When To Sow Tomatoes? The Answer Is, “It Depends!”

We’re going to breach the topic of when to sow tomatoes. We do sow our tomatoes at this time, but we’re going to call out the important things that allow us to sow them this early. Most gardeners can wait for 8 weeks to last frost to sow them. Even 5 weeks to last frost is a good target if you have a limited grow room and space. There’s a lot of flexibility!

First, we can handle very large plants with our growing setup. Sowing tomatoes this early is going to result in tomato plants that are about 4 foot tall by the time we get to last frost. That’s a pretty darn tall plant and it takes a bit of care to prevent them from snapping and causing havoc on our other plants. Our high power LED lighting allows us to still get great light penetration into our plant canopies.

Second, we have a greenhouse that we can heat to a minimum temperature. Once our tomatoes start getting unruly in size, we can safely kick them out to the greenhouse well before our last frost has occurred. We typically fire up our greenhouse somewhere around a month to last frost, depending on outdoor temperatures. Out there, we don’t care if they’re 4-5 feet tall.

Third, we also plan to up-pot our tomatoes at least twice during the early growth process. We target a 3.5 inch pot initially and then move them up to 5.5 inch pots once they put on substantial size. Big plants need lots of soil to grow into. If you’re simply going to restrict the amount of soil, there’s almost no benefit to starting your tomatoes this early.

Lastly, we have a lot of experience growing tomatoes and know what to expect, how to handle the challenges and as discussed, have appropriate methods. If you’re not sure what to expect or don’t have a lot of flexibility, waiting to sow those tomatoes is certainly wise. The performance benefits we get from sowing this early are surprisingly not all that great, we only accelerate our tomato production about a week at most.

So, if you’re wondering when you should be sowing those ‘maters, the answer is definitely “it depends.” Give your situation a good hard look. If you think you can handle some big plants, go ahead and throw them in the dirt. If not, not one of us will criticize you for waiting for 2 to 4 weeks from now!

Oh, and in case you’re curious, this is one of our new experimental tomato varieties for the year! We have no idea how it’s going to perform, but it checked all the “growing characteristic” boxes for us. We’ll definitely be letting you know more as the season progresses!

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2 comments… add one
  • Allan B. Mar 26, 2024 @ 8:29

    What are your tried and true tomato varieties that you have found grow well in Fairbanks? Do you favor Indeterminate or not?
    Thank you!

    • Jeff Mar 26, 2024 @ 9:21

      We recommend a number of different varieties in our tomato growing guide. We’re consistently doing new research on varieties as well, trying new things, and we update that article as we discover new things. For purely outdoor growing, Stupice and cherry varieties have been our #1 performers. When you get into the greenhouse, which we strongly recommend if possible, you have a lot more options. Last year, we also found that Spoon Tomato does quite well outdoors, even in subarctic grounds. Hope that gets you started!

      We generally favor indeterminate varieties, but that also reflects on our preferred growing characteristics. (Tall and vine like.) Determinates, such as Beaverlodge, can do well. It’s hard to say for sure, but we think we get slightly better production from early indeterminates than we do determinates.

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