Tips for Late Tomato Planting in Hot Summer Areas

Tips for Late Tomato Planting in Hot Summer Areas

Want to plant tomatoes in June or July shortly before the full heat of summer arrives but not sure it’s a good idea? This article gives tips and advice for succeeding with late tomato planting in hot-summer, mild-winter California areas, particularly in these GardenZeus zones:
– California Climate Zone 12: Southern Inland, More Extreme
– California Climate Zone 13: Southern Inland, Less Extreme
See customized advice and information for growing tomatoes in your Southern California zipcode

The same tips and methods can be applied to late tomato planting in many hot-summer areas.

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It is possible to plant and grow summer and autumn tomatoes in June or July in hot-summer California areas, particularly during cool years or if you are able to time planting and establishment during a cool period. Late planting of tomatoes in hot-summer areas is recommended for experienced and skilled gardeners who have developed fertile, living garden soil over time, and with the understanding that intense heatwaves and even normal hot-summer weather may cause great difficulty with establishing and growing tomatoes.

Before planting June tomatoes, consider that in mild-winter areas, including the two GardenZeus zones above, by June you are only a couple of months away from the prime autumn planting window for tomatoes. The prudent choice is to wait until about mid-August to start seeds of cool-season tomato varieties indoors or in a cool, protected, well-lit area for planting outdoors 4-to-8-weeks later, but this means not harvesting homegrown tomatoes until autumn at the soonest.

If you’re so set on having homegrown summer tomatoes that you’re willing to put in time and effort even with a risk of low yields or no harvest, this may be an indication that you are what GardenZeus expert Darren Butler terms a “tomatofiend,” meaning someone who has a strong emotional, psychological, horticultural, culinary, unexplainable, and perhaps clinical need to grow garden tomatoes, and/or someone who may not bother with much gardening or landscaping other than growing tomatoes.

For all of the tomatofiends and other bold gardeners in California’s hot-summer areas who are reading these words, here are my tips for late tomato planting:

– Plan to spend extra time and give extra attention to your tomatoes. Your best chance for a good harvest will require checking on the tomato plants at least once per day, especially during hot weather and while they are young and establishing.

– Try to time planting during a cool period, when weather is forecast to be in the 80s or cooler for several days or longer.

– Start with transplants. Tomatoes are more tolerant of being rootbound than most other vegetables, and often perform reasonably well even when transplants are, shall we say, long in the root. For summer planting, you’re in a tomatofiends-can’t-be-choosers kind of situation. Go with the healthiest, strongest transplants that you can find and don’t look back. See The GardenZeus Guide to Buying Vegetable Seedlings

– Plant only heat-tolerant varieties, especially vigorous hybrids, early varieties, and parthenocarpic varieties such as Oregon Spring that will set fruit during hot weather. Cherry tomatoes often outperform other types in challenging environmental conditions. This is the time to make friends with vigorous, heat-tolerant, hybrid cherry-tomato seedlings if you can find them. Consider trying a determinate early hybrid tomato if you can find seedlings, which will produce a larger harvest all at once and save you’re the perpetual grind of tomato-care and plant/person stress during hot weather in September and October. Try a vigorous heat-tolerant heirloom or two only if you’re feeling especially attentive and brave.

– Plan carefully for sun and shade. If possible, plant tomatoes in areas that will receive sun from early morning to early afternoon and be shaded thereafter. If starting late with tomatoes, you will need to provide shade on hot summer days to maximize yield. See GardenZeus Tips for Shading Vegetables During Hot Weather

– Consider growing tomatoes in large containers on wheeled carts or wheeled plant stands so you can move them out into full sun on cooler days and keep them shaded or in cool areas during heatwaves. Container tomatoes will need extra water and attention during hot weather. See Growing Tomatoes in Containers: 5 Steps for Success and GardenZeus Tips for Container Vegetable Gardening.

– Plant tomatoes into rich, deep, fertile, and living soil; or use raised beds and large  containers filled with fertile topsoil, washed sand, compost, and organic amendments. Chances are low for a good yield when planting tomatoes into previously uncultivated soils especially infertile sandy soils or heavy clay soils.

– Mulch well, maintain even soil moisture, and see our customized tomato-growing information for your zipcode for more tips and helpful information:
See customized advice and information for growing tomatoes in your Southern California zipcode


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