• Can I Plant My Tomatoes Now?

By Sharyn Caudell – gardenertogo@hotmail.com

Every gardener wants to plant their tomatoes or annuals or vegetable garden absolutely as soon as possible. So, can I plant my tomatoes now? It depends on if you are a gambler. The average last frost for our area is April 13th plus or minus 10 days. We have had a very mild and warm winter. The soil is warm enough to plant. Do you remember April 7, 2007? It was Easter. We had a freeze (temperatures below 28) and we had a very warm, mild March that year. The garden center owners did a wonderful business in selling replacement tomatoes, vegetables and annuals for those that died in the freeze.

Now, do I think this will happen this year? Probably not. But I am not planting my tomatoes until after April 7th and I’ll plant my peppers and eggplants a week after that. They will produce just fine. I’ll be setting out annuals from April 10th on through the month. Always water your transplants as soon as you plant them and be sure they don’t dry out the first few weeks. Those small root systems grow fast, but can dry quickly in our warm sun. The very best time to transplant is in a drizzle or, if you don’t like to get wet, plant late in the afternoon. The cool night temperatures will give them a chance to overcome transplant shock.

For really tender plants such as caladiums, Boston ferns, and begonias, wait until about April 15th. Those plants can be injured by temperatures in the low 30’s but above freezing. If you must go to the garden center, buy the plants and keep them in the brightest place in your house. When you get ready to plant, set them outside in shade for a day or so. Outdoor shade is brighter than your house.

These warm days also encourage people to set their houseplants outside. After all, wouldn’t they like some sun after being inside? No, they would not. Houseplants are used to low-light conditions. Plant leaves are larger and thinner in low-light conditions. Setting them outside in the sun will lead to sun damage on the leaves – it’s the equivalent to sunburn on you. Houseplants are susceptible to chill damage below 45 degrees. Their native environment is frost-free. So set your plants outside in the shade after mid-April. They will be much happier.

Happy Planting!