Given that tomato growing is meant to be an enjoyable and highly productive pastime, you naturally want to plan your planting to avoid any problems that may crop up during the planting and harvesting process.
In this regard one of the most important things to take into account is the timing of your planting. Since temperature is one of the most important variables that will determine the success – or the opposite – of your harvest, and since, in most parts of the world, outdoor temperatures will vary greatly from season to season, determining the right time to plant can be critical to avoiding the kind of tomato growing problems that may cause you aggravation down the line and limit your success.
Stagger your planting
One of the ways to minimize the possibility of later problems is to stagger your planting. Each batch of tomatoes will then be ripe for harvesting at a different time.
Of course, much depends on your geographic location and the number of available sunny days in a given year. Tomato plants love the sun and need warmth to survive. They need a minimum of six hours of sun today in order to ripen properly.
Tomato growers need to wait until the soil temperature in their area is at least 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature during the day should also be 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature at night should be between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
In most parts of the United States, for example, irrespective of whether the tomatoes are planted in early March or early May, the first tomato usually doesn’t ripen until late July. Most of the ripening will only begin in early August as long as the tomato plants are planted by early May.
On the other hand, if you are interested in harvesting your tomatoes in November, plant in June. But in any event, make sure to harvest before December or whatever time of year frost is likely to set in, because frost will kill your crop.
Of course, if you are fortunate enough to live in a place where the climate is warm all year round, you could plant with full confidence at any time of your choosing
A solution for cold climates
Some cold climate tomato growers have even turned to compact, portable greenhouses as a precaution to avoid the possibility of damage on account of extreme low temperatures. These types of greenhouses allow you to gradually and safely expose your growing crop to the cold outdoors. This is called “hardening off” – the process of slowly allowing your seedlings to acclimatize themselves to the harsh outdoor weather conditions.
Seedlings or seeds?
Another way to avoid problems growing tomatoes is to buy seedlings and plant them in your outdoor garden, rather than starting from scratch with the seeds themselves.
On the other hand, if you do plan to start with seeds, you could plant them indoors about six weeks before transporting them into the ground in your garden outside. Seedlings should have grown at least six leaves before you transport them outside. Make sure that the soil in your garden has been tilled well. The soil should also be slightly acid with a pH level of 5.5 to 7.8. Although, home grown tomatoes grow in most types of soil, a light, well-drained fertile soil, rich in decomposed organic matter, usually gets the best results.