I really want to plant my tomatoes!
Trying to plant tomatoes in a state known for extreme weather presents its challenges.
I almost posted another "My favorite tomatoes" entry today but my heart wasn't in it. Why? I planned to write about the Cherokee Purple tomato, which is one of my favorites but after multiple times growing it, I've decided it is a fall tomato for me. For whatever reason, I just cannot seem to get them through spring without a case of early blight that runs through them before I get more than 1 or 2 tomatoes.
Now ordinarily, by April 1, I have tomatoes in the ground or I have plans to do it asap. Well, that's the case this year but I may hold off just a smidge longer.
Depending on the source, my average last frost is anywhere from April 1-April 15. Why not just wait until after April 15 then, right? If I were a sane person, I probably would. LOL
The thing that worries me is the combination of DTMs and onset of 95+ degree heat. The average first 90-degree day is May 6 (we actually had our first in March this year, but anyway).
Not long after that, usually by early June, we've had enough 90-95+ degree days that the soil in my container gardens is getting too warm for tomatoes.
Most of my tomatoes have 70-80 days to maturity, or days from when they're planted to when the fruit is ripe. I know from the wait that tomatoes will be mature and sit on the vine for a few weeks before they begin to blush so I use 60 days to guess at when I need to plant.
That means that every day after April 1 that I plant tomatoes, is less fruit I'm likely to get. Unless for some reason the Summer heat decided to hold off because of a cold Spring. Wouldn't it be nice if it ever actually happened that way!?!
The last two years, planting tomatoes by April 1 has been impossible thanks to a little thing known as the Polar Vortex. You may not remember it by its name, but you probably remember the cold blasts that came shooting through the whole country after it seemed like Spring was already here... yeah that beast. That was the Polar Vortex.
This year, I started watching the Polar Vortex in late February and early March. Normally, it's this huge mass of cold air at the North Pole that doesn't move. Sometimes, like in the last two years, it splits into multiple chunks. The chunks are small enough they can move and it typically brings cold blasts and late freezes to much of the country.
This year it stayed together! I thought for sure this would be the year I could plant by April 1.
To plant on April 1, I start watching the 14-day forecast very closely during the last week of March. I'm looking for a two week stretch of lows in the mid-40s or warmer.
During the last full week of March, it looked like I had exactly what I wanted in order to plant about April 1. The lowest low was 44 degrees. I got excited and made plans to put my tomatoes in the ground the weekend of March 28 because April 1 fell mid-week.
When March 28 finally got here, the forecast had changed and there were 2 nights forecast in the mid-30s. (sobbing)
It's still possible to plant tomatoes, particularly in my raised/container beds, even when the weather is forecast that low. It just means that the plants will need to be covered. I decided to hold my plants back and wait it out.
I had my fingers crossed that I could plant the past weekend - the weekend following April 1 - but I didn't get around to it. The weather didn't cooperate most of the weekend and when it did finally warm up enough to get outside, I focused on chores that I couldn't get done during the week after work.
I checked the weather again this morning (April 6) and there's another chance of lows in the mid-30s.
I haven't decided for sure what to do yet. I do have plenty of stuff to cover a few tomatoes if I went ahead and planted. I might, or I might pot up (or is it up pot) and wait it out another week.
What would you do?