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New to growing your own tomatoes? This is the forum to learn the successful techniques used by seasoned tomato growers. Questions are welcome, too.

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Old December 15, 2021   #1
paradajky
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Default when to start in coastal so cal?

I'm in coastal southern california, zone 10a, less than 1 mile from the ocean. 2020 I started seeds in six-pack cells indoor early March, with an upotting in April and final container planting in mid May. Had my first fruits mid to late July. We had fairly wet weather through May here (lots of rain), and the warmer weather hadn't begun until late July early August.

2021 I tried starting indoors in February with a 72 cell tray, with uppoting in March, and beautiful stocky green transplants ready to go into ground in April. However, combination of disease and cooler, overcast weather in the low 60s kept us from having much of a harvest unfortunately - May Gray, June Gloom, and July with Minimal Sky were pretty heavy this year.

Given this data, should I try as early as January, or wait until later? The plants stay indoors until the first uppotting. I don't recall temps here ever getting to "frost", but we've had one or two nights in the high 30s, typically late February and early March. I do not have space to actually grow tomatoes inside, I like to harden them off during the uppotting.

Plants chosen for next season will be a mix of some earlies, and more disease resistant varieties. I plan to start "from scratch" instead of reusing soils, because 2021 reused soil from 2020 and for some reason I think it may have been contaminated and was the reason why everything was so bad.

Thanks for your time!
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Old December 15, 2021   #2
Fred Hempel
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Since coastal So-Cal has such good fall weather (clear and sunny in September and October) the save bet is to start your plants indoors in mid-March and go into the ground around May 1. This is particularly true if you are close to the coast, and you will get alot of spring moisture.

1. Avoid spring sogginess (and disease)

2. Take advantage of your long sunny fall, when tomatoes will ripen best. Your plants should peak starting in September, if it is quality you are worried about.

Quote:
Originally Posted by paradajky View Post
I'm in coastal southern california, zone 10a, less than 1 mile from the ocean. 2020 I started seeds in six-pack cells indoor early March, with an upotting in April and final container planting in mid May. Had my first fruits mid to late July. We had fairly wet weather through May here (lots of rain), and the warmer weather hadn't begun until late July early August.

2021 I tried starting indoors in February with a 72 cell tray, with uppoting in March, and beautiful stocky green transplants ready to go into ground in April. However, combination of disease and cooler, overcast weather in the low 60s kept us from having much of a harvest unfortunately - May Gray, June Gloom, and July with Minimal Sky were pretty heavy this year.

Given this data, should I try as early as January, or wait until later? The plants stay indoors until the first uppotting. I don't recall temps here ever getting to "frost", but we've had one or two nights in the high 30s, typically late February and early March. I do not have space to actually grow tomatoes inside, I like to harden them off during the uppotting.

Plants chosen for next season will be a mix of some earlies, and more disease resistant varieties. I plan to start "from scratch" instead of reusing soils, because 2021 reused soil from 2020 and for some reason I think it may have been contaminated and was the reason why everything was so bad.

Thanks for your time!
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Old December 15, 2021   #3
paradajky
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That makes sense, yes, August-October we have warm weather that's drier. I had in my mind to start earlier to have tomatoes sooner, but your suggestion really is the better way. Thank you!


This year we actually had warm weather almost through to Thanksgiving, so that makes things even better.
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Old January 7, 2022   #4
SeniorTomate
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Hello! I mimic Fred's input. We have had a couple of fair weather (mild) summers in Southern California the last two years. In 2020, I was growing some Beef Steaks (German Pink) and started seed in Feb. with transplant in April. Didn't even get any tomatoes until August. I got a second crop in November not as many but still got some. I live in Orange but grew the tomatoes in Irvine. I am going to try shorter growing varieties (like 50 to 65 days) in Feb and the longer growing varieties (80 to 90 days) I'm going to seed start in May.
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Old January 7, 2022   #5
KarenO
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I’m not from California and the advice of the Californians above is what I would follow for your main tomato planting. In that climate I would have a hard time resisting planting a couple of plants for some early fresh fruit even if just a pot or two easily managed on a patio. Cherries are earlier and easier usually and you’d have some ripe in spring while you work on the main crop of plants
Have a great season
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Old January 10, 2022   #6
paradajky
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Thank you both. I considered pushing it this early because I've had some people try convincing me that technically we should be able to grow tomatoes almost year round where I live. SeniorTomate: hope you are enjoying this nice weather we have right now



