by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law
If you are growing your tomatoes from seeds you need to start them 5 to 8 weeks before setting them out in the garden. This works out to between January 5 to January 26th. Don't forget to allow a couple of days for the plants to "harden-off" in the shade before planting.
I recommend that you plant your tomato sets during the first week of March. We usually don't get a freeze after then, and if we do it is usually short, and the freeze cloth I recommend will help. Freeze cloth gives about two degrees of protection. You may have to add plastic or blankets if an especially cold night is expected. If the plants are small, five gallon black plastic pots, with a brick or rock over the drainage holes, will help the plants through the night if you aren't using cages.
If you are a gambler at heart you can set out your transplants as early as the beginning of the last week of February. If we don't get a freeze you may have the first tomatoes on your block. If we have a freeze you will have to buy new plants. If you wait longer than the first week of April to plant your transplants you had better hope for a cool spring!
Fall is an excellent time to grow tomatoes in Houston. Insect problems are often diminished and the (usually) cooler temperatures help the tomato blossoms to set. Many garden shops now sell tomato plants for fall gardening. Put your fall tomato plants out any time during the second half of July.
Last revised July 25, 1999
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