Ask Burton: Q: I want to get my tomatoes started now that it’s March – how do I protect the plants if the weather turns cold?

A:  I push the envelope on this one every year myself, so here are the best recommendations we can give you:

  • Frost Cloth – Frost cloth will keep your plants safe from a minor cold snap – it’s a few degrees of insulation and it will prevent frost formation on the leaves of your tomatoes. Tuck it in and secure it so that winds don’t cause the material to flap. It’s better to break a few leaves on plants by weighting the cloth down in the middle if necessary than to let the material flap in the wind.
  • Compost – Mounding compost around young transplants will protect the plants from most of the wind and chill. Remove excess compost after the danger of frost has passed. I keep used nursery containers around my own garden for this purpose; a 1 gallon pot covers a young tomato transplant pretty well and will keep the compost from crushing the plant. (Put on the “hat”, then cover the pot with compost in a mound).
  • 5-gallon Paint Buckets – Same theory, keeps the frost off the young plants, gives a few degrees of insulation.

Don’t use clear milk jugs, 2-liter bottles, or plastic to cover your plants – if the sun comes out on a clear morning, you can easily cook your tomatoes, and not in a good way. And be philosophical about it; the earlier you get your tomatoes in the ground, the more tomatoes you can harvest, but there is some risk involved in doing so! Our average date of last frost in North Texas is around the 17th of March. If Mother Nature freezes your first transplants despite your preventative care, just replant and go on. We have a great selection of tomatoes in stock.