During my recent whining about the storm damage to my garden, so many of you commented or wrote me about replanting so I thought I’d do a blog post about our growing seasons. Since it’s so warm here so much of the year, you would think I could grow tomatoes year round but we actually have the shortest tomato growing season of anywhere we’ve ever lived. Even though we had to plant later in MO, we had much longer before the night temps got into the 70’s. Tomatoes stop setting fruit when the night temps reach 70º.
When we first moved here, I thought the same thing . . I would have a much longer growing season. But for tomatoes, I do not.
It is risky to plant tomatoes (transplant the seedlings) til at least mid-April and it isn’t even 100% safe then. By mid-June, we’re beginning to have nighttime lows in the 70’s and by late June, the 70’s for lows are here to stay. So, if we plant on April 15, we have 75 days til the end of June. Full sized tomatoes take 70 to 80 days to produce fruit. We really don’t have much wiggle room.
While researching to make sure I was giving you correct information, I found this handy guide for planting tomatoes. Louisiana, which you wouldn’t think should be a whole lot different from where we are, can plant spring tomatoes from March 1 – April 1. Our recommended planting time is March 15 to April 10. Louisiana gets 2 months and we get 3 weeks.
For fall plantings, Louisiana’s recommended time is July 1 to August 15, while ours is July 1. They get 6 weeks and we get 1 day! Seriously, I think any time during that first or even second week of July would be pretty safe.
The problem with fall plantings are the grasshoppers. They are out in full force once it gets hot and dry and they mow everything down to the dirt. Remember . . they ate holes in the window screens! Last fall I planted some lettuce, kale, beets and things like that and the grasshoppers ate everything. I tried to cover it with the row covers and they ate right through the thin meshy fabric and still ate everything I had planted.
One year, I had planted something . . can’t even remember what it was now, and it was up several inches tall and I was so proud. I had even taken pictures. I went back out the next day or so and there was NOTHING there. I would have sworn the seeds never sprouted except I had seen the sprouts!
I can’t remember (anything!) when we first start seeing the huge, destructive grasshoppers but so far this year, I’ve seen very few of them and haven’t seen any damage in the garden.
As soon as we have a good freeze, the grasshoppers are history and that’s when I can plant but by then, there isn’t much I can plant. It isn’t unusual for us to have temps in the low teens or even single digits . . just a couple of time but once is all it takes to ruin all the plants. By late January, I can plant lettuce, beets, carrots, kale, and those type hardy plants. It’s hard for me to grow things like broccoli or cabbage or even lettuce, because when it gets warm .. it goes from winter to HOT in almost no time and those things don’t do well when it’s hot.
So, even though there are only a few months out of the year that I cannot have something growing in the garden, my seasons for each item are pretty short.
But, if you look at that chart for Missouri, they only have a 10 or 15 day window for planting tomatoes in the spring and fall plantings are not recommended. Maybe I’ll just stay in Texas . . for another year or so! 🙂