How soon is too soon?

I'm going to plant tomatoes from seed this year rather than buy plants. I'd also like to have them ready by the middle of July which is about 6 weeks earlier then usual (I live in Massachusetts). My plan is to start them indoors in peat pots and then start transplanting in late April. I'll put a few plants in the ground each week until the danger of frost has passed, I figure I'll have a massive surplus of plants so I can afford to waste some, if the earliest get killed I'll just replace them. My question is how many weeks before I do my first planting should I start the seeds? Should I stagger when I put the seeds in pots or can I just let some of the plants stay in pots for an extra month?
BTW I've decided to do all heirlooms this year, mostly Russian varieties like the Paul Robeson (I couldn't resist this, I figured if I was going to plant Russian tomatoes they might as well be commie tomatoes), Orange Russian and the Alaska (Aljaska). Anyone have any experience with these varieties?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I had a tomato planted in a 5 gallon bucket a few winters ago. They'll grow, but that plant was all foilage and produced 3 very small tomatoes. I think the problem was planting too early, so when it wanted to set out fruit it was too cold yet.
However, I've heard reports here that even if you start your plants a month early, they'll produce fruit when the others do. (Something with sunlight and temperature, I guess.)
You may want to check out hybrids such as Early Girl and see if they do what you want. I'm going to, college graduation's going to play havoc with gardening this summer.
Puckdropper
--
Wise is the man who attempts to answer his question before asking it.

To email me directly, send a message to puckdropper (at) fastmail.fm
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 4 Mar 2007 23:39:19 GMT, General Schvantzkoph

Based on somewhat limited experience, my opinion is that stuff doesn't start growing outdoors until the soil gets warm. Here (central NY, zone 5-ish), that seems to be mid- to late June. There's a soil temp map at http://www.greencastonline.com/SoilTempMaps.aspx , which is pretty interesting, whether my model is right or not.
Anyway, if I wanted to get early yield outdoors, I'd put some sort of cover over the plants.
George
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

As others have said, you might as well start all tomatoes now, then starting mid-april put out some plants. Two things I suggest:
1) there are plenty of warm days before last frost. If you can arrange so that you can take them out on sunny days (you can leave them out, covered, if the night is not too cold), that would help. Inside, they will develop weakly due to a lack of light. Outside, on my south- exposed patio, they do well in April. In the last few years in Michigan, they have needed to get back in the house only a few times a month. 2) you should cover those in the ground on particularly cold nights. A water bucket near them will help. No mulch around them, so the ground can offer some thermal ballast, will also help. Mulch them in June when the ground has warmed.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.