the ground with black plastic. We just don't get enough heat here. And now we seem to be going into a mini ice age, with very short summers. My lilies aren't getting enough heat to ripen their seed pods. And I thought I was so clever, moving north to get away from global warming.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 3:02PM
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I will try that this season. Thanks for the Ideas.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 8:25PM
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toad_ca(z7b Bellingham, WA)

I moved here from SoCal almost 4 years ago and had a hard time breaking myself of the habit of starting seeds (indoors) in February. After several disasters, I'm now a convert to planting starts out in May. The days are longer here and it seems like the sun is more intense, so some "lost time" is made up. Though I tend to stay away from beefsteak-type tomatoes because they really do need longer growing periods.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 12:05PM
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After last year, I'm not putting out large starts until July 4.

In reality, I'll probably wait until mid-May and get some of the quicker producing varieties.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 2:06PM
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missjulied(Seattle (8))

I'm planting my starts out today in raised beds and wall-o-waters. I might throw some landscape fabric over them at night too.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 12:04PM
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After the glorious Saturday we just had, I saw a lot of my friends showing off pictures of their new gardens with basil and tomatoes and zucchini, etc. and no weather protection. How to tell them they did it too early when they're so proud?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 1:46PM
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Pride goeth before destruction, and haughtiness cometh before a fall.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 5:15PM
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javan(9b n. coastalCA)

Great short video on tomato planting with some good tips from NorCal's Peaceful Valley Farm Supply showed up in my inbox today.

Here is a link that might be useful: Planting tomatoes

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 2:31AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

There is still frost in the forecast tonight and next week for Portland.....:(

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 6:24PM
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Javan, about the link: she is throwing money at those tomatoes. Do people really go out and buy all that stuff, just to grow tomatoes? Why not just go to the farm supply store, buy a 40 pound bag of 10-20-20 and a 40 pound bag of dolomite lime? You'll have enough food for 1,000 tomato plants, for very little money. I do agree with her about planting them deep.

In the Pacific NW, the limiting factor is heat. That's why I suggested a polyhouse or tunnel. If it's cold, all the expensive fertilizer in the world isn't going to help. But even a polyhouse isn't going to help with our lack of sunlight in May and June. My advice to tomato growers is to be realistic and understand that we are not in a good climate for warm-weather crops. There is no magic fix for that.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 11:22PM
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javan(9b n. coastalCA)

lilydude, I agree with you that she was throwing money at the tomatoes. I thought the soil additive was a bit much. I personally only grow them in a greenhouse because of lack of heat, moisture in the air, and fungal susceptibility if grown outdoors where I live. I did like the advice to clip off the lower leaves and plant deep though. Nothing like a fresh tomato if you are lucky enough to make it happen.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 11:34PM
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Put my plants out under a tunnel cloche last Sunday, they seem to be pretty happy. It seems to be much warmer in there, but not enough to cook them. This is the third year I've done this, and it seems to give them a good head start... but of course if the weather does not cooperate in late May and June (when I have to take the plastic away) they'll hit a wall in terms of production.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 11:24PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The main thing about the tomato plant is that it is tropical, with exposure to temperatures below 50 degrees F. resulting in reduced results.

The other day I saw tomato plants at a local nursery that had the telltale yellowish centers to the tops of the shoots indicating they had been chilled - inside a greenhouse.

Midwestern communities with summer nights in the 90s grow tasty tomatoes. Here the tomato plant should be kept under cover the whole time.

Some years ago I got some outdoor 'Sunglo' to the point of being covered with developing fruits by August, only to then be spoiled by late blight - well before frost.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 2:01PM
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A couple of years ago I did a little experiment on when to set out tomatoes. It was my first year growing them in the ground, and I wasn't sure when to plant them out -- was it really around the last frost date (late April) as the seed packets say, or later when temps got up above 50 at night? I started all the seeds near the end of March. Four plants were hardened off and planted out by the beginning of May, the others (same four varieties, plus a few others) stayed in pots, babied along under lights and set out in pots only on warm days. The later plants were planted three weeks later than the first four, third week in May. End result? ALL plants, earlier and later, sat and sulked until the weather really warmed up in June. They didn't die, but they didn't grow either until conditions were good. The later plants were bigger when they were put out thanks to 3 extra weeks of hand-holding, but by July all the plants were exactly the same size and producing the same amount of fruit. Lesson learned was that starting the heat-lovers early was just a waste of time and energy, unless you have a serious indoor or outdoor set-up to give them the light and temps they need.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 4:40PM
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I planted out my tomatoes on May 1st until WOWs. Evening temps are still cool here in Portland.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 11:51PM
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George Three LLC

my experience totally matches up with noelle's

local nursery here (marbott's) sells tomato plants in quarts and gallon containers for $5-$8 or so. just waiting till i see a full week of 70's in the days 50's at night purchase.

