In January, while the Sonoran desert settles into a winter chill, it’s time to be planning ahead for the spring planting season.
Healthy transplants are hard to find, and growing them yourself is the best way to produce a healthy plant. Warm season crops like tomatoes, which people tend to like growing themselves, is one of the crops they have a lot of challenges with. Those challenges are native to the hot Southern Arizona climate here in Tucson, where timing is really important. You'll want to start planting at the end of February or beginning of March, so if you start growing those transplants now, you'll have good healthy plants to tuck into your spring garden.
Richard and Carla joined me at the beginning of January for my Spring Transplants workshop, where we discussed ways to germinate seeds indoors during the cold winter months. Here Richard and Carla are using Seed Starter Trays to kick-start their spring vegetable patch.
A common issue people talk to me about with tomatoes:
“I have this beautiful tomato plant – its big and green and looks great and it has lots of flowers on it, but it’s not setting any fruit”.
The reason for this is that tomato pollen dies at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Planting tomatoes too late in the season doesn’t give them enough time to reach maturity before the hot weather signals the end of their pollination cycle.
If you germinate your tomato seeds indoors in January, you’ll avoid having your tomato plant reach maturity when those 90-degree temperatures make it too hot for it to actually produce.
So, if we get our tomatoes started indoors in the winter, and get that plant in the ground as early as we can, then we’re much more likely to get a good crop before the May and June heat sets in.
Historically, an average last frost is March 15th, but we’re starting to find that may not necessarily be the case. So for me, I keep an eye on the weather to determine if I think it’s going to frost. If it’s the end of February and it looks like it’s starting to warm up, and the mesquite trees are putting on their leaves (they tend to be in tune with whether they should start leafing out), then we can go ahead and start planting those transplants into our garden.
Spring Transplants Gear: