Planting out tomatoes...

22 September, 2014

Over the weekend just gone I planted out some of my tomatoes.

Now typically in Melbourne town it is said that you should not plant out tomatoes before Melbourne Cup, lest they be stuck down in a late frost which we can get in early spring.

To that I say: pfft!

Plant out your tomatoes now, but with the protection of garden fleece.

Garden fleece is a fine fabric which is excellent for keeping frosts off tender young tomatoes, while still letting through light. In the past I have individually wrapped each tomato seedling in a teepee of garden fleece which was both time and garden fleece intensive although it worked.

This year I tried something different, which was to plant out the toms (about 30cms apart, into compost and manure enriched soil) and then cover the whole bed in an enclosed fleece wrap.

There is a series of small stakes forming a structure to which the garden fleece is attached. I wrapped one length all the way around, and then three lengths over the top.

The fleece is held up with a bunch of bulldog clips.

Inside the tomato seedlings are all cosy.

Note snail pellets to prevent seedling loss.

To water I stick my arm in between the side and top sheets of fleece and use my trusty bottle top waterer to gently water the seedlings.

The bed is approximately 6m square and I've fit 21 tomatoes in (of 26 varieties I'm growing this year).

This is just one of my tomato beds, with the remainder of the seedlings to be planted out in the tomato bed in the raised bed veg patch, in my four bed crop rotation system, with any I can't squeeze into the two beds allocated to solanums to be fit anywhere else in the garden I can manage.

These seedlings are still inside to get a bit bigger before I plant these out. Thus hedging my tomato seedling bets.

It will be interesting to see which of these crops earlier, the earlier-planted-out-under-fleece or the coddled-inside-and-later-planted-out seedlings.

When do you plant out your tomatoes?


  1. I put seeds in pots about 4 weeks ago now (I didn't write the date down!) and they were in the laundry. They are very leggy and thin so yesterday I've just moved them outside to get more heat and sunshine. I wasn't going to plant mine until around October - I want them to get big and strong in the pots first and then I will deeply plant them to the top leaves.
    I like the idea of this fabric that you've used - was it expensive?

    1. I'm always forgetting when I sowed seeds. This blog is a closest thing to a gardening diary I've got.
      I'm tempted to put my leftover seedlings outside when their true leaves have developed a bit more.
      The garden fleece isn't expensive (around $5-10 a roll - can't remember exactly) and I reuse it until it decintergrates - it usually lasts 2-3 seasons.

  2. Wow! they are tiny. They certainly need the protection. What is the fleece, is it relatively strong and where did you get it?

    My seedlings are huge compared to yours, but I'm still not game to put them out. Probably risk it in October...I never bother about the Cup Day thing.

    1. They are tiny indeed. They seem to be growing really slowly this year. I have no idea why. I picked the weaker of the two seedlings, and they are quite young. I'm viewing this as a bit of an experiment, as it was either repot or plant out.
      I'm not sure what the fleece is made from, but it is reasonably strong (I don't think I could rip it unless I tried really, really hard) and I got it from Bunnings, in the same section as the weedmat.
      Glad to hear I'm not the only one who follows the cup rule blindly. :)

    2. I mean - DOESN'T follow the cup rule blindly.

  3. Garden fleece is great. Spring temperatures are so volatile, it seems to help keep tomatoes and eggplants (aubergine) from getting stunted. On a cool sunny day it can actually get quite warm under there. The year I used fleece in the spring some of the eggplants grew to 5 ft tall (1.5 metre) and had the biggest tomatoes I've ever grown.

    1. Volatile is the right word. The other morning it was 5 degrees when I got up, today is was 18! You can't pick it.
      Wow - that is an eggplant tree. I wan't me one of those!

  4. I have never heard of garden fleece Bek, what a creative idea. We don't get frost where we are but still lost a punnet of tomato seedlings to the cold so you have done really well to get them in the ground so early. I look forward to seeing them grow :D

    1. It works pretty well. I like using it when I think a cloche/bottle cover would be a little too hot.
      I look forward to seeing them grow too!

  5. I have to admit in Sydney our temperatures are a little warmer so I have cheated and put in one bought plant which is doing ok but I think it might be still getting a little too much shade. I planted seeds about 3 weeks ago (in a container outside which I forget to keep watering) and they are the same size as yours, perhaps I can plant them out? Hmm looks like I have some garden prep to do in readiness.

    1. I think it's perfectly ok to use bought plants, it's not cheating at all!
      I did plant mine out very young, and while they have been ok (only two have died) they have needed a lot of coddling with regular watering on sunny days. In hindsight it would have been better to have waited until they were a little bigger.