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How late is too late for tomatoes?

Borderline 6b/7a, AR

Due to various factors, I've been very late in getting to the garden this year. I (very) recently started my tomatoes, but it's already so late in the season I wonder if they'll be able to produce. Have I missed the party?

Poughkeepsie, NY(Zone 6a)

Nope You're good! Go for it! you're not that late! IMHO of coarse!

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

The tomato seed packet will tell you how many days from seed to harvest. When you have the answer, count back those many days from your first fall frost date. That's the absolute latest date you can sow your tomato seeds and expect ripe fruit.

(hint) seed packages always seem to be overly ambitious, so I would add at least ten days to whatever the number is.

Plantersville, TX(Zone 9a)

In Texas, if you don't have your tomatoe plants in the ground by March, its considered late. The tomatoes will not have time to ripen before the heat of the summer comes around. The earlier you get them planted the better off you are. In your state, you might not have that hot of summer to deal with.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I recently attended two Urban Harvest classes here, and they confirmed what I've long suspected: "In Houston, if you don't have your tomato plants in the ground by mid-FEBRUARY, it's considered late. The tomatoes will not have time to ripen before the heat of the summer comes around. The earlier you get them planted, the better off you are."

I decided to go ahead and push that planting envelop this season, and had my long-season heirlooms in by February 27th. I am soooooooooooooooooo glad I did! I had all my protection contingencies in place, and broke them out a couple times, but nothing I couldn't handle.

I have china-ball tomatoes today, and blooms breaking out everywhere! I'm expecting to harvest through the end of June, when I'll rip out the remaining plants, and move on to the true heat lovers.


This message was edited Apr 9, 2013 9:57 AM

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

How can they say "in Texas" the state is too big to generalize like that. Tx has 5 growing regions there is no way that the panhandle can be on the same schedule as the gulf coast. That's going from zone 6 to zone 10. I have a chart from A&M that gives the planting dates and there is a 6-7 week difference between zone 9 and the pan handle. It doesnt include microclimates. That's for a year that hasn't had freezing temps every week. Lol

Bee in England the seed packets DTM (date to maturity) is sowing until ripe fruit. In the states the seed packet is usually from plant out until ripe fruit. So I try to start my plants 6-8 weeks before the last frost but we had a freeze last Friday and may have more this week. This year that theory won't work. I never plant out before April and I have tomatoes all summer long. If I plant out too early the plants just sit there.

CroppingUp-different tomatoes mature at different times some take 90 days some 65 and that's only an approximation. I know of others in your zone that plant out at the beginning of May so you should be ok. Every year is different, this year is very different.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Oops, Sorry Lisa, you are SO right.

That should be "In HOUSTON". I'll edit the post!


Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Phew, I wasn't soooo right I was soooo confused...lol

Delhi, LA

I've never had trouble with tomatoes not ripening because of the head. We were at 100 plus summer before last from the first of May with no problem. If the fruit is set before the extreme heat they should grow and ripen. I didn't make any tomatoes in the top because of the heat but the bottom did great. I picked over 700 tomatoes the size of a soft ball off 16 plants. Took regular watering.

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

Not here in Dallas. After mid July we only have green growth and flowers ... no fruits.
It is a waist of space and water ...
Also leaffotted bugs do arrive to suck on the tomatoes and make the fruit not-edible.
From the beginning all the gardening classes I attended on tomatoes in Dallas suggest planting mid February to the beginning of March. I always follow their suggestion and I am glad. It takes a lot of time to cover and uncover the plants ... especially this year ... but it is all worth it !

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Bro. Jim41,
My experience is just opposite yours. I had fruits in the top, but not in the bottom, and couldn't figure out why, except maybe I trimmed off too many lower leaves? And, yes, after 82 + our sticky humidity, the pollen starts to get "clumpy" and will not fly to fertilize the tomatoes. One other reason I love that my yard sits on a crosswind tunnel!

I agree with drthor more and more these days on getting tomatoes in as early as possible, before the temps start to rise. I managed to get mine in the weekend of Feb. 23rd, but, my goal was two weeks prior. I've learned a WHOLE lot this season about how to utilize different types of covers on my hoop to achieve different outcomes. Knowledge is a very powerful tool!

