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The gardening bug seems to bite us earlier and earlier every spring. Sinking our teeth into homegrown tomatoes is one of the best parts of having a backyard garden! There are a few tricks to produce early tomatoes and some are really quite simple! In most areas tomatoes are planted about two weeks after the last frost into the garden, but you can get a head start today if you don’t want to wait.
- When buying seeds or transplants, choose those that are an early-maturing variety. Early Girl matures the fastest at 50 days, then Bush Early Girl at 54 Days, Juliet and Celebrity are at 60 days, and Husky Cheery Red and Super Sweet 100 mature in 65 days. You can start these seeds indoors if you want an even earlier producing garden.
- Plant early and then protect your tomatoes from the cold. You can make your own protection by cutting the bottom off a plastic gallon milk jug and placing it over the plant until the weather warms. Remove the cap so the plant can breathe! Insert a stake next to the plant and place the jug over that so it doesn’t blow it away. You can also order commercial items like the Wall-O-Water or buy a cold-frame to grow your seedlings in.
- Plant your tomatoes in a row and then cover it with clear plastic so that the sunlight warms the soil underneath the plastic. Cut openings in the plastic and gently pull the tomatoes through. Later once it warms up you can cover the plastic with straw mulch to block sunlight. This will keep the soil from getting too hot. Make sure before you start that the soil is well watered. Adding in a drip irrigation or a soaker hose will be essential with this so that water gets to the tomatoes roots underneath the plastic.
- You can also try Steps 2 and 3 together and experiment with how doing both tips helps your plants to grow earlier.
- There is also a commercial hormone spray on the market called Blossom Set Spray. This hormone spray causes fruit to set earlier and can help your tomatoes to start producing. It is available at garden centers or order it online.
- If you tomato has yellow flowers but they haven’t set fruit yet it might be because you don’t have any bees pollinating your plant. Grab a paintbrush and go from flower to flower and take matters into your own hands. Tomatoes are not self-pollinating and need a little bit of help from Mother Nature to get the job done.
You can follow one or all of these tricks to get early tomatoes. Starting out with an early variety works the best and then altering the growing conditions to warm up the ground never hurts. Growing early tomatoes is possible now that you know these tricks.