Resist Labour Day Tomatoes, Sow a Living Mulch Instead!

toms and melons hardening off
Summer crops hardening off – its too early to plant!

Game on! It’s the great summer-crop wait out. Are you feeling strong enough to resist planting tomatoes? Can you hold off on planting pumpkin and courgette seedlings another week or so?

Last nights low was 6 degrees and my soil is only 14 degrees! Far too chill for these heat lovers … I’ve got a wee way to go before reaching the tomato, pepper, pumpkin, bean etc happy place.

If night temperatures are less than 13 degrees at your place, and the soil feels cold (or is less than 18 degrees), my best advice is to wait.

Buckwheat greencrop

I have a cool mission to divert your tomato planting energies. Sow a living mulch on your summer cropping beds – it’ll take them next level. Your soil, your crops and your life (less hassle by far) will be better served.

Marigold living mulch with greenhouse peppers
  • Nectar rich flowers like phacelia, buckwheat or mustard are honey for bees. Sow them now in the pumpkin/ squash/ zuchinni beds and watch pollination rates go right up.
  • Sow marigold, phacelia, buckwheat (separate or together) on the tomato bed. Nasturtium is awesome too.
  • Sow crimson clover on the corn bed for a nitrogen fixing groundcover to beat weeds and save on mulch.
Crimson Clover

Sow your living mulch this weekend and it’ll get a head start on the crop. When the weather and soil temperatures align, plant summer crops amongst it – just break bits off and make holes.

Tomatoes with a living mulch of phacelia, nasturtium and beetroot

New seedlings love being cosy together, you just wait and see. The living mulch gives valuable protection from uncertain weather until roots and canopy establish. Better still, now that you have a broader range of roots as opposed to just one type – a broader range of soil life comes to play.

As the crop grows, keep the way clear by breaking off bits of greencrop/ living mulch. Leave enough to keep the soil covered + plenty of flowers for nectar close to hand. The closer this nectar is to the flowers that need pollinating the better.

Meantime move seedlings into bigger pots and keep them undercover until spring breaks.

tomato seedlings

Don’t forget that there are plenty of cool things that can go in now – beetroot, carrots, radish, salads, leafy greens, lots of companion flowers and brassicas if you can bothered dealing with cabbage whites next month.


  1. So great! I’m completely inspired by this!!!!

  2. Sooooo glad I read this before I started planting. I have seeds for what you recommend, and I have the watering system in place thanks to Otaki Hydroponics. You are a blessing Kath.

  3. Sue Walker says

    Once again great advice. I really appreciate your sharing of knowledge. I used to plant way too early and stressed over the baby plants. Spending lots of time putting covers over when weather cold. Now I wait then you’re right it’s game on.

    • Such satisfaction in the waiting Sue, the alignment of perfect conditions and timing rewarded with happy, successful plants. Struggling plants make more work and headache for the gardener!

  4. Any suggestion of what to plant with potatoes?

  5. Love this! Thank you for the inspiration! Had the same thoughts about tomato planting, but this alternative works perfect for me now!

  6. Hey again Cath could you advise the variety of msrigold pictured here? I can only find seeds for the compact type plants, these bigger bushier rambling type one’s look way better for a living mulch. Thanks in advance

    • You’re right – these marigolds are awesome! African marigold are the ones pictured – I grow them in the greenhouse. The big bold beautiful marigolds I grow in the garden are Marietta marigold.

  7. Hi Kath, thanks for the amazing advice! I’m trying to track down a soil thermometer like the one you have, but can’t find it online! Can you please tell me the brand or where I might be able to find one?! Thanks!!!

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