Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's Too Early!!!

Too chilly to plant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant?

When do we plant summer vegetables?
The soil needs to be warm!
Night temperature can be a guide to how warm the soil is.

Night temperature and soil temperature guidelines:

Night temp: 50 – 55F Soil temp: 60F

Peppers, eggplant
Night temp: 55 – 60F Soil temp: 70F

For night temperature: use a maximum-minimum thermometer, or check the local weather listings.
For soil temperature: use a soil thermometer, or visit the UC Davis weather info site.

Going by the calendar: usually mid to late April for tomatoes, early May for peppers.

Why do nurseries and hardware stores have them now?
Some gardeners like to buy small plants to shift them into larger pots for a few weeks before setting them out.
Everyone else is selling them, and we get tired of saying "it's too early!"

What happens if we plant too early?
Tomatoes will sit, discolor a bit, and then begin to grow as it warms.
Peppers and eggplant will sulk and be stunted all season. Peppers planted later out-perform peppers planted early.
To increase soil temperature:
turn in organic material and mound up the soil.
build a raised planter bed
cover the area with seedling blanket

Or, just wait! We'll have plenty in stock through June!


  1. Be sure to mention this on the radio next Sunday, March 21. I'll give you a proper introduction, such as, "Hey Don, what time is it?"

  2. Both of you are -- of course -- right on the money. But the Big Box Stores aren't carrying starter plants so they can make a few extra bucks (which they will). They're doing it out of demand. Most people simply do not understand that they're in for a lot of disappointment by planting on the first sunny and warm day. Case in point? You should have seen the tomato and pepper plant starters flying out of Home Depot on Saturday afternoon. You can bet that many of those people will be back two months later to "replant" as the first selections "mysteriously up and died."

  3. Oh, it's not just big box stores. Both Capitol Nursery locations I visited last Saturday were loaded up with tomato starts, sometimes as large as 1 gallon.