I know it’s still January, but spring comes very early along the Gulf Coast. I’ve already ordered seeds for my spring vegetable garden, along with some annual flower seeds to enhance the look of my native garden.
The USDA tells us that the “average” date of the last frost here is around February 27. It also reports that we are “almost” assured that we will receive no frost between March 20 and November 1, making the frost-free growing season around 270 days.
I shoot for the average, and always plan to get my spring garden planted by the end of February, or the first week of March at the latest.
I try to get tomatoes in as soon as I dare, because even the shortest maturing tomatoes take about 55 days to produce fruit. That means that tomatoes won’t begin to come in until the third week in April. Tomatoes with longer maturities may go into May. By that time, it’s beginning to get really warm. Since tomato pollen is no longer viable when daytime temperatures reach 85-90 degrees and nighttime temperatures are at 75 or higher, it’s important to make sure they’re planted early enough.
If I wait until March 20, the date I am almost assured of no more frost, some of my tomatoes won’t be maturing until late May. By then it’s going to be far too warm for them to set fruit.
Here are some varieties which do well along the Upper Gulf Coast, along with how long it takes for the harvest to come in.
|Variety||Days to Harvest|
|Large Tomatoes(12 oz. +)|
|Medium 4-11 oz.|
|Small (under 3 oz.)|
|Sun Gold (Cherry)||65|
|Sweet Chelsea (Cherry)||65|