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
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.
Wise is the man who attempts to answer his question before asking it.
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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.
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
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.
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