tomato seedlings

When to Plant Tomatoes in Alabama

Tomatoes grow very well in Alabama, the state provides the sunlight and moisture that the plants need in abundance. Sometimes though, these conditions are too abundant and can cause pest, fungal, bacterial, and temperature stress-related issues. With proper care and planning, Alabama gardeners can easily enjoy a bountiful tomato harvest.

Tomatoes in Alabama’s Climate

Alabama has a humid subtropical climate, characterized by long, hot summers and mild winters. The state also experiences frequent thunderstorms and heavy rainfall, particularly during the summer months.

The hot and humid climate in Alabama can make it challenging to grow tomatoes, as high temperatures and moisture can lead to disease and pest problems. The high humidity can promote fungal diseases such as early blight and late blight, which can cause leaf yellowing and fruit rot. The warm temperatures can attract pests like spider mites and aphids.

To combat these issues, it is important to choose disease-resistant tomato varieties, provide adequate air circulation and drainage, and use organic methods such as neem oil or insecticidal soap to control pests.

Mulching around the base of the plants can also help regulate soil temperature and retain moisture. Alabamans may want to consider providing afternoon shade to their tomato plants during the hottest months of the year to prevent sunscald and heat stress.

Finally, planting tomatoes in containers or raised beds can help regulate moisture levels and prevent soil-borne diseases. Consider raising companion plants with your tomatoes to mitigate many of theses issues while providing another delicious crop or herb.

When to Start Tomatoes Indoors in Alabama

If you want to get an early start on cultivating tomatoes, begin growing the seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the final spring frost in your area, regardless of the tomato variety you’re growing. In Alabama, start sowing your tomato seeds indoors around February 16th.

You may want to get them going even earlier than that and plant them in a large pot ahead of producing them outdoors, just to give them even more of a head start. To start tomato seeds indoors:

  1. Select a planting container. Choose a container at least 6-8 inches deep, with holes in the bottom for drainage.
  2. Fill with a seed starter potting soil.
  3. Plant 2-3 tomato seeds ⅛ inch deep in the soil and cover.
  4. Water the soil until it is moist but not soggy.
  5. Place the container in a warm, sunny spot indoors and keep the soil moist.
  6. When the seedlings reach 2-3 inches tall, thin them out so there is only one seedling per container.

Tomato Varieties That do Well in Alabama

Growing early-harvest tomatoes can be very handy in Alabama, due to the diversity of its climate. Some varieties of tomatoes are ready to harvest in 60 to 100 days, which makes them perfect for the different zones in Alabama. Sow your seeds indoors to maximize your growing season’s yield. I recommend one of the following varieties: 

  1. ‘Aunt Gertie’s Gold’ Tomato – 75-80 Days to Harvest
  2. ‘Heidi’ Tomato – 90 Days to Harvest
  3. ‘Opalka’ Tomato – 90 Days to Harvest
  4. ‘Martino’s Roma’ Tomato – 70-80 Days to Harvest
  5. ‘Fourth of July’ Tomato – 49 Days to Harvest
  6. ‘Sweet Million’ Tomato – 45 Days to Harvest
  7. ‘Oregon Spring’ Tomato – 50 Days to Harvest
  8. ‘Celebrity’ Tomato – 70 Days to Harvest
  9. ‘Yellow Pear’ Tomato – 60 Days to Harvest
  10. ‘Gardener’s Delight Tomato – 52 Days to Harvests

Hardening Off Your Tomatoes

Hardening off tomatoes that you’ve started indoors before planting outdoors is essential to ensure they can thrive in the outdoor environment. When tomatoes are started indoors, they become accustomed to the warm and more stable environment. When planted outdoors, they are exposed to more extreme temperatures, wind, and sun. Hardening off tomatoes helps them slowly adjust to their new environment by exposing them to these elements for an extended period.

The process of hardening off tomatoes begins by slowly introducing them to the outdoors. Start by placing them in a sheltered spot, such as a porch or a partially shaded area, for a few hours each day. Over a week, gradually increase the amount of time they are kept outdoors and the amount of sun they are exposed to. After a week of hardening off, the tomatoes should be ready to move to their final outdoor planting location.

When to Plant Tomatoes in Alabama

It’s generally safe to plant tomatoes outdoors when there is no risk of frost or freezing temperatures. In most climates, this means waiting until at least late spring or early summer. In Alabama, your final freeze date is expected around March 28th to April 3rd depending on where you live. Still, be mindful of your weather forecast. If it seems like you’re in for a late freeze, wait to plant your tomatoes! 

When to Harvest Tomatoes in Alabama

When tomatoes have turned a deep red (or the ripe color of their particular variety) and have no green spots visible, they are ripe and ready to be picked. If there are still green patches on the tomato, it has not yet ripened and should remain on the vine. The ideal way to pick ripe tomatoes is to cup the tomato in your hand and give it a gentle twist- it should come off the vine with ease. When in doubt, you can leave it on the vine an extra couple of days, or harvest the entire branch of tomatoes and allow it to ripen on the vine on your window sill.

Jeff Grayson
Garden Hobbyist
Hello! I'm Jeff, an avid gardening enthusiast. I'm based out of Colorado, where I raise as many indoor and outdoor plants as I can!