Everything You Need To Start Planting Fall Tomatoes
We’ve got it pretty good here in Houston—that hot Southern Texas sun makes planting tomatoes a total breeze, even during the cooler months. You have to admit; there are very few cold-weather comfort foods more satisfying than spaghetti with garden-fresh marinara, or margherita pizza with cherry tomatoes straight off the vine. And can we all agree pico de gallo is the most underrated condiment of all time? It is SO worth growing your own at home.
Tomatoes usually like lots of heat and sunshine, and unlike our neighbors up North, we get plenty of both all year long. Some varieties are a little more suited to fall planting than others, and there are a few considerations to take in mind before getting started. So, we threw together this nifty little guide to fall tomato gardening.
Tomatoes need to sunbathe in at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day, as well as fertile soil with good drainage. A raised garden bed in a spot unshaded by trees, or up against a South-facing wall will be your best bet. If you have limited space, or your garden is on the shady side, growing them in containers will allow you to move the tomatoes around to the hottest, sunniest spots. Just make sure your pots have holes in the bottom so they don’t collect too much water and cause root rot (yeah, it’s as gross as it sounds, and your plants won’t be too pumped about it).
If you’re not sure when to plant fall tomatoes in Houston, aim for late August to early September. In Houston, it gets a little chilly in November and December, so depending on when you plant, you’ll want to choose a variety that will mature before then. Many fall tomato varieties that will mature as soon as 60 days, so try to find one that doesn’t grow too slowly. If you get started now, you can try a few different varieties. That way, you’ll have more options, and a longer, more staggered harvest time.
Pick up the starter plants now,at this point in the season it’s too late for seed starting. . It’s a wise idea to apply a layer of bark mulch across the soil surface because this will help regulate the soil temperature and slow down moisture evaporation from the sun.
Provide the right structural support. Depending on the growth habit of your chosen varieties (some are climbing plants), vining indeterminate tomatoes will need a cage or trellis to climb, and upright-growing indeterminates will need a stake. Determinates with heavier fruit sometimes need a stake to stand tall, but most of them are on the bushier side and are fine on their own.
Prune off the “suckers.” These are just the tiny little leaf shoots that pop out from the side. By pulling them off, the plant will direct its energy towards developing sturdier stems and producing fruit faster.
New transplants may be heat sensitive. If your newly planted tomatoes are looking a bit haggard, try providing them with a little shade and watering them early every morning with cold water until they’re looking fresh n’ fly again. Once they’ve found their footing, scale back a bit on watering, every couple of days (but without letting the soil completely dry out).
If you’d like to get started on planting tomatoes this autumn, don’t hesitate! Come visit us at our store in Houston, and explore our collection of starter plants. Whether you want slicers or bite-sized snackers, we’ll help you find the perfect variety. The faster you get planting, the sooner you’ll get to enjoy a season full of delicious pasta, pizzas, and all those other comfort foods that pair so excellently with Netflix and sweatpants. Bring on the pico de gallo!