So it seems that I have stumbled upon a very touchy subject – When is the best time to plant tomatoes in the fall in North Texas? Experienced gardeners say that starting your fall plants in mid July and building a shelter over the baby plants protecting them from the harsh July-August sun especially from the west is the way to go. Our first frost is mid November here and counting backwards, you need anywhere from 60-90 days growth to realize a decent tomato crop. Generally I agree, growing plants from seed in your own soil and babying the plants through the dog days of summer is ideal. It is my fault for not writing more clearly. I am not planting little seedlings this late in the growing season and hoping for a marvelous return. With regards to my fall tomato harvest, there are three factors I would like to point out:
- This summer here in North Texas has come second only to living on the surface of the sun. Keeping my established plants alive has been hard enough let alone babying little sprouts.
- My cutting garden in the spring and summer is full of those things I like best: flowers for cutting. With space at a premium, little seedlings would have been further stressed with competition from the real stars and I stop fertilizing around mid July to give my plants a break. Not a good start for tomato plants.
- As I may have mentioned a time or two, it has been hell-weather hot! I am usually a lazy gardener and even more so in hot weather. I also have a full-time job as an artist. Babying baby plants is not on my “can-do” or my “to-do” list.
With this in mind, I am coming clean. For the fall, I go to Lowe’s and purchase large determinate tomato plants and pop them in the ground about now when the weather is breaking and I start fertilizing again. I realize this confession makes master gardeners and home-grown heirloom tomato enthusiasts cringe but my roses are happy, my big new beefy tomato plants are happy, and most importantly, I am happy. Is it cheating? Yeah, a little, but I can live with that. I have come to realize that only God and Martha Stewart live perfect lives. The rest of us do what we can.
Happy Gardening (Notice I did not say ‘Perfect Gardening’) and remember to “bee” positive!