By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning writer and owner of Tomato Dirt, a leading online source of for growing tomatoes in the home garden.
“I’m several weeks behind this year. If planting tomatoes late, I wonder if I will get a crop. Is it still worth it?”
Maybe! Since fresh tomatoes are so tasty, it’s worth a try – even if it's past "optimum" planting time.
Tomato plants can tolerate short periods of extreme temperatures.
But blossoms have difficulty setting into fruit during a string of days with temperatures consistently above 90ºF. That’s because during a hot spell, tomato plants focus on survival rather than pollination.
If you live in a hot climate, don’t completely give up hope on late planting. Choose heat-tolerant varieties, like Heat Wave II, Solar Set, Super Fantastic, and other heat-tolerant types of tomatoes.
Shade your plants during the heat of the day. Give a helping hand with pollination: when blossoms appear, gently shake the plant.
When you plant tomatoes late, you must be especially vigilant with a consistent watering schedule to get them established.
If you plant late, you won’t have neighborhood bragging rights to the first tomato of the season. But with careful attention, you should be able to get some fruit even though your tomatoes will come in a couple of weeks later than everyone else. Plus, your neighbors’ tomatoes may peter out weeks before yours are ready to eat – and you’ll help prolong their tomato-eating pleasure!
As the season wears on, retailers are anxious to unload their stock. Look for good deals and sales on seedlings at nursery centers and home improvement stores late in the planting season. Buy tomato plants to set in your garden. Just be sure to check the plants to make sure they're healthy.
Plant on an overcast day or after the heat of the day has past. After planting, place a folding chair or leafed branch over the plants to provide a little bit of shade during the first few days to help with transplant shock. Make sure to water plants each day for a week to help them adjust, especially if it's hot.
More on planting tomato plants
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Watering tomatoes when planting and just afterwards ...
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