When to Plant Tomatoes in California? (Region By Region)

Gardening is a challenging activity as you need to get the timing right. Farmers and growers always want to work with the best crops and grow on prime soils. The best time to grow tomatoes in California is going to depend on where you live in the State.

If you live in California and want to grow tomatoes for your family, you’ll need to plant your seeds depending on what area you live in. In much of California, tomatoes can be grown year-round. Let’s look at when to plant tomatoes in California.


The Best Time to Plant Tomatoes in CA?

When to plant tomatoes in California

The climate of California is conducive to growing tomatoes. However, it’s essential to understand that there are certain seasons that are more suitable than others. The timing depends on what type of tomato variety you grow as well as your garden and weather conditions.

You need to choose the right time for planting tomatoes so that they can take root well. Consider what zone you live in as well as the temperature and climate in your location within California.

Southern California

Planting tomatoes in CA as early as possible is recommended for the best yields and quality. Southern California is located in USDA zones 5a to 11a. The date of planting can be anything between March to April if you live in the southern part of the state. In coastal southern California, the date of the last expected frost is the 1st of March. Tomatoes can be planted outdoors after the 15th of March, when the threat of frost has passed.

You can plant tomatoes in southern California earlier if you use a frost blanket. January and February are warm, dry months, and tomatoes will grow well outdoors; however, there is still the threat of frost, which can damage or even kill your plants.

If you are planting a late crop of tomatoes, you can plant in June or July so that the tomatoes have time to grow and produce a crop before the first expected frost date in the spring.

Northern California

Northern California has a slightly cooler climate than the south and falls into USDA zones 5a to 10b. In northern California, it’s best to plant your tomatoes between March and June. If you want to plant an early crop, start in the early spring once the threat of frost for your area has passed. Wait until the soil temperature is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit before planting.

Central California

In California central valley area, tomatoes can be grown year-round. It’s best to plant your tomato seeds in the late winter or early spring. Planting at this time will give you a crop of tomatoes in the early spring or summer. It’s best to plant in the winter or early spring when the weather is cooler. This will allow your tomato plants to establish themselves before the hot summer weather arrives.

How to Plant Tomatoes?

California Tomato Planting Dates

Before planting, you need to prepare your garden and purchase good-quality seeds and soil from a trusted company. You can plant seeds directly into the ground or purchase seedlings.

Preparing the soil

Ensure that your soil is well prepared with organic matter and nutrients such as phosphorus, calcium, and nitrogen. You can add them in different ways, such as fertilizers and compost. Make sure you follow package directions when adding any type of fertilizer or composted material.

Tomatoes require a lot of nutrients, especially during the early stages. They like soils that are rich in organic matter as this will keep them healthy as they grow. You can add aged compost, rotted manure, or vermicompost to improve the fertility of your soil. You’ll also need to remove all weeds from your garden before you start planting tomatoes. Pull the weeds out by hand.


Once you have added composted material to the soil, you can plant your tomato seeds or seedlings. Plant them at a distance of 8 to 12 inches between plants and 18 to 24 inches from rows. You’ll need to water the seeds or seedlings after planting.

Keep the soil damp but not soaked as this will lead to disease and root rot. You can water the plants with a drip irrigation system if you want for this purpose. To protect young tomato plants from birds and pests, cover them with screen netting.


When you plant tomatoes in California, you need to know the right time for doing so. If you live in the northern part of the state, where winters tend to be cold, then planting them during spring is ideal. If your summers tend to be cool and breezy with milder winters, then fall might be a good idea for planting tomatoes. If your summers are hot and humid, then you might want to wait for the month of October.


How to get thick stems from Tomatoes