Chances are, spring is in full swing where you are and you are wondering: “is it too late to sow tomatoes?”
Most likely the answer is: No, it’s not. As im writing this post it is the middle of April, today is the first of the long Easter Weekend and the temperatures are still warming up.
If you live in a tempered climate like I do – here in Western Europe (probably comparable to a zone 6 to 7b) then you can sow tomatoes indoors up until 4 weeks before your last frost date. For us that would be exactly this weekend.
So when is your last frost date? The following links can help you find the last frost date for US-locations or European locations (scroll down until your reach the part where it says “International Hardiness Zone Maps”).
There you will also find the first frost days which mark the end of the tomato growing season. You need to make sure that the varieties you grow quickly. They need to be able to ripen in the time that is left between your sowing date and the first day of frost.
Can I grow any kind of tomato?
If you plan on growing your tomatoes under cover in a greenhouse or a poly tunnel you can still go ahead and sow late indeterminate tomato varieties. Otherwise I would recommend choosing varieties which have a short time to ripen. This information can be found on the seed packets or online, as long as you know the name of the variety you have.
If you grow tomatoes without cover you can still succeed. But you will need to make sure that the temperatures are right when you plant them out. It is important to protect them from any cold snaps as they will be rather young and tender still. They won’t handle the additional set back. You might want to visit our post on how much cold tomatoes can tolerate. There you’ll also find ideas on how to give your seedlings some extra protection when planting out to help them grow quickly.
What to avoid when sowing tomatoes late.
Starting tomatoes late comes with some challenges. There is no time left to make errors. If your seeds don’t germinate quickly or don’t germinate at all, you end up without a harvest. But it still can be done. You just might want to take some extra precaution:
- Sow ideally 2 seeds for every tomato plant you want to grow. That way you can be more sure that one germinates. You can thin excess later.
- Take care of germination temperature! 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal and lead to quick germination. You can achieve that by placing your seed-pots on the heater on low or on a heating pad. Places like the above the fridge or freezer tend to be warm enough as well.
- Never let the seeds dry out! Keep the soil covered with clear plastic wrap or a see through lid and check twice a day if a seedling is emerging. If so, you will need to uncover the soil the let the seedling get some airflow around its leaves. Otherwise you risk mold.
- You can also pre-sprout your seeds by placing them in between to moist paper towels inside a sealed bag or upper box. After three days you should check once or twice a day to see if the seeds are sprouting a small root. If they do so: plant them carefully and keep them moist and warm until the seedling emerges.
Some more tips on growing plants from seed can be found here.