My Advice on Tomato Planting Has Changed. Let Mr. Stripey Seduce You!
Posted Mar 13 2013 6:12am
Each year, right around now, I give you a good ole' rant about how stores are pretty much false-advertising by selling tomato plants a solid month or more before it is time to plant them (see Don't Be Seduced by Mr. Stripey ), but my advice is changing this year (and this is also the first year I've seen a warning sign like this one--see picture). (Note: I still prefer heirloom and organic varieties from local farmers markets, community garden sales, and local retailers as opposed to the big box versions in this picture.)
With all the climate change (and let me tell you, gardeners don't debate this one--things have most definitely changed out there), all bets are off on doing what you've done for years and expecting it to be the right timing. I've taken to using a soil thermometer and watching for phenological signs such as:
* "When the daffodils begin to bloom, it is time to plant peas,"
* "When dandelions are blooming, plant beets, spinach, lettuce, and carrots,"
* "When maples begin to unfurl their leaves, plant perennials,"
* And, most importantly (considering tomatoes), "when the flowering dogwood is in peak bloom, it is time to plant tomatoes, early corn, and peppers." (See more phenology planting indicators here .)
The Dogwood Festival in Atlanta is April 19-21 this year. That's the same weekend it has been for years, and that's when the dogwoods used to be in full bloom, and that's exactly when I used to plant my tomatoes. The dogwoods seem to be blooming about three weeks earlier each year now, and folks who got a jump on the tomato-planting last year took a gamble that worked out for them. So, my new advice regarding tomatoes? You can probably plant earlier than you've done in the past. Just watch the dogwoods.
So, Mr. Stripey, give it about two weeks, and then dim the lights, light the candles, and seduce away!
As for false advertising, here's the new one--selling crops that simply don't like to be transplanted, like peas and beans. Do not get suckered in by this one!