If you want to plant tomatoes in your garden, you need to know the ideal planting time so that your tomato plants thrive, grow and produce plenty of delicious fruit.
Here’s a rundown on the general planting times for tomatoes per state related to the lowest hardiness zone in that state.
|State||Postal Code||USDA Hardiness Zone||When To Plant Tomatoes|
|Alabama||AL||7 to 9||Late April to early May|
|Alaska||AK||1 to 8||Late May to early June|
|Arizona||AZ||4 to 10||Late May to early June|
|Arkansas||AR||6 to 8||Late April to early May|
|California||CA||5 to 11||Late April to early May|
|Colorado||CO||3 to 7||Late May to early June|
|Connecticut||CT||5 to 7||Late April to early May|
|Delaware||DE||7||Late April to early May|
|Florida||FL||8 to 11||Late March to early April|
|Georgia||GA||6 to 9||Late April to early May|
|Hawaii||HI||9 to 13||Late February to early March|
|Idaho||ID||3 to 7||Late May to early June|
|Illinois||IL||5 to 7||Late April to early May|
|Indiana||IN||5 to 6||Late April to early May|
|Iowa||IA||4 to 6||Late May to early June|
|Kansas||KS||5 to 7||Late April to early May|
|Kentucky||KY||6 to 7||Late April to early May|
|Louisiana||LA||8 to 10||Late March to early April|
|Maine||ME||3 to 6||Late May to early June|
|Maryland||MD||5 to 8||Late April to early May|
|Massachusetts||MA||5 to 7||Late April to early May|
|Michigan||MI||4 to 6||Late May to early June|
|Minnesota||MN||3 to 5||Late May to early June|
|Mississippi||MS||7 to 9||Late April to early May|
|Missouri||MO||5 to 7||Late April to early May|
|Montana||MT||3 to 6||Late May to early June|
|Nebraska||NE||4 to 5||Late May to early June|
|Nevada||NV||4 to 10||Late May to early June|
|New Hampshire||NH||3 to 6||Late May to early June|
|New Jersey||NJ||6 to 7||Late April to early May|
|New Mexico||NM||4 to 9||Late May to early June|
|New York||NY||3 to 7||Late May to early June|
|North Carolina||NC||5 to 8||Late April to early May|
|North Dakota||ND||3 to 4||Late May to early June|
|Ohio||OH||5 to 6||Late April to early May|
|Oklahoma||OK||6 to 8||Late April to early May|
|Oregon||OR||4 to 9||Late May to early June|
|Pennsylvania||PA||5 to 7||Late April to early May|
|Rhode Island||RI||5 to 7||Late April to early May|
|South Carolina||SC||7 to 9||Late April to early May|
|South Dakota||SD||3 to 5||Late May to early June|
|Tennessee||TN||5 to 8||Late April to early May|
|Texas||TX||6 to 10||Late April to early May|
|Utah||UT||4 to 9||Late May to early June|
|Vermont||VT||3 to 5||Late May to early June|
|Virginia||VA||5 to 8||Late April to early May|
|Washington||WA||4 to 9||Late May to early June|
|West Virginia||WV||5 to 7||Late April to early May|
|Wisconsin||WI||3 to 5||Late May to early June|
|Wyoming||WY||3 to 6||Late May to early June|
When to Plant Tomatoes
No matter where you live, tomatoes should be planted after the last frost date. If there’s an unexpected frost after you’ve planted your tomatoes, they will die. Therefore, you need to work out when the last frost date is predicted for your state.
Bear in mind that this not only varies from state to state, but it can also vary largely among different regions of one state. As you can see from the chart above, some US states have a wide variance of hardiness zones.
For example, some areas of California will allow gardeners to plant out tomatoes as early as late February, while other areas have to wait until late April or even early May. For this reason, it’s really important to understand your own climatic zone so that you get the timing right for planting your tomatoes.
In addition to the last frost date, there are other factors that you need to consider before planting out your tomatoes. These include:
- Nighttime temperatures need to be above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) consistently.
- Better still, soil temperatures should be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius).
- Ensure that your region experiences at least 6 hours of sunshine daily.
Gardeners who live in colder zones, where optimum summer growing times are shorter, should choose tomato varieties that will ripen in the shortest possible time. Therefore, if you’re planting seeds, ensure that you read the packet to find out the average days to maturity.
For these gardeners, it’s better to start the seeds indoors a few weeks (6 to 8) before the last expected frost date to give the plants a good head start. Alternatively, you can choose to buy transplants from your local garden center instead.
When to Plant Tomatoes in other Countries
If you don’t live in the US and you’re unsure when you should be planting your tomatoes, here’s a rough guide:
- The United Kingdom. In the UK, most gardeners will plant their tomatoes outdoors around late March to early April. However, greenhouses are very popular here, and many gardeners will start their tomatoes early in late February to mid-March. This gives the plants plenty of time to put on some growth before they’re planted outside.
- Canada. In Canada, the ideal time to plant tomatoes outdoors is around the end of May. This is when the weather has warmed up enough to keep the plants happy. Many Canadian gardeners will start their seeds indoors from mid-March to early April.
- Australia. As Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed. Gardeners in the southern part of the country, where it’s cooler, generally plant their tomatoes around October, which is the middle of spring. However, gardeners in the northern tropical and sub-tropical regions can plant tomatoes all year round. It’s quite common to grow tomatoes during the fall (autumn) and winter in these regions because there’s less likelihood of the fruit being decimated by fruit flies.
How to Start/Plant Tomatoes
Except for those living in warm year-round climates, it’s best to start tomato seeds indoors. Ideally, you want to sow your seeds around 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost date.
Here’s what to do:
- Use some seed starting trays or small pots and fill them with a good seed-raising mix.
- Sprinkle your seeds over the top of the mix and cover them lightly with around one-quarter of an inch of soil.
- Mist the soil to moisten it, and make sure you continue to do this until the seeds start to germinate.
- Place your pots either on a warm windowsill or another warm location in your home. You could also invest in a heat mat to put your pots on, as this will speed up germination. You might also like to cover the seeds with a plastic dome to increase the humidity.
- Once your seeds have germinated, remove the cover if you’re using one, and place your pots in a sunny spot like a windowsill. If the days are still a little short where you live, it’s a good idea to use a grow light that you turn on for around 10 to 14 hours each day. This will stop the tiny seedlings from becoming too elongated as they stretch up to reach for the light.
- Make sure that you keep the soil nice and moist but avoid drowning your plants. You should always water tomato plants at the soil level only.
- Once your tomato seedlings have grown a few true leaves, you can transplant them into larger pots so that they can continue to grow. Four to six-inch pots would be ideal. Always remember that every time you transplant tomatoes, you should bury around one-third of the stem below the surface of the soil. The buried stem will grow more roots, which will result in stronger plants.
As soon as the temperature is warm enough outdoors, you can harden off your seedlings to get them ready for growing in the garden. To do this, you want to slowly get them used to being outdoors. Here’s the best way to harden off your plants:
- On the first day, place your seedlings outside in a sheltered spot for around an hour.
- The next day, place your seedlings outside again, but for two hours this time.
Continue putting your plants outside for an extra hour every day until they’ve spent the entire day outside. Once you’ve done this, you can safely plant them out into your garden.