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Friday, February 22, 2013

Starting Tomatoes Indoors: When to Start Them, Days to Maturity & Soil Warmth

Some Information to Consider When Starting Tomatoes Indoors 
(Days to Maturity and Soil Warmth)

Tomatoes are a favorite of many if not most gardeners. Even if you don't like to eat them... growing a 6 foot plant with 50 pounds of tomatoes on it is rewarding.  Rewarding, if not for the sheer size of the plant, your neighbors will love you for what you produce and give away.

I will be blogging and making videos this year based on what I am actually doing in my garden. Now is the time to start thinking about tomatoes (Zone 7ish) if you are going to be starting them indoors.

 When to Start Tomatoes Indoors

I often get asked, "When should I start tomatoes indoors?" The answer is based on when you want to get them outdoors.  So... when do you want to get them outdoors? Do you want to use containers or earth beds? Do you want to be the first on the block to have red tomatoes? Do you want to use solar warmers, hot-house cages or other tricks to keep tomatoes warm so that you can plant early?

Fresh from the Garden (Soon!) - The Rusted Vegetable Garden Blog

The answer for tomatoes is 6-10 weeks before they would go outside. If you don't have the capacity to manage larger transplants indoors or protect them, then you  want to start them 6-8 weeks before they would go outdoors. If you have the capacity to manage larger transplants then 8-10 weeks will work.

 Days to Maturity and Soil Warmth

Let me give you some basic information to help you decide on seed starting time. Most tomatoes will say X amount of time until maturity. That can range from 55 days to 90 days. What is important to realize is that the maturity date, for example '60 days to maturity', is from the time the tomato transplant goes into warm ground. It is not the date it is planted as a seed nor the actual day it goes outdoors into cool ground. Warmth is key.

Tomatoes love the warmth. But we often confuse 50-60 degrees days as good for tomatoes. It is, but the soil temperature is the key to getting your tomatoes growing and getting that 'X days to maturity' counter ticking. The ground, either containers or earth beds, really needs to be around 60 degrees. Tomato plants will not actually sit dormant in cool soil, they just won't start effectively growing. The timer is not on!

They won't really start growing until the soil warms nicely. There are tricks you can use to help with warmth but that will be the subject of other blog entries and videos.

A Garden Tip: black plastic trash bags placed on the ground will absorb heat and warm the garden soil. You can secure a bag  down with stones and cut a planting hole in the middle of it.

For now, it is time take this information into mind and figure out a plan for starting your tomatoes indoors. If you have questions feel free to leave me a comment. In very little time, we will all have bowl fulls of tomatoes like this... This season is beginning! Good luck in 2013.

Last Year's Tomato Harvest - The Rusted  Vegetable Garden Blog

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  1. Beautiful tomatoes! Thanks for the tip about the plastic bag. Tomatoes are by far my favorite crop to grow.

    1. Warm soil makes a big difference. Good luck in 2013.


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