March is ideal for transplanting tomatoes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tomatoes are the most popular homegrown vegetable in America. Whether hybrids or heirlooms, big or small, bright red or deep purple, there is a tomato out there to fit every gardener’s fancy. Follow these simple practices and you will surely have a successful tomato harvest.
Select disease resistant tomato varieties. These plants will have fewer disease related issues and can save you the cost of fungicides. Resistant varieties have been developed for tomato spotted wilt virus, tomato mosaic virus, Fusarium wilt, early blight and gray leaf spot. Be sure plants appear healthy at the time of purchase and have no insect or mechanical injury.  
Transplant tomatoes after the last freeze date for your area. In St. John the Baptist Parish this is typically mid-March. Tomatoes planted at this time ensure abundant production before the intense summer heat and have fewer insect and disease problems. In addition plant transplants deep, at least 6 inches in the soil bed. Soil at this depth is cooler and holds moisture longer.
Water tomato plants in the morning to keep roots cool and decrease plant stress. Mulching plants will also keep roots cool and reduces soil moisture fluctuations. Light colored mulches are preferred during the summer months as dark mulches get too hot.
If you do not have the space for a garden, try container-grown tomatoes. In a recent study LSU AgCenter Specialist Dr. Kiki Fontenot saw excellent results planting in three-gallon black plastic pots. Try determinate varieties, Sweet Tangerine and Heatwave II, which both resulted in good color and good yields.
To request a Tomato Vegetable Gardening Tips Handout or for more information contact the St. John Parish LSU AgCenter Extension Office at 985-497-3261 or visit
Mariah Bock is the LSU AgCenter County Agent for St. John Parish, she can be reached by email at