Next season as I prep for tomato planting, I will cover my intended tomato bed hoops with black plastic to begin solarizing and heating up the soil, sometime in early January. Once I plant out in mid-February, I'll switch over to the perforated plastic and use another sheet of non-perfed plastic when I need a wind-block or when the temps dip below 48. Add some sheets for extra warmth if necessary, and shove in the space heater for extremes.

Drthor has also shown me that I need to bring down the height on my hoop, so I'm not wasting the plastic sheeting.


Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

well I am glad somebody is listening ... now I will just wait for your beautiful harvest pictures.
My tomatoes produce only on the top of the plant. I always trim anything below the fruits ,,, and I keep trimming until i have a palm tree looking tomato plant ... in this way I keep pushing the energy to produce fruit and not leaves.
Almost of the tomato plants have little green fruits ... yeaahhh

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Ah, drthor, how quickly you forget!

Go find my post on a tomato thread a couple years ago, where I asked, "who IS this drthor?" "She has such knowledge!"

I've been listening to you since the very first post YOU posted...

And, yes, I'm praying to post pictures of a beautiful tomato harvest this year, thanks to all your help.


^^_^^^^_^^ (Linda and drthor doing the tomato dance?)

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

that's great

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I'm listening it just wouldn't do me any good to get my plants in the ground that early..but my area is more like the Central Valley in CA. They grow grapes here and my plants produce all summer long. I also don't have a closed in back yard. So the weather is more changeable. Even the plants I put out 2 weeks ago haven't grown, it's just been too cold.

What works for some doesn't work for all that's why it's fun to share info. Then again I've never waited 2 months for fruit to set. But this year is way different.

Borderline 6b/7a, AR

Thanks for all the replies on here. I was going to try anyway and hope for the best, but I feel better about my chances now. :-) And as several others have noted, this is a very unusual year. Next season I plan to have my ducks in something much closer to a row.

Delhi, LA

I planted six tomatoes in July last year and made a bunch they justed didn't get as big as usual.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Days to maturity (DTM) plays a very important factor, too, in determining how late is too late...

I grow long-season heirlooms with an average DTM between 90-120 days. This year, I followed my logical mind and set transplants out in mid-February, rather than waiting until March. It does take some dedication and commitment to protect your wee seedlings against potential freezes/wind/rainstorms, etc., but, I was prepared for the first time, with contingencies ready to go.

I calculated the from the day I set the transplants out, that my harvest should start coming in between the end of May and the end of June (which is my cut-off date). After mid-July (or sooner, depending on how much fruit set is left to ripen), I'll be ripping the tomato plants to make room for the true heat lovers.

No pollen will fly here after the temps reach a consistent 82 or so, and the humidity sets in. The pollen will just clump, so it's not worth it to keep the vines going, unless they're already full with fruit left to ripen.


Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

CroppingUp, what part of Arkansas are you in? Though it's not as big as Texas, it is still big enough to have varied climates. The south central part of the state starts tomatoes fairly early. Bradley County does a "Pink Tomato Festival" in June. Those tomatoes have been planted since March. In the east, in the river delta (White River or the Mississippi) summer heat and humidity come pretty early. In the west or northwest (in the Ouachita or Ozark Mountains) you have more flexibility and can plant a little later.


Plantersville, TX(Zone 9a)

I have my first green tomatoes on the vine. I set my plants out on Feb. 22. Had to cover them about 3 times, but they made it. Zone 8 & 9

Colorado County, TX(Zone 8b)

I too have quite a few tomatoes set (about the size of a quarter). We transplanted ours on March 15th.

Southington, CT(Zone 6a)

Hi I'm new here and still pretty new to the veggie garden or any garden for that matter LOL. I was recently given a tomato plant and brocolli plant both with 4 stems/ stalks in them they are about 1ft tall from top to bottom but still in store containers. A few quick questions... should I replant now, should I seperate the stems /stalks and make 4 seperate plants or leave them together like they were one? Why are the new stems on the tomatoes curling, the whole stem not just the leaves and why are some spotted yellow? Can I plant both near each other in the ground or pot or will one kill the other? Lastly about how old would they be now. So I can figure when they will produce so I can harvest

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Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Welcome Stirring, you may want to start a new thread and also add what zone you are in.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)


You've got EIGHT separate plants growing in two pots. WAAAAAAAAAY too many for one pot!!!

