When should I plant tomatoes in New Jersey? When is the best time to plant tomatoes in New Jersey?
When to Plant Tomatoes in New Jersey – First things first, tomato transplants can be purchased from a local nursery or a garden center. Or, sure, you can visit a local farmers’ market. Here are a few excellent farmers’ markets in NJ. There’s every chance you’ll find a wide selection of tomato transplants at any and all of these markets:
Summit’s Farmers’ Market – 22 Deforest Ave, Summit, NJ 07901
Ramsey’s Farmers’ Market – 2 W Main St, Ramsey, NJ 07446
Columbus Farmers’ Market – 2919 US-206, Columbus, NJ 08022
Montclair Farmers’ Market – 86 Walnut St, Montclair, NJ 07042
Collingswood Farmers’ Market – N Atlantic Ave, Collingswood, NJ 08108
West Windsor Community Farmers’ Market – 2 Vaughn Dr, Princeton, NJ 08540
So, either you buy tomato transplants or you can plant your own seeds indoors.
If you go for transplants from the garden center/ nursery/ farmers’ market, buy seedlings that are dark green, sturdy, and short. Don’t go for leggy seedlings that are yellowing.
It’s fine to purchase transplants with flowers. Just avoid transplants that have small green fruit. Typically, tomato seedlings that have fruit tend to remain small and the yields are disappointing.
If you prefer to grow your own tomato seedlings you’ll have a far greater choice of tomato varieties than relying on local transplants for sale.
When to Plant Tomatoes in NJ?
Around six to eight weeks prior to the time you would plant your tomato seedlings outdoors (which is just after the due date for the last frost), it’s time to get your own seedlings underway.
Don’t use garden soil for this. Use a growing media that is sterile. You can buy sterile growing media from your local garden center or hardware store.
For tomato seeds to grow daytime temperatures should be around 70°F and night temperatures around 65°F. If your seedlings become leggy and possibly a bit yellow, it’s a sign they require more light.
Once any danger of frost has dissipated, it’s time to plant your tomatoes in the garden. Don’t be tempted to plant too soon. If you do the cool air and cool soil temperatures will stress your plants. Leave it for about a week, possibly two weeks after the approximated date of the final springtime frost before planting out your tomatoes.
Any temperature below 32°F and your tomatoes will be killed off. But if you do have to or want to plant early provide your transplants with some protection in the form of hot caps, plastic containers, row covers, or protect in some other way.
The following table lists approximate first and last frost dates for various municipalities in New Jersey. Note that the dates not (necessarily) exact since these are averaged frost dates from 30 years of data (1981-2010).
First and Last Frost Dates in New Jersey
Tap the chart to enlarge
Unlike vegetables (tomatoes are fruit rather than vegetables) tomatoes perform better when the stem is buried – at least to some extent. When buried, roots form along the length of the stem that’s under the soil surface.
You may wish to remove the lowest pair of leaves on your transplants. Plant just below the level of the second pair of leaves. Make sure no leaves are planted below the soil surface is the point I’m making here.
When planting tomato transplants space the rows at between three and four feet apart. Space your tomato plants within rows at between 24 and 36 inches apart.
The spacing depends on what type of tomato plants you have. Determinate tomato plants are far less vigorous than indeterminate tomatoes. Hence, for determinate varieties, you’d likely do well using the lesser measurements as your guide.
Your tomatoes will want to be staked or caged for support. If otherwise, the plants can snap and the fruit can soon drag on the soil surface.
These 6ft-long bamboo stakes are ideal for tomatoes. Stakes at 6ft tall may seem too high. However, most indeterminate tomato plants reach 8-10 feet in height. Further, at least 1 foot of each stake will be in the ground, leaving you approximately 5 feet to play with.
For tomato ties you can’t go wrong with these Velcro-style ties:
Recommended Tomatoes Varieties for NJ
Sweet ‘n Neat, Red Robin, Tumbling Tom Yellow, and Tumbling Tom Red cherry tomatoes are cascading but compact plants ideal for hanging baskets, tall containers, or window boxes.
Cage or stake Sun Sugar and Sun Gold cherry tomatoes (both of which are incredibly sweet). If space is at a premium these cherry tomatoes can be grown in a pot that’s 24 inches in diameter.
Roma, a traditional favorite, is ideal for sauces and pastes and the tomatoes can be frozen for future use. Another one that is excellent for sauces is San Marzano heirloom tomato. Either that or you can slice San Marzano for sandwiches and salads.
Early Girl and New Girl are both short-season tomato varieties that are suited to slicing. The heat-tolerant varieties Creole and Solar Flare are also perfect tomatoes for slicing.
Celebrity, which is an All-America Selection winner, offers excellent disease resistance and is prized as an all-around tomato. Celebrity plants are determinate (non-vigorous) but it’s still wise to stake or cage them to save on space.
Among the best heirloom tomatoes for NJ are Cherokee Purple (dusky pink with a deep-red interior) and Mr. Stripey beefsteak with its red and yellow striping.