02.16.11

Tomato Planting

Posted in Gardening at 3:42 pm by Administrator

I’ve finally been able to start tomato seeds!  The night time temperatures in our garden center have been too cold for the growth of healthy tomato seedlings, but the worst of the very cold weather seems to have passed.  The extra heat mats we ordered have arrived so I should have enough to keep the roots warm as the seeds come up.  It takes 6-8 weeks for seedlings to mature enough to plant into the garden.  We should have our first plants ready by late March.  That’s really still too soon to plant tomatoes, but I know there are some who will plant them anyway.  In fact, Phil had someone ask him a few days ago if our plants were ready yet.  He wanted to get his planted.  We all love that first ripe tomato and just can’t wait to taste it!

There are several things to consider before putting tomato plants in the ground.  Is all danger of frost past?  Yes, you can protect plants with row covers, jugs and cans, but the cold will stunt the plant’s growth.  How warm is your soil?  This year’s extreme cold means that the soil will be slower to warm up.  If you put tomatoes in cold soil, their growth will be stunted.  You can help mother nature warm the soil by mixing alfalfa pellets into it about two weeks before you plant the bed.  It breaks down quickly and makes your soil into a mini-compost pile.  Don’t put plants in with the alfalfa because the heat generated will burn the roots.  You can also put down black plastic over the row and remove it when it’s time to plant.  You can leave the plastic down, but be sure and add a lot of mulch over the top of it or the heat generated by the plastic will stress the plants during the heat of the summer.  Clear plastic just helps the weeds grow bigger and better.  As a rule of thumb, we wait until mid-April or later to put our outside tomatoes in the ground.  We like the night-time temperatures to be at least 55 for a couple of weeks prior to planting.  An occasional dip below that won’t stunt the plants too much, but it’s really better that the temperatures be consistently warm before planting them.  Peppers and eggplants require even warmer temperatures to thrive.  I generally plant my peppers after I dig my garlic – early to mid-June.  I’ve tried planting them earlier, but they usually don’t do very well.  Soil moisture is another consideration.  Most years we have some pretty heavy rains in late March/early April.  Unless your beds are raised, the heavy rains can cause blight – or even kill the plants out-right.

There is lots of good information on-line about tomato growing, especially through Oklahoma State University.  Do some research and you will have a bountiful, beautiful crop this year!

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