Of course it isn't time to plant tomatoes ................. at least not out in the garden. However, if you read my earlier article, "GARDEN PLANTING TIME ................ ALREADY???", you may realize that I tend to get a little impatient. In fact you are probably shaking your head about now, and wondering what makes me think I can raise a garden.
Before you chalk this up as some kind of a joke, let me assure you that I am serious. So serious in fact, that I planted about fifty tomato seeds today, twenty of one variety and thirty of another. I fully intend to plant more varieties as well as some hot peppers in a few days.
No, I am not fooled by the mild winter. The worst months of winter here are NORMALLY February and March, and most of April can be a bit iffy as well. So knowing this, why am I starting seeds in January? Simply put, it is because of the word "normally". Normally, it would be too cold to plant tomatoes out by the time they are big enough. Normally, by the time they can be safely transplanted, they would be nothing but spindly, yellowing runners that would be hard put to survive in the best of conditions. However, this is eastern Oklahoma, where "normal" is a well known myth, at least where the weather is concerned.
Within this broad range of what passes for normal, I have transplanted tomatoes in March and they flourished, and in May only to have them frosted. I have also planted them in mid April (which is customary) to have them blooming nicely in time for weather hot enough to prevent production. There have also been years (last spring in particular) when near record spring rainfall almost drown the tomatoes, followed by record heat which pretty much finished them off.
With these things in mind, I tend to start the seeds early, in the house, with mini-greenhouses made of clear trash bags, (until we can get the greenhouse frame covered, probably next year). By starting a lot more than are really needed, there are plenty to plant out early if the weather looks reasonable, then plant some out at the "normal time", and more (which may have to be moved to larger pots for awhile) for planting late, just in case winter hangs on longer than hoped.
In the not so "normal" event that spring is early, long and leads to a warm, damp early summer, there will be a bumper crop. If that happens, there will be lots of canned and dried tomatoes to store for several years to come.