As the weather warms again, we’re eager to get out there and make up for lost time by planting things such as tomatoes. But tomatoes don’t do well until the soil temperature reaches a fairly consistent 55 degrees, Ward Upham of K-State says. You can monitor the soil temperature with a soil thermometer, available at garden centers, or by checking The Eagle’s daily weather page in the Local & State section. The soil temperature is given under the heading Farm & Garden. If using your own soil thermometer, check the temperature 2 inches deep during the late morning to get an average temperature, Upham says.
Placing plastic mulch over soil will warm it, he says.
When bringing plants from indoors to outdoors, protect them from wind and full sun for a few days before planting, Upham says. Or plant them and protect them for two to three days with a tent of cardboard or a wooden shingle. An overcast, still day is the best type for transplanting, he says.
Hopefully we won’t have any more frosts, but if we do, place a floating row cover or light sheet over the tomatoes. “Actually a floating row cover can be left on the plants for two to three weeks to increase the rate of growth and establishment,” Upham says.
He gives these other tips:
• Buy small, stocky, dark green plants, which become established quicker than tall, spindly plants.
• Do not bury a tomato plant deeply or lay the stem sideways unless the plant is very leggy. “Though roots will form on the stems of tomatoes, this requires energy that would be better used for establishment and growth,” Upham says.
• Use a transplant/starter solution at planting time.
• Wait to mulch until the soil warms up and the plant is growing well.
Gates will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and live jazz will be performed from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday. A $5 donation is suggested.
For more information, including a plant list, go to the website www.dyckarboretum.org or call 620-327-8127.