I am wondering, is there any best practice for starting tomato/pepper plants this late in the season?

To be clear, I am talking about started plants that I am hoping to get heavily discounted from stores given that it is August 1st. We recently moved and were not able to start plants from seeds.

It feels like I should be able to do:

  • Buy a bunch of pre-started plants (for cheap)
  • Transplant to garden
  • Profit

I am in zone 5 and our first frost is normally early October, meaning tomatoes/peppers planted today would have nearly 60 days to produce. I expect that really is more like 45 days as the end of the season will be pretty cool.

Is there a good way to approach this?

  • I'm just curious, have you already looked at any plants? I'm in a similar zone and most of the plants on the clearance table are a number of inches tall. Some even have buds or flowers, which would put you ahead of the game, at least moreso than starting from younger seedlings. You're likely dealing with rootbound plants, but obviously you can fix that when you get them into the garden! Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 22:54
  • @Sue we actually did that today - for $25 we picked up 5 tomatoes and about 10 peppers. What's the worst that happens, we're out $25? :)
    – enderland
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 0:10
  • Get row cloth and newspaper for the end of the year once the nights start getting below 40 degrees...to extend the life of your plants and allow your fruit to ripen a bit. The value of experience in the garden can't be shown on the bottom line of a ledger, grins!
    – stormy
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 19:22
  • That sounds like a smart use of your money to me. As you said, losing it is your worst case scenario! If you think about it later in the year, I'd appreciate an update as to how they did. It would help me for next year (actually my husband, since he does the veggies and I do the flowers)! Thanks and good luck! Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 1:33

1 Answer 1


"Gamble" seems more appropriate than "profit." Seedlings that have been stuck in small pots for the past few months will not be at the same state of development as ones that have been in the ground or a large pot. Due to a variety of factors I have a bunch (spares from my own starts) and while I may yet put a few more in if I can claw holes in the mess (which is one of the factors, due to other factors unrelated to gardening other than taking time away from it) but they are surely gambles, not sure things, this late in the year, unless you are "profiting" from under-ripe fruits, or can provide some season-extending cover.

Gamble away, but keep those green tomato recipes handy.

Methodology: dig hole in good soil, add plant, fill hole, water and wait. For tomatoes at least, dig a deep hole and bury a bunch of stem, which will make more roots. I don't like peppers so I don't grow peppers, so I don't know peppers (though I know that folks who do like them find it a problem to keep them warm enough to be happy around here.)

Bye the bye, my entire seed order (of which these were a small fraction) was about $5 more than you are gambling, so if you like to grow them, consider planning ahead next spring and plant your own seeds, rather than buying plants.

  • 1
    Next year, we won't be buying a house in the middle of summer (hopefully... ?) so it'll be easier to plan ahead. Some people move in summer, which this answer seems to condescendingly not acknowledge.
    – enderland
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 3:02
  • I'm afraid I can't "acknowledge" things which are not even mentioned in the question.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 13:05

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