In the spring, gardeners across Texas are getting ready to plant tomato seeds. The best time to plant tomato seeds outdoors is in the early spring, once the risk of frost has passed. This date varies slightly depending on where you live in Texas.
Many gardeners grow transplants in a greenhouse or their home. This allows them to start their tomatoes as early as January and February to beat the cold weather. But for those who use a more traditional approach of direct seeding, they determine their planting date by how early the soil can be worked. The answer is when the soil temperature gets above 60° F.
If you’re wondering when to plant tomatoes in Texas, read on, this article will discuss when to plant tomatoes in Texas.
When to Plant Tomatoes in Texas
Tomatoes can germinate and emerge from the soil as early as eight weeks before your last frost date, but they may not be able to withstand a prolonged period of cold temperatures without protection. Heat is the limiting factor for growing tomatoes because growers usually don’t want to risk losing all their plants with an unexpected freeze which could lead to having to replant the crop.
Rather than planting tomatoes when theirs a risk of frost, it’s best to wait until after the last expected frost date in your area. For most growers in central Texas, this date is around February 15th but can vary anywhere from mid-February all the way to mid-April, depending on where you are located.
It would help if you also considered the climate where you live. What is the weather going to do? If you have an unusually cold or wet spring, one April planting may not give you the fruit size and quality that you desire. In this case, you might want to add a week and wait until mid-April to plant. However, if you have an unusually hot and dry spring with temperatures exceeding 90° F for several weeks in April or May, your fruit may reach ripening much earlier.
Estimated last frost dates for Texas
Texas is located in USDA zones 6 to 9, which means that tomatoes can be planted outdoors in the early spring. If you live in zone 6, the last estimated frost date is the 30th of April, while in zone 9, it’s the 11th of February.
If you live in or around Houston, the last expected frost date is approximately the 17th of February. In San Antonio, plant tomatoes outdoors after the 5th of March. While in Dallas, the last frost is expected on the 12th of March and in Austin on March 1st. Gardeners in the Fort Worth area have a much later planting date of the 21st of March.
Planting tomatoes indoors
There are many advantages to using transplants when growing tomatoes. One of the most obvious is harvesting your fruit much earlier because you have controlled the environment for your plants from day one. If you plant direct, it will take much longer for the fruit to size up because the plant has to deal with unfavorable weather conditions such as cold nights and hot days, insect pressure, diseases, etc.
For a tomato fruit to reach proper maturity, its sugar and acid content must be high. If the weather isn’t conducive to these chemical changes, your fruit will never reach its potential for taste and texture.
This brings us back to our original question about when to plant tomatoes in Texas. To determine your planting date, you must consider when you want to have fruit on the vine and how many days your crop takes to mature, given a certain temperature profile.
For example, you may need to start your tomatoes off indoors around February 1st if you want tomatoes for a mid-May harvest. The exact planting dates and how long the fruit takes to grow and ripen will depend on which variety of tomato you are growing.
The main goal when growing tomatoes is to provide the fruit with proper heat so they can thrive. This means that if you want to plant your seeds outdoors, you’ll need to wait until after the threat of frost has passed. You can care for your tomatoes inside in the winter to get a head start.
If you want to harvest your crop before May 15th in central Texas, you can start your plants off indoors. You’ll need to target a planting date of mid-April. The plants can then be transferred outdoors after the risk of frost has passed. If your weather conditions are good, the fruit should size up well and much faster than if you planted after May 15th. You
The earlier you plant, the better-quality fruit you will have. However, if you are not able to provide heat units, an indoor growing space, or a greenhouse, then your best option is to wait until mid-April to start growing outdoors.