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When can I plant tomato seeds outside in buckets?

Elizabeth Asked

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The Gardener’s Answer

Hi, Elizabeth: It is hard to beat the experience of planting and enjoying homegrown tomatoes. Tomatoes are warm-season crops which means they will not tolerate cold air or soil temperatures. In Barren County, these temperatures are not consistently warm enough until the beginning of May. Planting seeds directly in your containers can’t happen until then. Tomato seed can be started indoors 6-8 weeks before the average frost-free date. Growing from seed indoors will require adequate light and temperatures. Since most of us do not have access to a heated greenhouse, a grow light and heat mat is helpful. Honestly, for the average gardener who is growing a few tomatoes, it makes more sense to let the professional growers start the seeds and when our frost-free date passes purchase the transplants. They will have a healthy root system and be ready to plant in a larger container. This is especially true if you want to grow different varieties since each seed packet contains so many seeds. Later this Spring your local garden centers and farmers markets will have many varieties of seedlings to choose from. The 5-gallon buckets are the perfect size for 1 tomato plant. Make sure that your buckets have plenty of drainage holes and are filled with good quality potting soil. Place them in a space where they will receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. 

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