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I have never been one to get things in the ground at the earliest possible date, but I will share my experience. I have planted out tomato starts in the first part of June with good results. I put lots of compost in the bed and some organic fertilizer mix in the planting hole. In consulting 2 books, I have come up with more information. It is possible to put out tomato starts in mid May if you protect them under a cloche or hot caps. Partly it depends on your individual micro-climate. If you are in the city of Seattle you probably have the advantage of all the heat the concrete soaks up during the day and lets off at night. If you plan on growing some tomatoes from seed, this weekend would be a good time to get them planted.
Over here we can get frosts late into May, so I plant them (Already starts) end of may first of june and put wire cages around them and cover them with large clear plastic bags. I think that is what she means by a hot cap? Good luck. What part of Seattle do you live in? Debbie
I'm not the best to give advice but I'm asuming they are at least 4 or5" tall or bigger? drooping is commen with tomatos. I use popcycil sticks to hold them up. make sure the water can drain out good so they don't get root rot. My Aunt and Uncle lived on 49th street tell they passed and when we would visit them us kids would get to walk up to Woodland park Zoo. Way back in the days when it was free to go in. I sure hope someone more Knowledgeable jumps in to help you.. Debbie
March 23rd is an average last frost date for Seattle. You coudl still have a frost after that. I am not a tomatoe expert, but it's not a frost that you want to protect them against. I have been told that night temps below 50 are to be avoided. Not really possible till May in the Seattle area.
Are your plants outside right now? If so you will want to build a small coldframe. Some 2x2's and clear plastic will work. Put them out in the sunniest spot you have. If it looks like it will get really cold you may want to bring them inside at night. They shouldn't be drooping unless they are having a problem. Too much cold, too much water, not enough light. Where did you get your seedlings?
I plan to start mine in the greenhouse at teh end of April. This is the first year we've had the greenhouse. The seedlings will be reay to plant out at the end of May. This gives them 90 days or so to grow, set fruit and ripen by the end of August. We have done Early Girls in the past. They are supposed to take 53 days. We've bought them from nurseries and got them in the ground mid june and have had spotty luck getting ripe tomatoes before the weather turns in Sept. Of course we live in Duvall and it's a bit colder than in Seattle.
Like I said I'm no expert. My method has yet to be tried, but I put it together from reading articles and interent forums over the last 3 years. Hey, if I read it on the internet...
I don't plant mine out until May. And even then I cover them each nite with my gallon-size plastic milk jugs (the bottoms are cut off and they just slide over the plant). I use a bamboo stick to keep them in place in case of the wind. It is a chore to keep putting them on and taking off, but it works great for me.
I use milk jugs also, when my tomato plants are little (thats what I was calling hot caps). I have used plastic wrapped around the tomato cage for larger plants, but this is more difficult to get off and on to adjust for warm afternoons and cool nights. I have seen offered in catalogs some water filled cylinders to put around tomato plants, but they were pretty expensive.
Hopefully you have an early variety. You might take a visit to the Tomato Forum. Those folks know allot, granted most don't live in the Seattle area but I'm sure will be able to help you allot. I've lived most of my life on the westside and the biggest problem I found with growing tomatos over there besided the fact that it's not very hot over there was that most plants being sold in stores were root bound even before you take them home. They are started so early and outgrow their pots so fast and can cause all sorts of problems. I think once they get about 6 inches high you can start pinching them back so they will start branching. (Check for sure when to do that with the pros on the Tomato Forum.) Do all the things that have been suggested. And I would say if you put it out definately have some sort of protection around it. Good luck.
Wow! i had no idea that getting tomatoes to grow here is so difficult. I'm from Corvallis, OR and just moved here this fall. It always seemed so easy to grow tomatoes down there. I have a large flat of tomatoes I just stepped-up into larger 4 inch pots. Do you think I should keep those inside until mid-May?
Don't be too worried. I've grown tomatoes here for a few years and have always had great success. However, I always choose roma and cherry tomatoes. I'm starting to branch out into larger heirloom varieties so we'll see if they ripen before first frost. :)
Anything that you can do to give them a jump start is good. If you are able, you should pot them up to gallon pots (plant them deeper, they will grow roots off the stem). In at night, out during the day is good. I have also put them under my patio table which was draped with plastic at night when I had too many to bring inside at night. Also be sure to start feeding them. I would not put them out until early to mid June. At temps below 50, they just sit there; but then take off when it warms up.