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5 Tips for Late Season Tomato Planting

Homegrown tomatoes are the best and if you missed your first planting date you’re likely wondering how late you can plant tomatoes to still get a harvest. So in the post, we’ll go over all of the must-have details!

Planting a tomato plant in the garden

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I believe fresh tomatoes are probably one of the most popular plants among all home gardeners, which is no surprise. They are delicious!

I can hardly even eat a store-bought tomato after growing fresh tomatoes because there really is no comparison.

So whether you missed your first planting date, your current tomatoes aren’t growing well, or you just want to get another great harvest before the growing season ends, let’s see if you can still plant.

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How Late Can You Plant Tomatoes?

This depends on a variety of conditions. But the two most important factors are days to maturity and your first frost date.

So first, you need to look up your first frost date, then look up the days to maturity for the tomato variety you’d like to plant. If the days to maturity are less than the number of days away from your first frost then you can still plant.

For example, if your average first frost date is December 1st and you want to plant Early Girl tomatoes, they are ready to harvest in 60 days after transplanting.

Note that days to maturity are not from the day you plant tomato seeds, they are from the day you transplant young plants.

This would mean you could plant Early Girl tomato transplants all the way up to October 1st.

But an important consideration is that tomatoes continue to produce for an extended period. So if you were to plant on the last date possible before your first frost you won’t have enough time before a frost hits to get much of a harvest.

So I suggest figuring out the last date you can plant, then go back an extra month to ensure you have a longer harvesting time.

For the example above, that would mean your last planting date for Early Girl tomatoes would be September 1st.

A tomato transplant getting planted in the garden

Late Season Tomato Planting Tips

The best time to plant tomatoes in most areas is early to mid-spring when all danger of frost has passed.

But if you have a long growing season or you were late getting your plants in the ground there is no reason why you shouldn’t plant a late-season crop.

One benefit of late-season planting is that many garden centers have their vegetable plants discounted later in the gardening season so you can often get a great deal!

But here are some more tips to keep in mind!

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1.) Choose Disease Resistant Varieties

This is a good practice no matter what time of year you are planting tomatoes but it’s especially important late in the season. Of all the vegetables, tomato plants are often the most susceptible to disease.

So choosing disease-resistant varieties will give you one less thing to worry about.

Hybrid varieties have more disease resistance than heirlooms and so I’d choose from those or be sure you’re planting a disease-resistant heirloom type. A few great options are:

2.) Choose Early Maturing Varieties

Another important thing to keep in mind for best results with late-season planting is to choose fast or early maturing varieties.

Some varieties can take up to 100 days to mature but there are others that only take 50. So choosing varieties with the quickest days to maturity is important especially if you don’t have much time left before your first frost.

Tomatoes growing in the garden

Here are a few quick maturing tomato varieties,

  • Sungold – This variety produces clusters of golden cherry tomatoes and matures in 57 days.
  • Early Girl – These tomato plants will have ripe fruit to harvest in about 60 days. They have great flavor and are also very disease-resistant.
  • Goliath Hybrid – This type should have fruit ready to harvest in about 65 days and is resistant to a few common diseases.

There are many more quick maturing types out there and so check the plant tags at your local garden center or the plant description if you’re ordering online.

One of my favorite places to shop for seeds is True Leaf Market!

3.) Plant and Water Properly

Tomatoes prefer rich soil and so prior to planting work up your garden beds and add in some compost. If you are planting in pots you should refill them with fresh potting soil each year to maintain nutrients.

When you transplant your tomatoes burry 2/3 of the main stem. This lets the plant sprout roots along all parts of the buried stem which makes your plant much stronger.

It’s also a good idea to use a starter fertilizer that helps minimize transplant shock and establish healthy root systems.

Tomatoes then need to be consistently watered. Plan on at least one inch of water per week, more in hot weather.

If you are planting in late summer it’s likely going to be very hot and so I have my garden set up on drip irrigation so that I can water long and slow.

I also have my garden on a timer which frees up a ton of time to do other tasks in the garden.

My last planting tip is to avoid planting your tomatoes where other nightshade crops have recently been. Common nightshade crops include tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes.

This is the practice of crop rotation and helps prevent common diseases such as bacterial wilt and early blight, as well as viruses such as the Tobacco Mosaic Virus.

To learn more about crop rotation, head over to my post here about companion planting.

4.) Provide Extra Care

The first thing you should do is provide support for your plants before they get too big. You can use tomato cages, a trellis, posts with wire, really whatever works best for you.

Then once your tomatoes start to set fruit go ahead and fertilize with a balanced fertilizer. Or something such as Dr. Earth Tomato, Vegetable, and Herb Fertilizer.

You can continue to fertilize every few weeks until the end of the harvest period.

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5.) Harvest & Store Properly

Now onto the fun part, harvesting time!

When you start seeing ripe tomatoes harvest and store them properly. Don’t put your tomatoes in the fridge. Instead, store them at room temperature because anything under 55 degrees F. begins breaking down the tissue of the tomato and takes away from the quality and flavor.

Ripe tomatoes ready to be harvested

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are a few common questions related to growing tomatoes!

How far apart to space out tomato plants?

This depends on the variety. There are determinate and indeterminate varieties that grow to different sizes so that is the first thing to check.

But I believe more space is better, especially when tomatoes are grown in the hot summer heat. It allows for much more air circulation which means healthier plants.

I space my tomatoes 5 feet apart and they do great! Head to this post here to learn more, How Far Apart to Space Tomato Plants.

Watch my video below to hear some of the changes I made that led to my best tomato crop ever!

These changes SAVED my tomato crop!

How late in summer can you plant tomatoes?

This depends on your first frost date and the days to maturity for the type of tomato. As long as the days to maturity are less than the number of days away from your first frost date you can still plant.

For most areas, you should still be able to plant late from late June to late August with no problem.

Can you overwinter tomatoes?

In zone 10 and warmer, tomatoes grow as a fall and winter crop. In zone 9b and below you likely won’t be able to overwinter your crop but you can try growing them in a greenhouse.

Want to learn more about growing tomatoes?

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Late Season Tomato Plants in the Garden

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