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The Best Time to Plant Tomatoes in North Carolina — Revealed

The Best Time to Plant Tomatoes in North Carolina — Revealed

Tomatoes are one of the easiest vegetables … oh, alright, alright, fruits to grow in your own garden. And there’s nothing the sweet taste of homegrown Tomatoes.

If you live in North Carolina and want to grow Tomatoes in your garden in the upcoming season, you must be aware of the Tomato growing timeline in NC. 

Being aware of the right time to plant tomatoes helps you plant ahead and preps you up for a bountiful Tomato yield throughout the growing season. 

 

When to Plant Tomatoes in North Carolina 

Tomatoes cannot tolerate temperatures below the 50°F (10°C) point. Seeds should be started indoors at least 6 weeks before the last frost date. If the Tomato seedlings are ready, transplant them outdoors only when 2 weeks have elapsed after the last frost date in your area. 

 

Ideal Temperatures for Tomatoes to Thrive

Tomatoes will grow best when the temperatures are in a mild-warm range. They grow best when the temperatures are between 70-80°F (21-27°C) during the day. 

Tomatoes prefer nighttime temperatures between 60-70°F (15-21°C), while the soil should remain at a steady temperature range of 60-70°F (15-21°C) too. 

Temperatures as low as 50°F (10°C) will not kill Tomatoes. Still, there is no growth, and exposure to lower temperatures may seriously stunt the plant’s growth throughout the growing season. 

So much for the numbers. The best time to plant Tomato in NC depends primarily on the last frost date and the variety of Tomato you’re growing. 

You must choose suitable Tomato varieties that can do well in the hot North Carolina summer. You are advised to plant varieties such as ‘Better Boy,’ ‘Big Beef,’ or ‘Grape Tomatoes’ in NC.

 

Last Frost Dates in North Carolina 

The middling USDA Hardiness Zone North Carolina belongs to is zone 8a. The average last frost date in NC is April 10th. However, the date varies between different cities and may also drastically vary due to climatic change in subsequent years.

The first frost date should also be considered as it gives you an idea of how long you’ve got to grow and harvest tomatoes in your area. The average first frost date is October 30th

Here are the average last and first frost dates for major NC cities. 

  1. Charlotte Last Frost Date – April 11th / First Frost Date – October 28th
  2. Raleigh Last Frost Date – April 8th / First Frost Date – October 29th
  3. Greensboro Last Frost Date – April 10th / First Frost Date – October 31st
  4. Durham Last Frost Date –  April 10th / First Frost Date – October 29th
  5. Winston-Salem Last Frost Date – April 7th / First Frost Date – November 3rd

 

When to Start Tomato Seeds in North Carolina

It is always recommended to start seeds indoor way before the last frost date so you can get the most out of your tomatoes. 

Sowing the seeds after the last frost date is impractical as the plants will not be able to supply enough yield before the onset of the next winter.

Depending on the variety of Tomatoes you choose to harvest, you should germinate Tomato seeds at least 40-60 days prior to the last frost date in your area. 

So, for instance, if you want to grow Tomatoes in Charlotte or near it, you should have sowed your seeds for germination in an indoor, protected environment no later than February 20th. 

 

Planting Tomatoes Outdoors

If you’ve had young Tomato plants growing indoors in a protected environment for 40-60 days, and the last frost date has just passed, don’t push them outdoors immediately.

No need to take the risk. Due to the volatile weather changes happening all around the world, you might expect yet another freeze after the last frost date has passed. 

Wait for around two weeks after the last frost date in your area to finally take the Tomatoes outdoors. Still, you should see the weather forecast and use other indicators for when to plant Tomatoes outdoors to be on the safe side. 

Before the final transplant, you should take the time you have to start hardening off the Tomato seedlings and prepare them for life in the outdoors.

To do that, take the seedling trays outdoors and let the Tomatoes soak the sun for a few hours a day. This will help acclimatize them to the outdoor garden conditions. 

Generally, April 25th is the best time on average to plant tomatoes outdoors. 

 

What if I Transplant Tomatoes Too Early? 

It’s not rare for a new Tomato grower to plant their Tomatoes outdoors too early in the season. 

Moreover, the last frost dates can sometimes come much later in North Carolina, making Tomato growers rush to protect their Tomatoes if an unexpected freeze is encountered. 

If you think there’s a danger of frost and you’ve already planted your Tomatoes outdoors in NC, the best chance you’ve got now is to cover the young Toms with burlap or any other material used for winter protection. 

If, unfortunately, your Tomatoes remain unprotected through the night, and there’s frost, you’ve got a chance at saving them if you get up before the sun and thaw them out with warm water. 

If the frozen foliage is exposed to the sun, the plant is a goner. The rapid heating effect on the frozen leaves will burn the foliage and make the young plants devoid of foliage.

 

Frequently Asked Questions about Growing Tomatoes in NC

 

When is it too late to plant Tomatoes in NC?

Summers in North Carolinas are hot and humid. Planting your tomato plants too late will make it difficult for them to get established in the hot weather. Moreover, planting Tomatoes late results in smaller fruits and a lesser yield. 

 

How long does it take to grow Tomatoes in NC?

Although, the primary determining factor for how long Tomatoes take to grow is the variety you’re growing. But the range of climates in North Carolina can also have an impact. For instance, if Tomatoes take 70-80 days in Raleigh, they may take 10-20 days longer in Asheville.