Thursday, April 30, 2009

On Planting Tomatoes

I'd been staring at my tomatoes and peppers for a while with one question in mind. The question was whether to plant them or not.

There are a couple of good arguments for getting them into the ground. The first is that they have started outgrowing their containers. They either need potting up or planting. If I leave them in their current pots they will be very stressed. If I pot them up they will no longer fit under the lights. As it is they are almost too big.

The second is that I'm leaving town for a week starting Monday. The plants can survive outside without me, but inside they would be under the care of my husband. Last night when I told he he would be taking care of them when I'm gone, he stared at me like I was crazy. And to be perfectly honest, it is a bit crazy. Joel has never taken care of any plant in his life, not even a houseplant. He doesn't grow things. I can explain certain things to him, but it is a big risk giving the care of the poor things to a total neophyte.

The third is that the peppers are on the verge of blossoming. In fact two already have the tiniest buds on them. To get the best yeild out of a pepper plant, they have to be planted before they flower. Picking the buds off doesn't change things. The plant is putting its energy into blossoms not roots. It is too late for some of them, but the others are still bloom free. They need to go in the ground now - well last week really.

The only argument against is that it is way too early. I've never planted out tomatoes and peppers this early. The odds are good that the last frost was April 12th, but it is by no means certain. Even without a frost we could get cold wet weather all May. The tomatoes would really get stressed out with that. The long range forecast says that in the next week we will have one cold day (probably on Sunday), but the lows won't get below 40°F (4°C). Towards the end of next week the weather will start a warming trend (maybe to the 70°Fs) and be wet. I usually don't like planting tomatoes before a long stretch of wet weather because of mildew issues.

Basically I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. Since it looks like it will be cool and wet instead of cold and wet, I planted today. The plants looks so happy out in the ground. I hope they don't hate me in a week.

This morning I put in the Sungold F2 experimental tomatoes in the ground. The six plants were spaced 2' apart. I probably ought to have twice as many for a good experiment, but that is what fits. In front of the bed the chili peppers were put in a foot apart. In back of the tomatoes I put in three Italian basil plants and there are also the three marigolds that were planted yesterday. The only thing missing from this bed right now are the carrots. When I get back I'm going to put a row of carrots down the middle of the bed between the tomatoes and the peppers. After they were all watered in. I put a row cover over the tomatoes and peppers. That should keep any unusual light frosts from killing them.

This afternoon I'll pot up my other tomatoes in the buckets that I prepared yesterday. To protect them I'll place a soda bottle filled with water, sitting right next to each plant. I'll put them by the chimney because those bricks are a great heat sink.

Am I insane for planting so early? Maybe. I'll know when I'm back from my trip.


  1. Hi Daphne! I remember I planted my tomatoes way early in April, several years ago. It got cold, and they were standing there, turning purple, and I was suffering just looking at them. Well, they all survived. They didn't give fruit earlier than other plants that I planted later. I hope everything will be O.K. with your babies. Tomatoes are tough plants!

  2. Hey Daphne! I think you did the right thing (and I put my money where my mouth is, I planted my tomatoes out a couple of days ago.) Especially since you put the row cover on them. It's quite cool again here, but I still think the plants are happier in the ground and container where their roots can stretch out than in the little pots. Yours certainly looked happy, too!

  3. Pretty risky but with the protection they should do fine. Good thing about plants is you can always replace them with starts from the nursery.

    I recall having my neighbor water my outdoor pots one summer well I was away. She watered them until they rotted and died, in a matter of 5 days! Erg.

  4. I'm in a similar boat, looking at my tomatoes and peppers which I started for the hoophouse. It is still darn cold in their at night, but I will dig out the wall o waters and some milk jugs and more row cover and plant them this weekend. Good luck with yours and more importantly, have a great trip!

  5. I'll cross my fingers for your new babies while you're gone Daphne. lol, my hubby would of looked at me like I was crazy too. :)

  6. I may try to plant out a few this weekend if it ever stops raining here. We're also forecast for cool and cloudy but I don't think below 40. But I'm not going to plant them all- I've seen frost well into May here.
    I'll cross my fingers for you that your weather will cooperate. I asked my husband to check my plants that I have out at the new house and he gave me such an interesting look. He can deconstuct a house but ask him to water a tomato!? HA

  7. The plants look fantastic! Just don't let Joel get near them! Ha!

  8. Hi Daphne, your plants look wonderful but I had to laugh at the neophyte assigned to plant duty and his reaction! I think you did the right thing. The row cover might be the saving grace here. I have decided that my tomatoes were started way too early, had to go outside too early and ended up getting zapped, even with row cover. I bought some and planted them, and now the dead seedlings are regrowing. Lesson learned. Have a wonderful trip and worry not about your plants, since there is nothing you can do about it anyway. :-)

  9. Tatyana, thanks I hope they live through it too.

    our friend Ben, well I'm glad I'm not the only person. We will both be wishing for warm weather now.

    Dan Ack! I hope my husband can handle the few plants that are left. I still have my tomatillos and my eggplant. Oh and my lemon basil. I'm really hoping he can handle a little watering.

    Henbogle, you are farther north than I am. Good luck.

    Perennialgardener, thanks.

    fullfreezer, Ah more gardeners with foliage challenged husbands. I so thought I was the only one. Many of my friends have both wife and husband in the garden, not me. As to frost. We usually don't get them here at my house in May. I hope that holds, but we have set a lot of records this year, both high and low.

    EG, I have to. I still have tomatillos and eggplants in the house. They are too small to survive outside yet. Plus those eggplants hate the cold more than tomatoes and peppers do.

    Frances, true there is nothing for me to do about it anymore. I'll just wait and see.

  10. good luck with your tomatoes! they look great so far.

    i also hope your husband can keep the tomatillos alive so i can read more about them.

  11. Josie, thanks. I really hope he can too. I doubt I would have time to restart the tomatillos if they die. Maybe I should pot them up. They are easier to take care of in paper pots than in soil blocks.

  12. I am jealous of your seedling magic! I absolutely adore your plants. I only get pathetic little plants that can only benefit from getting out to the garden since it saves them from my tender mercies. Your pepper plants are gorgeous!