Posted on 23 April 2008 by

Is It Too Late to Start Tomatoes from Seed?

Share Your Tomato Questions with Us - TomatoCasual.comBy Kira Hamman

Short answer: Nope!

Longer answer: your options depend on where you live and how soon you simply must have ripe tomatoes, but you do still have options.

Of course, the later you start your seeds, the later your plants will bear fruit, and if you start too late it might be winter again before your plants are ready.

For most heirloom varieties, you’ll get ripe tomatoes about 10 to 12 weeks from the time you transplant the seedlings, which you’ll do about six weeks after you start them. That makes a total of four to five months from seed to tomato, so count forward from now: will you have frost in your area in September?

Unless you live waaaay up north, probably not, so go ahead and start those seeds! Since they won’t be ready until fall, you’ll still need either some transplants from the nursery or access to a good farmers’ market (or both), but your patience will eventually be rewarded and you’ll get to try that fabulous variety you have your eye on before the season is over.

If you do live waaaay up north, or you’re reading this several months from now, another option is to grow early varieties, which produce in a much shorter time. There are many hybrids that fit into this category, but there are also a few heirlooms. Try Siberian, whose name pretty much says it all, or Stupice, a delicious and very reliable variety.

One perk of starting late is that you can plant seeds directly in the garden as long as you keep the seedlings protected while they get going. This should shave at least a few more days off your wait, plus you won’t have to deal with the hardening-off headache.

Bottom line: It’s not too late! And if it is, there’s always next year.

8 Responses to “Is It Too Late to Start Tomatoes from Seed?”

  1. our friend Ben Says:

    Good point, Kira! I inevitably have tomato “volunteers” that self-sow around the compost pile and in the veggie beds, and I can never bring myself to pull them all up. Last year, a cherry tomato plant in one of my compost bins produced that year’s best-tasting tomatoes, and plenty of ’em, too! And of course, the volunteers come up in their own good time. If it’s not too late for them, it’s not too late for folks to start their own plants from seed.

  2. Kira Says:

    Volunteer plants are the greatest, aren’t they? One year I had a squash vine emerge from my compost pile. It grew (and grew, and grew, and grew) all summer and in the fall produced the most bizarre-looking gourds I’ve ever seen. My husband keeps chucking olive pits out there in the hopes that one day we’ll look out and see an olive tree. Not likely in zone 6, but hope springs eternal, I guess!

  3. Michael Nolan Says:

    The only downside I’ve ever had to seeding my tomatoes in the ground is that I always plant my seedlings really deep for extra stability and I’m not sure if it is just the way I work the ground or what, but if I don’t do that, the giants I have would be tough to support.

  4. deb Says:

    It must be in the air today. I found my first volunteer tomato today.

  5. Rene' Says:

    So it’s okay to start tomato seeds directly in the ground? I live in zone 9a.

  6. reggieCasual Says:

    Lucky you zone 9a (says Zone 6a guy). Yeah, you can sow your seeds directly into the ground this time of year. Good luck to you.

  7. Mary Says:

    I overloaded a couple of areas with many many discarded tomatoes last summer to get Vokunteers on purpose. They are surging and look stronger than the seeds I have babied for weeks inside !

    Hoping for a big harvest this year.

  8. Dawson Says:

    A new gardener…

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