|Soil Temp||65° F+|
|Area to Sow||50′ row|
|Days to Germ.||3-10+|
|Days to Maturity||70+|
|Best Planting Method||Transplant|
|Thin to||≥2″ apart|
|Final Spacing||≥24″ apart|
|Approx. Seed Count||60|
Planting by Zones
- Tomatoes grow well in the extended warm season of Zones 9 and 10. Often times you can grow tomatoes year round. This process is called perennialization. It happens when a typically annual plant grows year round in mild weather. In Zones 9 and 10, you can grow tomatoes year round but their productivity will greatly dimension once temperatures cool and the days are shorter. As a grower, you should make the decision to pull your tomato plants if they stop producing at a healthy rate, are diseased, or if space is needed for more seasonal vegetables.
- In Zones 9 and 10, you can start tomatoes from seed as early as February as long as they are protected from the cold. Do not let your seedlings get root bound in their containers. All seeds of the Solanaceae family enjoy warm temperatures to germinate. Using a heating pad can greatly increase the germination rate and speed.
- Sow seeds in starter pots with a heating pad 5-6 weeks before the last frost. Transplant out after the danger of frost is gone.
Planting Tomato Seeds
- Tomato seeds are easy to start with a few key things. Tomatoes germinate very slowly in cold soil. If you are starting your seeds early in the season you may want to use a heating mat to ensure the soil is warm enough for quick germination. Soil temperature should be 75-90°F.
- If you are planting seeds in starter pots, plant seeds into thoroughly moist high-quality seed starting soil. Place seeds on top of the soil and cover with 1/4” of finely sifted soil.
- If you plan to direct sow (not recommended), follow the same instructions for starter pots or plug trays.
- Once the seedlings have germinated and have a first set of true leaves be sure to fertilize regularly with an organic liquid fertilizer.
- Seedlings can be planted into the garden when they are 7-8 weeks old or 5-6” tall and stocky. Tomatoes are a unique crop because they can be planted deeply into the ground. This is recommended because the tiny white hairs on the tomato plant become roots. Plant your starts all the way down into the soil until only 3-4” of the top leaves show. Tomatoes thrive in full sun.
- A granular organic fertilizer added to the planting area is a good idea if your garden has poor nutrient content or if you are growing in a new raised bed.
- The method that you grow tomatoes depends on the type of tomato. There are three tomato types:
Determinate or Bush tomato varieties do not typically need pruning (some pruning can be helpful) and may be grown with or without support. Fruit of determinate varieties ripens in clusters or all at once. Traditional sauce tomatoes are determinate.
Indeterminate or Pole tomato varieties grow long and wild. Indeterminate tomatoes must have a support system, like the tomahook, to grow on or they will become a mess. We recommend that you prune them heavily to control the fruit set. You can do so by pruning back the suckers.
Semi-determinate tomato varieties have a bushier appearance but do not ripen their fruit all at once. They will require far less support than indeterminate tomatoes but can benefit from support as simple as a tomato cage.
Growing Tomatoes in Containers
- If you are planting tomatoes in containers, make sure your container is at least 20” deep. Keep in mind containers will dry out faster because they have more surface area and less soil to hold onto moisture. Mulch heavily on the top layer of soil in the pot to keep the soil from drying out or heating up too much.
- We recommend that you grow determinate or bush varieties of tomatoes in pots as they are easier to manage.
- Tomatoes are best harvested at peak ripeness. This is typically when fruits have turned their appropriate color and have a slight give.
Southern California Pro-tips
- In areas of Zones 9 and 10, tomatoes can be grown year round but may decrease drastically in production.
- Mulch heavily around your tomato plants to ensure the soil does not dry out or heat up too much.
- During our hottest months of August, September, and October, plants can suffer from the heat. Using shade cloth can help protect the plants from extreme heat.
- In July and August keep an eye out for the tomato hornworm. This beautiful and slightly scary-looking large caterpillar can devour huge parts of your plant. You can find them by following their poop trails. Handpick them off and toss in a bucket of soapy water.
- Tomatoes can get very large. For this reason, we recommend planting low lying plants around them. Flowers like alyssum and nasturtium look beautiful in a tomato bed!