July brings the fall tomatoes into Rainbow Gardens. Really? Yes, really. Trust us, there is method to the madness. Following our “Buy, Bump, Plant and Protect” method will have you enjoying fresh tomatoes in both fall and spring. But you gotta do things early when it comes to tomatoes in San Antonio, you just gotta. Today I’ll walk you through the “Buy, Bump, Plant and Protect” method for successful tomatoes.
The BBPP Method for Successful Fall or Spring Tomatoes
B is for: Buy
Tomatoes need to be purchased early in both fall and spring. The biggest reason being that we have a relatively short window for tomatoes to grow and produce before a winter frost when growing in fall or the summer heat when growing in spring.
Another reason you need to buy tomatoes early for fall and spring is selection. Once the word gets out that tomatoes have arrived, they get snatched up fast. And since we know that tomatoes won’t produce when planted too late, we also stop bringing them in after a certain timeframe.
The rule of thumb with our seasoned San Antonio gardeners and Rainbow Gardens is to buy ‘em while we got ‘em and move on to the next step of bumping them up.
B is for: Bump
We generally tell our customers to bump up their smaller tomato transplants to a gallon sized container and set them outside in a shadier area in early fall or a morning sun area in early spring to allow them to grow a larger root system and before setting them in the garden. This larger root system creates a stronger and more resilient plant and eases transplant shock.
P is for: Plant
We are hoping that our tomato plants in these bumped up containers will be producing, or close to producing, flowers by the time they head into the garden in mid to late August through early September for fall tomatoes and early to mid March for spring tomatoes.
These timeframes are good guidelines for planting tomatoes in either fall or spring. While weather will always play a role in the correct time for planting, you should try to avoid planting later than the above recommendations. If you plant too late in fall you risk a frost damaging your plants before your tomatoes develop. If you plant too late in spring, the heat will arrive and shut down any production or setting of fruit.
P is for: Protect
When planting your tomatoes during the recommended timeframe you will most likely find that the weather is still not at the ideal temperature that tomatoes prefer. Protecting your tomatoes from the harsh sun when planting in early fall, or the freezing cold when planting in early spring, is of utmost importance.
Many of us do not have greenhouses to grow our tomatoes in, and that’s ok. You can protect your goods other ways. Shade cloth is your friend during the transition from late summer into early fall and frost cloth is your buddy during the transition from late winter into early spring.
If you can just remember “BBPP: Buy, Bump, Plant, Protect”, you should be in pretty good shape for planting tomatoes in either fall or spring or both seasons! We are just starting to bring in early fall tomatoes now. Come take a look at what we’ve got.
~The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy