Tomatillos are a tender, warm-weather crop. Start tomatillos indoors 8 to 6 weeks before the average last frost date. Transplant seedlings into the garden two weeks after the last frost just as you would peppers and tomatoes.
Tomatillos can be grown much like tomatoes, but they are more sensitive to cold and chilly temperatures much like peppers. Protect tomatillos from night time temperatures cooler than 55°F (13°C).
Tomatillos mature 60 to 80 days after transplanting. Seedlings for transplanting should be about 40 to 50 days old at transplanting time. That means tomatillos from sowing require 100 to 130 days to reach maturity depending on the variety.
Sowing and Planting Tips:
- Grow tomatillos from seeds or seedlings.
- Seed is viable for 3 years.
- Tomatillos are commonly started indoors in a greenhouse or warm, well-lit sunroom or kitchen.
- Sow tomatillos 6 to 8 weeks before you intend to set plants out in the garden.
- Sow seed in individual pots filled with a light potting mix.
- Do not set tomatillos outdoors until the night time temperature is consistently greater than 55°F (13°C)—unless you plan to protect the plants from chill under a plastic tunnel.
- Sow 3 to 4 seeds to a pot or across flats; then clip away the weaker seedlings once the strongest seedling is about 2 inches (5 cm) tall.
- Sow seed ¼ inch (6 mm) deep.
- Recommended germination soil temperature is 70-80°F (21-27°C); the optimum soil temperature for germinating seed is 75°F (24°C).
- Keep the seed starting mix just moist until seedlings are established.
- Tomatillo seed can be sown directly in the garden if the soil temperature is warm enough—and there are enough days in the season for plants to reach maturity.
- Germination takes 7 to 14 days.
- Seedlings started indoors should be kept under a grow light or in a sunny window after germination. Keep indoor night time temperature above 62°F (17°C).
- Water to keep the seed starting mix from drying.
- Fertilize with fish emulsion or a soluble complete fertilizer at half strength.
- Transfer seedlings to a larger container once they are 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) tall; be sure that seedlings have sufficient room for root growth. This process is called “potting up”; continue to pot up seedlings as they outgrow containers—until they are transplanted into the garden or a very large container.
- Transplant tomatillos once they are 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) tall; transplant into medium-rich garden soil 24 inches (60 cm) apart in rows at least 24 inches apart.
- Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of transplanting.
- Tomatillos prefer a soil pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.
- Grow tomatillos in full sun for best yield.
- If you transplant seedlings started by another grower, select plants 6 to 8 weeks old; usually in a 4-inch (10 cm) pot. Check the bottom of the pot to be sure roots are not growing through and the plant is not root bound.
- Avoid planting tomatillos where tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, or eggplants have grown recently.
- Fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion at half strength.
- Protect early plants from cold weather under lightweight spun poly row covers supported by wire hoops. Cold nights will cause blossoms to drop producing bushy plants without peppers.
- Common pest enemies include aphids, Colorado potato beetles, flea beetles, tomato hornworms, and others.
More tips at: How to Grow Tomatillos.
Interplanting: Plant tomatillos with bush beans, chives, cucumbers, lettuce, marigolds, eggplant, tomatoes.
Container Growing: Choose a 10-gallon container or larger.
Recommended Planting Calendar:
- 14-10 weeks before last spring frost: start seed indoors for transplanting into plastic tunnel.
- 7-6 weeks before last spring frost: start seed indoors for transplanting into garden.
- 4-2 weeks before last spring frost: transplant seedlings into plastic tunnel to harden off.
- 1-2 weeks after last spring frost: transplant hardened-off seedlings into garden; minimum soil temperature is 60°F; protect plants from nighttime temperatures below 55°
Recommended varieties: ‘DeMilpa’ is an heirloom; ‘Purple’ has deep purple skin; ‘Toma Verde’ is early to harvest.
Botanical Name: Physalis ixocarpa
Tomatillos are a member of the Solanaceae family, other members of this family are tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes.
Also read: How to Harvest and Store Tomatillos.