Planting Times

Don't forget that the weather can be unpredictable.  We can have 70 degree weather in February and still have snow in May.  Our average last-frost date here is in mid-May.  So, if early warm weather has made you eager to start planting tender annuals before then, be prepared to cover them if cold temperatures return.  (Perennials can be planted at any time, as long as the ground isn't frozen solid.)

Some plants are more tolerant of cold weather than others.  Of the annuals that we sell, most can survive a light frost.  (The severity of frost damage depends on how low the temperature drops and for how long.)  The annuals that are most cold-hardy are: pansies/violas, snapdragons & alyssum.  The plants that are not frost-tolerant include: tomatoes, peppers, wax begonias, impatiens, gazanias, zinnias & portulaca (moss roses).


The best way to minimize transplant shock is to plant at a time that will limit the amount of water that the plant loses.  When the roots are damaged (such as when separating plants grown in a pack), the roots can no longer take up as much water and yet the plant continues to lose water through the leaves.  Hot weather and wind can cause the plant to quickly dry out and wither.  Some ways to avoid that include:

  • planting late in the day to take advantage of cooler night-time temperatures,
  • planting when the humidity is high, such as on a drizzly day,
  • watering well immediately after planting



Though tomatoes aren't particularly difficult to grow, there are several things that you can do to improve your yields.

  • Give them adequate light.  Tomato plants need at least 8 hours of direct light.
  • Keep them watered.  Irregular watering can cause fruit to crack and rot.
  • Keep them well-fed.  The growth of lots of foliage and fruit require a lot of nutrients.  Mixing compost into the soil and supplying fertilizer (either slow-release or a regular supply of soluble fertilizer) can improve yields.  For example, a calcium deficiency can cause Blossom End Rot.
  • Give them warm soil.  Tomatoes will not grow well with soil temperatures below 50 degrees (and can drop fruit that had set before transplanting).  They do best with soil temperatures around 70 degrees.  You can warm the soil in the spring using black plastic.  Then, in the summer, you can use mulch to keep the soil cool, as well as retain moisture and reduce weeds and soil-borne diseases.
  • Plant them deep.  By planting tomatoes a little deeper than they were originally grown, the buried portion of stem will produce new roots.
  • With indeterminate varieties, pinching off most of the side shoots will direct the plant's energy into the main stem.
  • Prune the plants in the fall.  Starting in mid-August, you can pinch off new growth, particularly flower buds.  Generally-speaking, these would not have enough time to produce mature fruit before the end of the season.  Selective pruning will direct the plant's energy to the remaining fruit.  (This can also be applied to growing squash.)