Meantime I looked over my notes and the times I presented in the first post are actually wrong, I don't know if that will change anything, I may do what I did in 2020 again:
2020: seeds planted 3/30, hardened off 4/28, 4" pots 5/8, buckets/ground 6/2, first tomato ripened 8/11
2021: I really should forget anything about this year, I didn't mention all the trouble with seed germination, I thought I started 2/21, but had to resow several times through to 3/20. Some of the ones planted 2/21 germinated 4 weeks later, too, it was a mess. All seedlings appeared super healthy, then once transplanted to final pot/ground, within a some weeks were dead or on the road to death from some disease (can't tell what sadly). We picked up hybrid seedlings from the nursery, and then shortly after they began producing fruit, began to show a similar disease despite my efforts to keep isolation and sanitary practices. We had tomatoes from the buckets, but they were mediocre.



The trouble with the 2020 planting: no tomatoes until august. Would be nice to get some in July. KarenO, I like the idea of maybe starting a few now and then more later, maybe I will sow some of the smaller ones and just see what happens.
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Old January 10, 2022   #7
zeuspaul
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I am in North San Diego county about 10 miles from the coast. I plan on starting a few seeds early February hoping for a few early tomatoes. I plan on 2 inch pots then plant up to gallon (maybe 2 gallon) pots then to 25 gallon containers.

I use the 10 day forecast to decide when I plant outside. These few plants will be considered experimental with hopes for a few early tomatoes.

I don't keep records of my planting dates or anything else with my tomatoes. Traditionally I have targeted July 4 so I have tomatoes to bring to a July 4 party and usually have been successful with that. My best guess is an April or May planting guided by the forecast. In the past I was able to better select a date because I purchased plants from a nursery.

With the pandemic nursery starts have been limited so I started my own. Last year was a complete disaster. I started seeds early January which was way too early. The plants got too big and I got overwhelmed with potting up and trimming roots. And I had 125 plants to deal with which is too much for me in my aging years.

This year I plan on only about thirty plants. I am struggling with the start date for the seeds. This is a useful thread for me. I can't predict the plant out date because I can't predict the weather. I plan on a few early February for a chance at an early April planting. Then continue starting throughout February and March knowing that I will have too many plants. I will then just select the plants that will go into the ground depending on their size and the weather.
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Old January 10, 2022   #8
zeuspaul
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From University of Calif re San Diego county.

When and Where to Plant: Tomatoes are warm season vegetables. They should be planted after the
danger of frost has passed and the soil is warm. It is usually safe to set out transplants in early March
near the coast
and two to four weeks later in coastal valleys. Earlier planting is possible if plants are
protected with hot caps or row covers; however, early plantings often do not produce fruit much
sooner than plants set out later when temperatures are more favorable. Spring planted tomatoes
usually produce fruit during the summer for two to three months. It is best to make a second planting
in June or early July if you want to harvest tomatoes during the fall. For best production, tomatoes
should be planted in a location where they will receive at least eight hours of sunlight a day.


https://www.mastergardenerssandiego....ato%20Tips.pdf
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Old January 11, 2022   #9
Milan HP
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Hello Paradajky,
your schedule looks pretty much like what most gardeners go by here in zone 6a. And I'm sure that So-Ca has much warmer climate.

I am an experiment guy myself, so I seed my tomatoes in mid-February, grow them at home or if the weather permits on the balcony. I plant them out in my garden (zone 5b, 1800 ft amsl) in mid May (they already have small fruits) and I sometimes I get my first ripe toms in late June. Of course, it depends on what the year is like. True, I specialize in early (DTM 55 - 65) varieties, such as Start F1, Stupice, Tomato Berry F1, Juanita F1, etc.
IMHO, you wouldn't make a mistake if you started earlier.

I also grow some tomatoes on my window sill over the winter. Seeded 11/15, artificial light 2 LED COB bulbs, 20W and 2,450 lm each. See the photos from yesterday.

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Old March 21, 2022   #10
paradajky
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Feel like I really missed out by not starting January, we've had a warm and dry winter so far in coastal so cal. Which from another perspective is actually okay, since I've had so much life going on there wouldn't have been time to care properly for the tomatoes. About to get started with this new season, hopefully will be better than last and go through to november
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Old March 21, 2022   #11
DK2021
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When I lived in San Diego I would start tomatoes as early as late January. Black from Tula, Black Krim, Paul Robeson seemed to do well started that early. But I hedged my bets and started additional tomatoes as the year went on. I was in La Jolla and University City so close to the coast, but we had southern exposure and lived on the south-facing edge of a canyon which seemed to help with earlier clearing of June Gloom.
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