Wait! Don't Plant Your Tomatoes Yet

Pretty days and the official start date for spring have many gardeners itching to plant their vegetable gardens, but it is too early to plant many tender vegetables. Learn when it is safe to plant tomatoes and other vegetables in Paulding County.

Spring seems to have sprung and officially, it did begin on March 20. We have had some beautiful warm days and it has many folks itching to start their spring/summer vegetable garden. However, it is still too early to plant tender vegetable plants, like tomatoes, bell peppers and squash!

Why is it too early? I am sure that you have seen these vegetable plants for sale at our local garden centers, but Mother Nature missed the memo. In our part of the world, our average last frost date is in mid-April! Sure, it jumps around a bit: Last year it was on March 7. In 2009, April 8; 2008, March 25; 2007, April 9. Back in 2005, our last frost was April 24. So the recommendation for spring planting of frost tender crops is to wait until at least April 15, and in rare years, that might still be too early!

Don't rely on what you see on store shelves to dictate your planting schedule. They will be happy to sell you tomato plants whenever you want to buy them, and maybe they will sell them to you twice if you plant too early! Not only do you risk a freeze if you plant these tender vegetables too early, you usually will not see much growth until soil temperatures warm up to about 60 degrees, which can take until May in Paulding County.

So what vegetables should you wait to plant? Tomatoes, beans, okra, squash, corn, eggplant and peppers are among the popular summer crops that you need to wait to plant. As a wise old county agent once told me, "Pay your taxes, THEN plant your tomatoes." If that helps you remember the important April 15 date, then take note!

You can learn more about when to plant particular vegetables and how to space them from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Vegetable Planting Guide.  Planting dates in this chart are approximate for Middle Georgia. Paulding County plantings should vary about two weeks later in the spring and earlier in the fall.

Paulding County Cooperative Extension is an Equal Opportunity Organization that operates as part of the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Paulding County government. Our purpose is to bring current research and information to the people of Paulding County in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, 4-H and youth development, and family and consumer sciences. You can learn more on our webpage, www.ugaextension.com/paulding.


Sarah Walraven March 25, 2011 at 02:19 PM
I'm pretty sure you read my mind because I was going to plant tomatoes and pepper plants tomorrow! What about seeds? Is it fine to put my cucumbers, squash and lettuce seeds in the ground this weekend? Your articles are always SO helpful!
Mary Carol Sheffield March 25, 2011 at 04:44 PM
You can put out your lettuce this weekend, but wait until April 15th for the cucumber and squash. Lettuce is a cool season vegetable, so you can plant it in fall and in early spring and it can bounce back from the cool temperatures. Cucumbers and squash shouldn't be planted in the ground until after danger of frost has passed. However, you could go ahead and start them indoors in small pots in a sunny window. That way, when April 15th arrives, you'll have a little headstart on them when you plant them as transplants!


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