When is the best time to plant tomatoes in PA?
When to plant tomatoes in PA? When you’re planting your tomatoes outdoors it’s the temperature that is the determining factor. Freezing temperature? You’re looking at dead tomato plants. In Pennsylvania, it’s still possible to see some hard frosts well into spring.
That said, you should wait until any possibility of frost has vanished. Wait until the soil temperature has reached a minimum of 60 degrees F.
The following table lists approximate first and last frost dates for various cities and boroughs in Pennsylvania. Note that the dates provide a probability of 30 percent. Frost dates are averaged from 30 years of data (1981-2010).
Last and First Frost Dates in PA
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Obviously, last frost dates vary widely right across the entire state. In the southern corner, the warmest part of Pennsylvania, it’s not until late April that the nights are completely free of frost. In the northern-most areas of the state, you’ll have to wait around until mid May to see the back of any possibility of frost occurring.
Once your tomato seedlings – or ‘plants’ to be more politically correct – have reached a height of six to eight inches it’s the right time (given that any possibility of frost has dissipated) to plant them into your garden.
Seedlings are available from nurseries and garden centers. Otherwise, you can, if you prefer, grow your own tomato seedlings from seed.
If you wish to plant from seed, whatever tomato it is – Black Russian tomatoes, Campari tomatoes, Stupice tomatoes, Beefmaster tomatoes – do so around eight weeks or so before planting outdoors. Plant your tomato seeds in containers that are kept indoors.
Best Tomatoes For PA
Pennsylvania has plenty of history where heirloom tomatoes are concerned. The Amish and Mennonite peoples in PA have been growing heirloom tomatoes for decades.
More recently, tests conducted by Cooperative Extension Pennsylvania and Penn State’s Agricultural Research have amassed a ton of data about the optimal tomatoes for local conditions.
Best Red Slicing Tomatoes for PA
If you love a great sandwich you’ll love a great sandwich tomato. Better Boy, which takes 74 days to reach maturity, and Early Girl, which takes 60 days to reach maturity, are the cream of the tomato crop.
Early and mid-season tomatoes that are highly recommended for PA include Celebrity (72 days), Ultra Sweet (62 days).
Main season tomatoes in PA: Sebring (77), Fabulous (77), Biltmore (80), Delicious (79), Mountain Fresh Plus (76), Lightning (82).
Best Heirloom Tomatoes for PA
Among the best heirloom tomatoes (heirloom varieties pre-date WW2 and hybrid tomatoes) Brandywine, Black Krim, Lemon Yellow, Cherokee Purple. Some Mennonite and Amish heirloom tomato favorites include Amish Oxheart, Hahnstown Yellow, and Eva’s Amish Stripe.
Best Paste or Saladette Tomatoes in Pennsylvania
Juliet (60 days to maturity) and Roma (75 days to maturity) are arguably the very best paste/ saladette tomatoes in PA. Early Cascade (62 days) and Viva Italia (72 days) are also excellent.
Other tomatoes to consider are Amish Paste (74), Opalka (85), San Marzano (85), Mariana (74).
Because these tomatoes don’t contain so much juice they are ideal for canning, sauces, and salsas.
Best Cherry, Grape, and Patio Tomatoes for Pennsylvania
Cherry tomatoes – Super Sweet 100 (65 days), Sun Sugar (62 days), Sweet Million (65 days), Sungold (65 days), Black Cherry, Sweet Baby Girl (65 days), Riesenstraube, and Jolly (75 days).
Grape tomatoes – Sugary, Sugar Snack, Tami G., Mini Charm (all between 60 and 65 days).
Patio tomatoes – Bush Early Girl (60 days), Orange Pixie (52 days).