Will Our Tomatos Be Confused?

susanlynne48(OKC7a)May 2, 2013

I brought the tomato plants indoors early evening and I swear they grew 6" up and out in the 3 days they spent outside. I don't know if this will be a successful crop or not. I am thinking about going ahead and starting seed early for fall--yes, no?? I heard Gary England say the models showed us locked into this weather position of a cold front dropping down thru the first part of June possibly....grrrr. Not panicking, cuz a cooler summer would be nice, as far as my comfort is concerned, but not for gardeners.


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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I don't think they will be confused. They merely react to the temperatures so when it is hot, they grow. When it drops below 50 degrees, they just sort of sit there and wait for it to warm up again. The variation in temperatures actually is more like what tomato plants routinely experience in many parts of the USA. Think about places like Montana where people grow tomatoes in summer with hot days but cool to outright cold nights. People grow tomatoes even in very foggy and mostly cool San Francisco. Tomatoes are very adaptable.

As far as what Gary said, it is kinda what I was expecting. Tim and I had had this conversation earlier in the week where I told him that we seem locked into a persistent pattern and that until the pattern changes, we likely would keep getting theses regular little cold spells. He just shook his head, kind of speechless. He doesn't follow the weather as closely as I do so I think he sort of thought I was losing my mind when I said that.

I almost always start seeds for fall tomatoes in May for a June transplanting date. I haven't done it the last couple of years because of the heat. I have not decided if I will do it this year, but it is because of the cold. I still have over 60 back up tomato plants in the greenhouse so starting more seems silly. I'll wait and watch and see how next week's cold spell compares to this one. I would hope we would continue to see warmer cold temps as May goes on, but if the jet stream persists in bringing us cold Arctic air, then maybe what we will be seeing is new record low temperatures set later in May than we can imagine.

When I do grow new tomato plants for fall, I always start the seed in flats outdoors and grow the plants completely outdoors. I've done it that way since the early or mid-1990s. Since they are going to have to cope with the intense sunlight and heat we normally have here in summer, I want them to be exposed to those temperatures and that intense sunlight from the day they sprout. It might sound cruel to raise them outside in summer, but it is better for them than raising them indoors in air conditioning and artificial light and then moving them outside in June. Because plants grow so fast in full sun and hot temperatures, you can get nice-sized transplants in as little as 4 weeks so keep that in mind when starting seeds for fall tomatoes.

My light shelf normally is out of business and back in storage by May 1st.

I wouldn't mind recurring cold fronts as long as the temperatures stay above freezing. Little shots of cool air would keep the cool season plants happy and producing longer and won't hurt the warm season ones too much if at all. It would be a nice change from our typical brutal summer heat. I had iincredible gardens in 2002, 2004 and 2007 when the nights stayed cooler into June and even July. Even the flowers were much happier and their colors didn't fade as quickly as usual in those cooler summers.

Am I tired of spending increasingly longer amounts of time covering up increasingly larger plants so they won't suffer frost or freeze damage? Of course I am, but we will just have to deal with whatever weather we get. At the rate things are going, we'll be talking about the spring of 2013 for a long time. This cold early May weather doesn't shock me as much as it does some other Oklahomans because we have had a freeze or frost at our house on May 3 or 4 every year since 2007, (except for 2012) when a lot of my plants froze to the ground because it was not forecast. I've come to expect some unexpectedly cold weather in early May. As climate change continues, I expect we'll see more and more wild weather swings, and that is one reason we built the greenhouse and also is a reason we have invested money in a substantial amount of floating row cover. Since we cannot control what the weather does or the effect it has on our plants, we have to adopt practices that enable us to protect our plants from wild temperature swings. In the last 2 weeks my plants have experienced low temps down to 28 degrees and high temps as high as 91 degrees. That sounds crazy, but it also could be the new normal if climate change persists. Scientists have long said that climate change was occurring, that it would bring us increasingly wilder weather and that we needed to get ready for it. I ignored that sort of talk for many years, but with the weather we have had the last 5 or 6 years, I am not ignoring talk of climate change any more. It seems to me that it is occurring right in front of our eyes and it certainly is affecting our gardens.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 9:00AM
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I doubt that my plants are as confused as I am. I have not planted any warm season stuff yet, I will have to plant some of my plants Sat.. I dont see how I can hold them any longer. I have 29 tomato plants growing in an area that is approx. 3 sq. ft., and they are not happy.

I have loan my line voltage thermostat to my neighbor. or I would place them under plastic and keep them warm, but what they really need is to be planted in the ground and kept from freezing.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 10:23AM
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Its getting colder so brought my confused plants into the house. The oldest ones (back row) were started 2-19, as you can see they are long past prime planting size. The tomatoes started 3-25 are even a little past prime planting size.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 11:40AM
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