Each plant needs its own separate pot, especially the Big Boys and each of the broccoli plants definitely needs its own pot.

Repot them all into individual containers at least 5 gallons each. eBuckets would be ideal for you to begin with. I'll post the link to my pictorial tutorial on how to construct one. It's an EZ PZ piece 'a cake to put one together with a little cutting on the pvc pipe, which you can do at the Big Box stores (HD, Lowes) with a hand saw.

Fill your containers with potting MIX, MIX, MIX, never garden soil (it'll compact hard as concrete over time...)

Mix two cups of Dolomite lime, and 1 cup balanced fertilizer (all three numbers the same, between 10 and 15, e.g., 13-13-13, etc.) into the tomato containers. The broccoli are hungry hippos. So, in addition to the lime and fertilizer, mix in 1/2 a bag of composted (Black Kow at the Big Boxes, or some other aged compost).

I suggest the eBuckets because of the built in reservoirs which will facilitate the plants water needs. You'll still need to keep the reservoir filled, but the plants (especially the broccoli, which are water HOGS!) will take up the water as they want/need to. And, there may be days you forget to water, so the reservoirs come in handy!

Keep me posted on your progress, and get in touch with me if you need assistance with putting the eBuckets together.

The link leads you to a number of other links, including the eBucket tutorial page. The picture is of the broccoli I had growing in free-draining, 6.5 gallon pool chlorine tablet buckets I get from a pool guy...scrounge around for FREE buckets. No need for expense if you don't have to spend!



Plantersville, TX(Zone 9a)

Stirring Time, did you have your plants outside? Do you have dogs?

Southington, CT(Zone 6a)

Ok wasn't sure how to post. Im in zone 6a I believe but close to zone 6b as well, on the cusp I guess you'd call it lol. These plants were given to me about a week ago I still need soil and more pots. I've had them outside Most often but when cold I brought them in. Where do I get these ebuckets and the other stuff. No I dont have a dog but will be getting kittens their not quite ready to leave mama yet will I need to watch them with These or any of the plants i may have later Thank you all for guidence

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Read my post, and follow the links to the tutorial that shows you how to MAKE the eBuckets. They aren't purchased...Very EZ to make them.

LMK if you need further instructions.


Southington, CT(Zone 6a)

Thank-you Linda heres a picture that shows the plants on my porch and if you notice in background theres a corn field actually im Surrounded.. LOL the manager of the mobile park saw my plants and said oh my then she told me to go to the edge of the field nearest my property and get some soil LOL I would be afraid but gonna

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Plantersville, TX(Zone 9a)

Are those Clay Pots, you are going to use. Clay pots are bad for plants. They suck out all the water. Also, they don't seem big enough. If I were you, I would plant directly in the ground.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I know that tomatoes will take much longer to set fruit in cool climates. I wish that instead of just quoting "DTM" for an unspecified climate, seed packets would give a range like:

65 days Daily Low Tmp above 60, Daily high 75-80
80 days Daily Low Tmp above 50, Daily high 65-72

Or use heat units / growing degree days above 50 F

65 days and 2000 heat units
75 days and 1500 heat units
90 days and 1000 heat units


Southington, CT(Zone 6a)

No Behillman they aren't clay pots, those are mini wooden barrels someone made them, I thought they'd be cute for some herbs. I wouldnt have chanced one of the bigger plants LOL. I cant plant in the ground because I can bend over or get down there to tend them because of my health. I am going to plants fruit trees though my neighbor has peach trees told me come get some so I probably will try 2 or 3. My son wants to build on and around the porch, so I can reach readily

Plantersville, TX(Zone 9a)

I see that your yard is fenced in. That is a good thing. Keeps all the neighborhoods dogs & cats out of your yard & plants. It would be nice if you could have a raised bed. Its much better to grow plants then pots.Some raised beds are a foot high or higher.

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