Too Cold, Too Soon – for Tomatoes, Basil & Peppers

Spring plant sales got the best of everyone this weekend and I saw loads of tomatoes hanging out of sunroofs and read boastful posts of what people planted. To be fair, professional gardening companies seduced you with those sexy plants, promising of red tomatoes and garden abundance, I know. But here’s the thing….IT IS TOO COLD.

One more time – it’s too cold just now in the Pacific NW to plant out tomatoes, peppers, basil, squash and cukes. The ONLY exception to this rule is if you’ve planted under a well made cloche that will insulate the plants, keeping them warm. Basil, for instance, will germinate optimally at about 70 degrees, give or take 5 degrees. It is barely cresting above 70 outside in Seattle, let alone in the soil. Further, that warm temp seldom holds and nights are still very cool. By planting too early, plants are prone to disease, and are easily stressed. Not the best way to start off a summer-long of growing.

So, do yourself a favor. Hold off on planting your favorite summer crops. Four weeks is not going to make or break the quantity of your harvest or the timing of the harvest. It’s hot when it’s hot and only heat will ripen a tomato, so getting a jump by planting now isn’t going to help out much in the long run. I know 90% of you will ignore me (happens all the time!), but I call ’em like I see ’em.