if you factor in seed cost, time under lights, soil and labor... $5 aint so bad.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 11:38AM
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"if you factor in seed cost, time under lights, soil and labor... $5 aint so bad."

But if you figure in the very low cost of store-bought tomatoes in late summer, $5 looks bad. And then there is labor, water, and fertilizer. The cost/benefit analysis doesn't work. I grow them because it's fun.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 6:00PM
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This year tomato planting was EASY, but the LATEST ever.

I skipped the hassle of plastic, wall of waters, buried milk cartons as water reservoirs, & jugs of water to hold heat around plants.

My unheated greenhouse was a jungle of leggy plants, so on Monday kicked them all out to harden off & planted yesterday (Thurs.) even though nights are still below 50 degrees.

On a whim I invited my dad to help because the rest of my family were gone. As a farmer at heart he loved to dig in our rich, fluffy soil. Perhaps, I should have asked him to help with the tomatoes years ago instead of the guesswork I've done with my kids as helpers.

I hope by sharing my experience it might help others learn another way to plant a tomato.

To prep the tomato beds:
-sheet composted in fall w/layers of partially composted horse manure + sawdust bedding, shredded leaves, grass clippings, chicken & rabbit manures + bedding, spoiled alfalfa hay, and final layer fresh horse manure + sawdust bedding. Kept covered with black plastic topped with burlap until 2 months ago when I removed plastic & replaced w/ burlap to let more moisture in. Peeked a few times over winter to check the moisture content & worm population as well as skewer slugs.
-1 month ago removed burlap, turned, & replaced black plastic
-black plastic off 3 days ago & turned again then leveled w/ rake
-set up large square & round cages w/ cross supports of bamboo, t-posts, & tall stakes for indeterminates. (Usually I set up supports after planting, but my dad said to do supports first & pull legs wide on cages to be stronger. Also, surprised he wanted some of my large rocks BACK in the garden. Hmmm. He wanted them to place under the bottom cross wires of cages to prevent contact with the soil for longer lasting cages. Reminds me when our kids were young & they decorated under the tomato plants with the "cute" rocks we'd find in the garden. I figured the heat from the rocks wouldn't hurt as mulch. Just a bother to move rocks once again during fall cleanup.)
-Determinates have the smaller 3 ring tomato cages with a stake for the larger plants.
In each hole:
-mixed into soil 2 yogurt cups of amendment blend (2 scoops each bonemeal & lime as calcium carbonate to every 1 scoop DR. Earth's granule vegetable fertilizer)If soil isn't as rich as mine you'd use about 1/2 cup or so of the fertilizer per plant. (I won't fertilize again.)
-planted tomatoes at an angle burying leggy stems & removing lower leaves
-puddled in (watered by hand in the holes) before backfilling & tomatoes were well watered while finally hardening off this past week prior to the transplanting.

Oh, and my dad put 2 tomatoes in opposite corners of our large supports. I usually only put one, but he said I could go denser especially with smaller plants. Hmmmm. He was sure they'd do fine in the nice soil, so I let him. I had plenty of plants & if one doesn't make it the other will fill the support. When the kids & I set up the cages they'd sometimes almost be touching, but he was sure to space them further apart.

Today, they still look good & I'm glad we took the time to tie them in to supports w/ strips of old t-shirts & pantyhose because of the rain showers today. There's a lot of promise in a leggy tomato plant, but not strength.

Now for adding mulch, sluggo, & soaker hoses because I ran out of time & energy yesterday. I use soakers until early August then only water if wilting so tomatoes have better flavor.

Peppers are blooming in the greenhouse & I might just transplant again to larger pots to keep there unless our weather really warms up soon. Come on sunshine!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 5:49PM
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