When is a good time to plant for summer tomatoes?

In the southern hemisphere we are officially in Spring (not that if feels like it)!

When you visit a garden centre, there in the veggie isle are tomato seedlings looking at you longingly and the temptation to buy is great.

From my experience it is better to wait until next month when hopefully the ground and the weather warm up.

If you are planting into a greenhouse, it is fine to do it now as these plants are protected from the weather. If planted outside now though, the plants will struggle and be prone to early blight, which is a killer in itself.

Last year I did an experiment planting tomatoes in September, October and November. The plants in September ended up dying and the ones in October started slow, producing late December. But the ones I planted in November, when the soil and weather were warmer, overtook my October crop completely and had a much better fruit set and flavour due to the warmer weather.

Please remember that the plants you see in the garden centres have been grown on heat pads in nice warm greenhouses and then been hardened off under shadecloth. The poor things are then usually transported to outlets where it is cold and sometimes windy. Not really a great start to life…

If you grew tomatoes last year and let some drop on the ground, you might just see the tiny leaves emerging from the soil now. This means that the soil has been warm enough to germinate the seed and, by the time the plant is big enough and strong enough to support its own fruit, it will be late October/ November. My advice, as always, is that it is better to work with nature rather than against it.

Happy Gardening!

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