When should you grow tomatoes in Georgia?
In Georgia, tomatoes do best when the temperature is between 70 and 80 degrees F. Of course, in the Peach State, there are plenty of days that land between this temperature range.
Starting Tomato Seeds in Georgia
Start your tomato seeds in the latter part of winter. Ideally, that would be around four to seven weeks prior to the final frost. In southern Georgia, seeds can be started in the early part of February. In the north, it’s wise to hang on until the latter part of February or until early March.
Tomato Seedlings in Georgia
From the middle part of March through to early May you can plant your seedlings. In the south of Georgia, anytime during this period is fine. In the north normally it would be best to wait until mid-April onwards.
If you reside in the south of the state, in July, you can plant a second tomato crop in your yard or in containers. During September and October, at night, when the temperatures drop, provide protection for your crop or if they are in containers bring them indoors.
Which Tomato Variety Should You Choose?
There are indeterminate and determinate tomato varieties. There are heirlooms and hybrids. The tomato you prefer is up to you in terms of your personal needs and tastes as well as in which part of Georgia you are located.
Well, even though all tomato varieties are technically considered as vine crops, it’s still important to figure out which one you want – indeterminate or determinate.
Determinate tomato varieties are more compact and have a more bush-type growth habit. Typically, determinate tomato varieties grow little more than four feet in height. Determinate varieties set fruit – all fruit – within a short space of time, usually within two to four weeks.
It’s still necessary to stake or cage determinate tomato varieties even though they are compact.
Determinate tomato varieties are better if you wish to use containers to grow your tomato plants. They are also better for canning purposes and making tomato-based sauces.
Among the recommended determinate tomato varieties for Georgia are ‘Celebrity‘, ‘Early Girl’ (the bush variety), ‘Southern Star’, ‘Mountain Fresh’, ‘Mountain Spring’, ”Mountain Pride’, Rutgers’, ‘San Marzano’, and ‘Amelia’.
Indeterminate tomato varieties continually grow and set fruit until the frost arrives in the fall. Indeterminates are much larger than determinates and grow as high as ten feet. Obviously, for this reason, they will require sturdy staking or caging.
All of the above tomato varieties are hybrids. While hybrid tomatoes do possess many advantages, one key disadvantage for some gardeners is that the seeds do not come ‘true to type’. What this means is that the seeds do not grow anything like the parent. If you do try to grow hybrid tomato seeds the result will likely be a variety of traits that come from the parent and the grandparent that are entirely unpredictable.
Heirloom tomatoes, on the other hand, have two very distinct qualities: they have proven themselves to be excellent plants because they have been available for more than 50 years; the seeds come ‘true to type’. Further, heirlooms generally have a distinct story behind their heritage.
The traits of heirloom tomatoes are pretty reliable in that they pass down from one generation to the next. Thus, heirloom seeds can be saved because the offspring will – or should be – very similar to the parent.
There is a downside to heirloom tomatoes: they are not as resistant to disease as hybrid tomatoes. Oftentimes, heirloom tomatoes suffer from deformities in their growth – cracking, for example.