When to Plant Tomatoes For Delicious Summer Meals

By Chris Edmunds

 
Slicing into a juicy sweet-but-tangy tomato for a salad, sandwich, or burger is the taste of summer!
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When to Plant Tomatoes For Delicious Summer Meals

A thick, juicy slice of tomato on a fresh-grilled burger is one of the ultimate flavors of summer. The sweet and tangy flavor complements almost everything, from burgers to salads to soups to pasta. They are one of the most popular edibles to grow on your own, and for good reason. They’re relatively easy to care for, they can be grown in pots or in the ground, and there are so many varieties to choose from. Homegrown tomatoes also taste way better than any you’ll find in a grocery store. 

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Starting from Seed

You can start tomatoes from seed indoors, if you like, or you can buy young seedlings from one of our many seasonal locations across Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. If you’re going to start your own, you’ll need to know the average date for the last frost in your area. Your local extension office will have this info, or you can do a  quick google search for “last frost in [your town name]”. Once you have the last frost date, count backward. Tomato seeds should be planted indoors under fluorescent grow lights 6-8 weeks before you aim to transplant them into outdoor pots or into the ground. 

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Hardening Off

About 10-14 days before you’re going to plant tomatoes in the ground or place their pots outside permanently, you should start hardening them off. This means taking them outside to a sheltered spot for about 2 hours a day, gradually increasing the length of time each day. Only do this on days where temperatures are above 45°F. 

Transplanting Seedlings

Tomatoes should not be planted outside—in the ground or in pots—until you’re safely past the last risk of frost. If you’ve picked up seedlings from one of our seasonal locations or started your own, you’ll want to keep track of nighttime and soil temperatures starting in early May. Once nighttime temperatures are consistently staying above 55°F and soil temperatures are consistently 60°F or above, you’re safe to plant your tomatoes out. 

  • In Kansas, this will likely be between April 15 and May 15.

  • In Missouri, this will likely be between April 20 and May 15.

  • In Nebraska, this will likely be between May 15 and June 5.

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Early Varieties

The average tomato will start ripening towards the end of July or even early August. But there are a few that are quicker. If you plant early varieties, like Fourth of July (49 days from transplant to maturity) or Early Girl (52 days from transplant to maturity), on May 15, you could have ripe tomatoes ready for eating by Independence Day!

Stop by one of our seasonal pop-up locations to learn more about how easy it is to grow tomatoes at home, and next summer you can relish the rich flavors of tomatoes you grew all on your own. 

 

 

 
 

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