It’s tomato time on the Gulf Coast! According to gardening expert Bill Finch, you should plant tomatoes within a week either side of the last average frost date for your neighborhood. In Mobile and Baldwin Counties, that’s between February 27th and March 3rd.
This time of year, temperatures are variable; that’s risk you can’t avoid. Bill says if you wait until there is no longer any possible risk of frost, you can be assured that your tomatoes will be killed by summer. So you have to take chances.
That’s where tomato insurance comes in. What’s that? Well, if you only have a few small tomato plants in the ground, it can be as simple as a Styrofoam cooler…just turn it upside down over your tomatoes when frost or freeze threatens. Put a brick on top and dirt around the edges and it should insulate your plants down to about 25 degrees.
If it gets even colder, Bill says a “wall of water” can keep tomatoes alive down to about 20 degrees! It’s a store-bought (look online) circular plastic item with accordion-like walls that you fill with water, then place around your plant.
For bigger tomatoes or crops that cover more area, fleece cloth (also called row cloth) can be a big help. It’s a spun-bound polyester that is easy to use; just cover the plants or the tomato cages and tuck in the edges. It helps protect against harsh winds and temperatures between 30-40 degrees—very young tomatoes don’t like temperatures below 40. If it gets colder, just add a blanket on top.
Learn more by calling Bill’s radio show Sunday mornings from 9-11 on 106.5FM, or email email@example.com.