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Results of setting Tomato seedlings out late in the spring  RSS feed

 
Posts: 353
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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I got the idea of setting a few tomatoes out late last year because I was kinda late getting some in the ground. But I made up my mind this spring to set some out in mid June, which is at least two weeks after the traditional safe planting date. That's Memorial day, very late in May. I'm in Zone 6a and if I look up the last frost date for my area it shows as mid May or so. But I usually wait until the traditional date, but I cheat and watch the long weather forecast. As long as it looks good I keep setting out a few more each day or so. If it's rainy I may skip a day, if they're calling for cold weather I hold off till it's more promising. So I put 4 out a week or maybe 10 days early. Two got catfacing so I'm believing the rumors ain't as good as tradition.

This idea of mine was helped along by the late spring we had. My Black Seeded Simpson leaf lettuce took an extra month before it started growing, so I had this spot that was available in mid June. I had originally planned on fencing a 3 foot by 22 foot strip as my late tomato test plot. But because of the late spring I saved the cost of a 50 foot roll of fencing and maybe 8 posts. So in Mid June I knocked some holes in the lettuce and planted out my tomato seedlings. I used four different beefsteaks, heirlooms. They were a Red Brandywine, a Pink Ponderosa, a Marriana's Peace, and a Giant Belgium.

It's now mid September and I'm just starting to get production out of the plants I set out late. That was my plan. Get those big early tomatoes that come at the beginning of the plant's production. So that's what I'm getting. The plants I set out early are about done. There's a small straggler here and there. Enough to tease one, but not what you'd want for canning. We canned 14 pints of whole tomatoes. A bunch were from my yellow Kellogg's Breakfast tomato. My first time growing that one. They say it's huge; that's the truth. The guy on a local radio station used to sponsor an annual "Spaghetti Breakfast". Why not if you're eating spaghetti for breakfast it might as well be yellow sauce!

So I have a photo of my first two tomatoes off the Red Brandywine. The big one in back was the first and a Yellow Pear for scale. I picked the first one on September 16, the second on September 18.




So in my opinion the idea is a success. I'm considering what I'll try next year. Maybe a late Mortgage Lifter as that's the one I've been getting first. The Brandywine is considered a late tomato. 80-100 days I've read. It looks like what I had happen was plant out 2 weeks late and get tomatoes a month late. So if I go to setting one out 3 weeks late what'll happen, tomatoes starting to ripen in October? At four weeks late, setting out, will I get anything??

The tomato in the picture is as I said a Red Brandywine, The plants have regular leafs. I bought these two seasons ago as the pink variety. I grew this from seed I saved. I'd say this tomato is the sweetest tomato we had this year. The taste was slightly diluted, but I ignore that because that's because of too much water in the ground. We've had a lot of rain, flooding, even landslides. To me it looked more like land oozing. Picture clay mixed with too much water. Anyway; I'm not going to hold the diluted flavor on the tomato. The Brandywines are considered the best tasting tomatoes, especially the pink which I'll have to try picking up next year, I think from another source.

If you grow tomatoes consider this idea.
DSC_8319RBrandywine.JPG
[Thumbnail for DSC_8319RBrandywine.JPG]
First tomatoes from a plant set out two weeks late this past spring
 
gardener
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Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Nice!  It sounds like you are almost working a two-season production plan on your tomatoes.  

Down here in Oklahoma the summer heat routinely gets too hot for tomatoes to produce for quite a long time and there's a lot of disease/drought/heat pressure on the plants as well so it's tricky to keep them alive and fruitful until the weather cools down.  So I've begun to shoot very explicitly for two tomato production seasons.  Once things start to cool off in September we have two more months of production weather because first freeze can be as late as mid-November.  I have begun to experiment with both planting  new starts from seeds in mid August (this is very tricky to get them to germinate in the heat, but the plants I do get just ROAR into flower right about now) and also with keeping extra starts indoors in the AC as bonsai houseplants all summer, just nipping most growth and all flowers off and forcing the plant to make one short thick stalk about a foot tall.  (A lot of plants don't cooperate and get weak or spindly; I'm still working out the right potting, moisture, and light to perfect this.)  But again when I plant these out in late August they are just ready to tear into heavy growth and they start flowering and fruiting really hard by now.  
 
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I'm in NW Iowa 4b or 5b depending on what you want to believe and I honestly think that I'm better off direct seeding tomatoes in the ground here. They will mature about Aug 1st and produce for all of Aug-Sept instead of maturing July 1st and I don't want to can them because it's too hot that time of year.

Same thing goes for cabbage.
 
John Duda
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Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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J

There are threads on this site about direct seeding which I've been following. But from my experience what direct seeds here is usually only cherry tomatoes. Or hybrids that revert back to cherry tomatoes. The only other tomato that I can remember coming up as a volunteer was a Celebrity. After that I gave up on hybrid anything. I'm sticking to heirlooms. I've come to the conclusion that hybrids are resistant to this and that...But I don't get that or this either. I don't need a solution to problems I don't see here. I don't use insecticides or herbicides. I don't use industrial fertilizers. We're on a well and I'd just as soon not eat and drink all that stuff. But then I don't see a need for the stuff. For the most part I plant, weed and harvest. I have found that I can't grow a nice tomato with out rotating crops. I'm sticking to what tastes best and I'm trying to save seed from as much as I can.

