There are several things to consider when deciding on planting your tomato plants outside. You can grow your tomato seeds or transplant young seedlings outdoors in the early spring after the threat of frost has passed.
In most areas of North Carolina, you can plant tomatoes outdoors from Mid April to early May. Tomato plants will grow well before that time outside; however, it can be risky if you get a late frost. Let’s look at ‘when to plant tomatoes in NC.’
When to plant tomatoes in NC?
Tomatoes can be planted outside in the early spring in NC as long as the threat of frost has passed. North Carolina is located in USDA zones 7b to 8a. You can plant your tomatoes around mid-April. Watch the weather forecast and wait for a night with no chance of frost before you grow your tomato plants outside.
You can start planting tomato seeds inside around February 20th, depending on where you live in NC. When the soil temperature is consistently above 60°F (15°C), you can plant your tomato seeds, seedlings, or transplants outside. For best results, make sure to cover your young plants with a floating row cover for about four weeks to protect them from insects and encourage healthy foliage. Use a shade cloth if necessary to protect your tomatoes from too much sun as well as wind.
Planting Tomato Seeds vs. Seedlings
If you are a new gardener, it may be best to start your tomatoes from seedlings. You can either buy seedlings from the garden center or plant seeds indoors on a windowsill. You can plant your tomato seeds inside as early as February. This will give you a head start on the growing season. Once the threat of frost has passed, you can transplant the seedlings into your garden.
Tomato seeds or seedlings should be planted in the afternoon when the sun isn’t so hot. If you want, you can get it done early morning before it gets too hot outside. However, it’s recommended that you wait until late afternoon around 4:00 pm. Make sure to water your seeds or seedlings once you’ve planted them.
If you are using tomato seeds, plant a few seeds every couple of inches and cover them with soil lightly. Once your plants or seeds are in the ground, you must water them thoroughly.
Ensure you water your tomato seedlings every other day. The length of days will also be a key factor in deciding when to plant tomatoes. Tomato plants need enough sunlight to grow well and require at least 12 hours per day to produce quality fruit. If your plants get less than 12 hours of daylight, they will start producing very small leaves and eventually stop growing altogether. This is one of the main reasons that you should avoid planting tomatoes too early.
When to plant tomatoes in North Carolina comes down to waiting till after the last frost.
If you plant your tomato seeds or seedlings out too early, there is a chance that the temperature will drop, and your plants might freeze and die. You can avoid this by wrapping sheets or blankets around your plants if it gets particularly cold outside. This should keep them warm enough to survive until morning when the sun comes back out.
When considering planting, make sure you keep an eye on the weather forecast to avoid late frosts. Good luck!