April 2006
Home Grown Tomatoes

March wind, April showers, Go ahead and

So, we’re finally into spring. Our typical "last frost date" is April 15th, so if you are just dying to plant some warm weather annuals, you should be prepared to protect them from that surprise frost that may hit us at any time.

Some petunias and calibrachoas (million bells) can tolerate a light frost, but not begonias. A frost will bite them good and turn their tops to mush. Though they may come back from the basal leaves and stems that were protected from the frost, the maturity of the begonia will be delayed beyond what it would be if you just waited a couple more weeks to plant them.

Alyssum (Lobularia maritima), Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria) and Annual Dianthus (Dianthus hybrida) can tolerate cooler temperatures, even some light frost. I have grown dianthus and they have spread out to make a good-looking ground cover. The frosts didn’t seem to bother them and with proper maintenance, (deadheading) they bloomed from early spring until fall.

Helichrysum comes in a variety of colors, from silvery gray (licorice plant) to chartreuse (Limelight). I have found that the helichrysum can tolerate some heavy frost. If there is tender young growth on the tips though, it could get a little frostbite. These plants make not only good bedding plants but also great container mixers and hanging basket plants.

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum sp.) make great cool weather plants. Though the Alabama sun tends to beat them up a little in the heat of August, these plants are semi-hardy. You can use them as a garden element for height or buy the cascading varieties for hanging containers.

Verbena hybrids are also semi-hardy here in Alabama. Some are even considered to be perennials such as the Homestead cultivar.

Lets take a couple of paragraphs and discuss container sizes.

When you go to your garden center, have you ever noticed that pot sizes are different? I have been in stores selling 9-1/2" hanging baskets for 10" baskets. A 4" pot is relative, it seems. A pot that measures four inches is a four-inch pot, but what about the volume capacity of that pot? If you buy a 4" standard pot, it will hold less soil than a 4" rose pot. A 4" bulb pot will hold less soil than a 4" azalea pot, which holds less soil than a standard 4" pot.

Arrrrrrrrr! That’s a lot to remember! Just consider this. Make sure you are getting the pot size advertised. If a 10" hanging basket advertised is a shallow 9" basket priced cheap, well, you get what you pay for and that may not be the best value.

Whichever plants you choose, consider the pot sizes. Are the plants going to outgrow the pot it’s in? Are you planning on leaving the plant in the pot you’re buying it in? If so, how much more watering will you have to do when the plant matures? Read the tags in the plant pots. They provide a lot of information about sun and water requirements, as well as maturity size and the plant’s hardiness.

By the way…Home Grown Tomatoes is going on the road in April and will be coming to a Quality Co-op or garden center near you. Check the website for locations and come join the fun!

Kenn Alan presents the radio show "Home Grown Tomatoes" every Saturday morning from 6 till 8 on 101.1 FM, The Source, and offers gardening tips at HGTradio.net, where Home Grown Tomatoes can now be heard live on the Internet by following instructions on the home page!