Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable to grow in the home garden. In Texas, gardening is limited only by climate. Texas stretches between Zone 6 in the panhandle and Zone 9 at the southern tip of the state. In some parts of Texas, tomatoes will not grow well in the hottest of summer months when temperatures may climb well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Planting time for tomatoes depends on the tomato type and the location of the garden.
The climate zones in Texas indicate the approximate last yearly frost date. Many types of tomato may be planted up to two weeks before the last yearly frost date as long as they are protected from the weather by hot caps or a layer of mulch. The last yearly frost date for Zone 6 in the panhandle of Texas is approximately April 30, while the last yearly frost date for Zone 9 in the tip of Texas is Feb. 11.
Tomato plants are self fruitful. This means that when wind hits the plants, they release pollen grains that pollinate their flowers. But once temperatures climb above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the plants will not produce new blossoms. This can be a limiting factor in tomato growth in Texas. Because of this, many growers plant two crops of tomatoes. The first plants are planted in early spring, while the second plants are planted in midsummer for a fall crop of tomatoes.
There are two varieties of tomatoes that many gardeners plant. Tomatoes fall into the categories of determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes are shorter, shrub-like plants that produce smaller fruit sooner and have a short producing season. When tomato growers plant a spring and fall crop, they frequently grow determinate tomatoes. Indeterminate tomatoes are tall plants that produce fruit later and have a long growing season. Tomato growers who plant determinate plants will nurse them through hot summer weather until they can begin to set buds for fall production.
Starting Seeds Indoors
Some tomato growers start tomato seeds indoors in late winter. Tomato transplants that are started indoors six to eight weeks before being moved outside grow and produce fruit faster than plants started from seed outdoors. Tomato seed plants should be placed under a grow light to produce strong seedlings. The plants require a lot of light and will become tall and leggy if they do not receive adequate sunlight.
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