When to Plant Tomatoes in Tennessee

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Quick Answer: When to Plant Tomatoes in Tennessee

Late winter is an ideal season for indoor planting of tomatoes whereas; early spring works best for outdoors transplanting. Tennessee usually observes its first frost in October. The growing season in Tennessee is of five to six months. Considering the sensitivity of the tomato plant, one must be careful with the season.

Here is the detailed guide for planting tomato plants in Tennessee.

Let us get started!

Best Time to Plant Tomatoes in Tennessee

Tomato plants flourish in warmer and sunny areas.

The controlled weather and soil conditions advance the germination, ripening, and harvesting rate of the tomato plants. 

Frost dates are the average date of the last spring frost and the first fall frost. They are important to know when planting tomatoes because they indicate when it is safe to plant them outdoors.

The table given below is of average frost dates in Tennessee. Consider the table as a frost guide and plant your plants accordingly.

Table: Frost Dates For Tennessee

CityFirst Frost DateLast Frost Date
MidwayOctober 28April 6
GatlinburgOctober 15April 28
EloraOctober 21April 17
Red Boiling SpringsOctober 26April 11

In reference to the table, February and March are suitable for indoor planting of tomato seeds whereas; May and June are ideal for transplanting tomato plants outside.

Generally, you can plant seeds inside at least a month before the expected last frost in the area. For transplanting, a period of 15 days after the expected last frost is found to be ideal.

The minimum temperature required for tomato seedling germination is 50 degrees F. Frequent spring rains are an excellent water source for tomato soil beds.  

New tomato plants cannot withstand either extreme sun heat or severe cold.  

How to Take Care of Tomatoes in Tennessee

The tomato plants need protection from the cool night temperature and the extreme solar heat. 

The growing plants need warm soil, good drainage, and lots of nutrients, sun, and water.

  • To protect your tomato plants from cool nights, cover the plants with cardboard boxes or buckets. Cut their bottom part for air circulation.
  • Protect your tomato plants from the sun of August and September.  
  • Add a layer of organic mulch to the soil to maintain the warmth and moisture of the soil. You can use clippings, leaves, or straw as mulch material. Mulches should be 3-6 inches thick.
  • Check the plants for early infection signs of various spring season diseases. Spray a copper-based preventative fungicide on the plants before they get infected. 
  • Provide a layer of compost to the soil. It will ensure that fruits do not come in contact with the soil. 
  • Keep distance between two plants and two rows for good air circulation.

How to Prepare your Garden Site for Tomatoes?

Here are some tips to prepare your garden site for tomatoes –

  • Tomato grows well in fine-textured, well-drained soil and nutrient-rich soil. 
  • Check the soil pH and nutrient level before planting the tomatoes.
  • The optimum soil pH is between 6.2 and 6.8.
  • You can use crushed eggshells or lime in the soil for obtaining the desired pH of the soil.
  • The seedbed should be six to eight inches deep.  
  • You can use 10-10-10 balanced fertilizers before the planting or during the crop season. Spread it evenly in the soil and water the plant for maximum absorption of the fertilizer by the soil. 

Water the plants in such a manner that roots remain moist and do not show wilting of the leaves.

Generally, a tomato needs one to inches of water per week.

Physiological Issues in Tennessee Tomato Plants

There are several root-borne and season-borne diseases that affect tomato plants. 

  • Blossom end rot is a disease developed due to low levels of calcium in the soil. 
  • Fruit cracking occurs due to the rapid uptake of water by the fruits.

These conditions are best prevented by mulching and essential nutrients in the soil.

Best Tennessee Tomato Plant Varieties

The first step in choosing the right tomato varieties is to identify the right type- Determinate or Indeterminate. 

  • Determinate varieties are shorter and are easy to grow. 
  • Indeterminate varieties continue to grow for a longer time and are taller. 

The second step is to choose a variety providing maximum resistance to several diseases. 

Some examples of Determinate and Indeterminate varieties are-

  • Determinate Varieties
    • Early Girl F1
    • Valley Girl F1 65 Slicer – V, F1, F2
    • Fresh F1 77 Slicer- VI, F1, F2, EB-tolerant
    • Plum Crimson F1 80 Paste- VI, F1, F2, F3, EB
  • Indeterminate Varieties
    • Juliet F1 60 Grape- Cracking, EB
    • Big Beef F1 70 Large slicer- F1, F2, V, N, TMV, LS

FAQ’s

How late can you plant tomatoes in Tennessee?

The ideal time is April-end or the Start of May. However, the aim is to escape the frost. 
You can plant tomatoes till June in Tennessee. It will ensure proper duration for ripening and harvesting.

Is it correct to cut the bottom leaves off the tomato plants?

Yes, you should remove the bottom leaves to guarantee good air circulation within the plant and to prevent the touching of leaves to the soil.

What planting zone is Tennessee?

Tennessee falls under the growing zone 5b to 8a.

Summary

I hope you find this article insightful and helps you successfully plant tomatoes in Tennessee.

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