This Is The Best Time Of Year To Plant Tomatoes In Your Garden

Tomatoes are a great plant to have in your garden because they are not only relatively easy to grow but also taste great fresh in a salad, blended up into a rich salsa, or cooked down into a pasta sauce. However, to get the best tomatoes, it is important to know when to plant them because these bright red fruits are warm-weather plants and can only go into the ground after the last frost of the year. For most areas of North America, this means that tomatoes should be planted outside in the middle of spring when outdoor temperatures are mild and consistently above or around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Of course, the exact dates of the best time to plant tomatoes outdoors will depend on your growing zone. For zones three and four (which include the northmost areas of the United States), the best time to plant tomatoes is around or after May 15. For zones five through seven (the middle portion of the contiguous U.S.), the best time to plant is around April 15. For the southmost and coastal U.S. (including zones eight through ten), tomatoes are a winter plant and the best time to put them in the ground is sometime between November 15 and March 15.

Should you plant seeds or seedlings?

It is typically recommended that you start tomatoes outside as seedlings which you can buy from your local garden center or grow yourself inside from seeds. The reason for this is that tomatoes have a relatively long growing time of anywhere from 80 to 100 days. In many regions of the United States, this long growing season, in combination with tomatoes' later planting dates, means that there isn't enough time to grow tomatoes outside from seeds. So, instead, the best thing to do is put them in the ground with a head start as seedlings so that you can enjoy big, juicy tomatoes by fall.

However, this doesn't mean that you can't grow tomatoes from scratch. Instead, start your tomato seeds in a used egg carton around four to six weeks before your predicted planting date. This will give the plants enough time to grow at least six inches tall and produce multiple healthy leaves before transferring to the garden outside. When planting, each seedling should be placed around two to three feet apart to ensure enough space for each plant to get plenty of nutrients. This spacing will also help prevent fungal diseases and blight from jumping between plants.

How to make your newly planted tomatoes thrive

The most important thing tomatoes need to thrive is plenty of sunshine and water. Tomatoes should go in the sunniest area of your garden and will want around seven hours of direct sunlight every day. In the northmost regions of the United States, tomatoes may even need around eight to ten hours of sunlight. Generally, tomato plants are quite thirsty and require at least an inch of water a week. To make sure your tomatoes get big and juicy, you can improve the water retention of the soil around the plants by adding a layer of mulch or grass clippings.

Another element you should consider when planting tomatoes is what you put around them. Tomatoes have plenty of great companion plants including herbs like basil, oregano, cilantro, thyme, and dill. However, you should never plant your tomatoes near potatoes in the garden because the two plants are from the same family and will compete for nutrients. Other plants that shouldn't be near tomatoes include rosemary, sweet corn, cucumbers, and other nightshades like eggplants and bell peppers.

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