But I like the idea of just planting tomato seeds in the ground and perhaps developing a variety that grows in this area very well from seed. But if I try that with beefsteaks I'm fighting a plant that's quite happy reproducing as it always has. And then there's the long time from setting out to first fruiting. It's rare that I get a tomato before August. My neighbor also grows lots of tomatoes and she didn't get anything this year before me. As a matter of fact I think hers came in the same day.

This year I planted 12 different tomatoes, all heirlooms. I tried to find room for two of each. So I don't have a lot of extra room for experimenting with direct seeding.
 
J Anders
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If you don't get such good results from direct seeding- try winter sowing like this. I did it a couple years ago and it worked REALLY well. Put them in a relatively protected place. They'll outgrow the jugs before you think it's safe to transplant them!

https://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/11/winter-sowing-101-6/
 
John Duda
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Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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If you can tomatoes you might give the idea of planting some of your tomatoes late some consideration. It's more comfortable canning tomatoes in September than in August; even with the air conditioner on. You do have to judge when to plant out your seedlings to accomplish your own goals. You have to guess at when the tomatoes will start to ripen. From my experiment if I plant out two weeks late I get my tomatoes a month later. I'm guessing that if I set the seedlings out three weeks late that the tomatoes will be delayed for more than one more week.

And I'm not able to guess at how the USDA zone you're in will effect the timing. This needs more experimenting, in more growing zones. All my life we've been intent on getting our tomato seedlings in the ground as soon as possible. Who'd think we'd be worried about how late we can set them out.

Don't forget that annual differences in climate will effect when you get ripe tomatoes. I'd say that we, in this area, had a somewhat cool summer. That is until late in August and early in September. It was also very wet. I only had to water maybe 5 or 6 times. The hose spent much of the summer coiled up and stored.
 
John Duda
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October 13, 2018

I'd say that this year I had my best tomato crop in many years. This was partly because we had warm weather in September and into October. But also I set out seedlings in mid June a couple weeks late, at least.

I've been picking nice big beefsteaks till yesterday. Today I only got a couple yellow pear tomatoes. But I do see some big tomatoes, 3-4 inchers, starting to ripen. And there's a lot of green ones, but they're not very big, maybe an inch and a half each. By this time in the fall in recent seasons my tomatoes are usually totally blighted out. It's my opinion that this is partially a result of the late planted tomatoes getting blight later and the fact that I quit growing tomatoes for two years prior to this in my old small garden.

I've learned a lesson; you can't continue to grow the same crop in the same ground, a dozen years for me. It's also obvious to me that with a small garden it's almost impossible to rotate crops. I'd been planting much more than half my garden space with tomatoes, which left me no room to do the rotation. If you're in the same situation I'd guess you'll soon have problems.

But right now I have a big handful of pear tomatoes and a big red beefsteak ready to eat, so I'm fat and happy.

My plans for next year is a new 34' X 64 foot garden. It's too big for me to get ready to grow in one year, but I'll slowly, over the years, get it ready to grow some of my household food needs. This new plot encompasses two existing apple trees and two peach trees. I'll take down the fencing and the posts and move most of it. I plan to cut 14 foot posts so I can get a wire 12 feet high to keep out the many deer here. I'll have the room to plant any vegetable only once in 3 years in the same space. I'm also thinking of taking a scion off my Golden Delicious apple and grafting to a semi-full rootstock to get some serious production. I've got a semi-dwarf peach which has produced 10 peaches two years in a row. My semi-full produced 100 peaches in it's second year. That first peach is on probation. There's also a Nanking cherry bush that I'm thinking of taking an axe to. I'm thinking of grafting a scion off my Stella Sweet cherry to a semi-dwarf rootstock for that same spot. But to get back to tomatoes I'm going to repeat my two week late tomato seedling setting out and try 3 weeks also, maybe one in late June. Just to see what happens.

So I'll have room to grow crops that I never had room for. Like potatoes, cabbage and other brassicas, more root crops than a few carrots, asparagus, pole beans, peas. Maybe in a future year grow some sweet corn. I'll convert my old small garden to an herb garden, near the kitchen.

 
pollinator
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I have the yellow pear tomatoes coming out of my ears this year. They did extremely well with zero effort other than planting them. Still several hundred waiting to be picked. A few flowers still. First year growing those but they're definitely keepers.

Down here in Oklahoma the summer heat routinely gets too hot for tomatoes to produce for quite a long time and there's a lot of disease/drought/heat pressure on the plants as well so it's tricky to keep them alive and fruitful until the weather cools down.  So I've begun to shoot very explicitly for two tomato production seasons.  



Very true Dan. In central TX I always got better tomato, pepper, & eggplant production in fall than spring. Would get a decent crop in late spring. Then watered the heck out of them just to keep them barely alive during summer. Would get a stray tomato or two but nothing to brag about. Then once summer heat ended they would start producing strong again. I would also plant a new batch of peas & some broccoli, chard, & cabbage in the late summer/early fall. About the time tomatos, peppers, & eggplants died off the the brocs would be ready to start harvesting. They ended about same time as asparagus was ready to start picking late winter. Pacman brocs were wonderful. They produced one big head & many smaller ones. They were harvested all during winter. They produced beautiful yellow flowers & seed heads in early spring. Bees loved them. The big M bought the rights to Pacman (& many small seed companies) out & I haven't seen them available since then. Still have a few old seeds. Trying to revive that variety for a large crop next year. And fresh seeds!!!
 
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