August 2013
Home Grown Tomatoes

August in the Tomato Tower Garden

Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) is a hardy perennial from zones 3a to 9b.  


It’s plant review time, so get ready to take notes. Each year, Home Grown Tomatoes receives plants and seeds to try here in the central part of Alabama. Some plants are reviewed for more than one year before a success/fail report is made or a product is listed in a public article.

The reason for this is to give the plants a fair chance. Sometimes, even I plant the wrong plants in the wrong place. If I notice that, it is my error and the following year they are planted in a different location and the results are compared to the previous year.

Around February 2, Groundhog Day, seeds are started in the cold frames. These temporary structures are constructed from up-cycled doors and windows, and bottom heat is provided by placing indoor/outdoor holiday lights under the base of the cold frames. The lights are plugged into an 110v GFCI receptacle.

  Surefire Rose Begonia stands up to direct sunlight and heat indices of over 115 degrees.

Daily notes are kept on the progress of all seedlings. When they are ready to be transplanted, the seedlings are moved into three- to six-inch containers to finish maturing and hardening off for garden transplanting.

Renee’s Garden French Red Leaf lettuce produced large, sweet heads that made a great early season border plant. However, their Farmers Market Lettuce Blend, Cut and Come Again mustard and Pot of Gold container chard bolted too early and little was harvested. I will try them again in the fall and report my findings.

The best basil and cilantro so far this year are Profumo di Genova basil and slow-bolt cilantro from Renee’s Garden. The basil is still producing large sweet leaves on compact plants. The cilantro produced very large tasty leaves and we harvested them for about 50 days until they finally bolted. (I’m waiting on the second crop now.)

Petunia seeds. I haven’t ever mentioned these, but someone sent me a pack of Dwarf Bedding Mixed Colors seed from Ferry-Morse Seeds. So I planted them in a pot never expecting to get any results from this $1.25 pack of seeds. Much to my surprise, I have petunias! Thousands of petunias are interplanted with everything else throughout the gardens. You see, I got these seed over 4 years ago and they produced several pots of beautiful petunias. The next year, they self seeded and I had even more plants! Last year, I collected seeds to save for this spring. Additionally, the potted petunias re-seeded in the pots and, get this, our winter was so mild I had last year’s petunias blooming in January of this year! The plants survived the winter in containers and are now in the garden.

The Supertunia petunia requires little deadheading.  A $1.25 packet of petunia seeds planted 3 years ago have kept coming back!  

I received some Proven Winners petunia plants to try here. They are the Supertunia Flamingo. The plants arrived beautiful and blooming, and were promptly potted into 10-inch pots; however, one plant was saved out to test its durability for merchandising. There was another plant saved for the same purpose and that one is the Superbells Pomegranate Punch calibrachoa by Proven Winners. Both plants started looking poorly in their original pot (like you would find them at the retailer) after about seven days even with proper care. On a good note, the repotted plants are beautiful and blooming like crazy, as are the Superbena Violet Ice verbenas by Proven Winners.

The Stokes’ Aster (Stokesialaevis) I planted 2 years ago is producing magnificent blue flowers and is the showiest plant in that garden bed. The plant was produced by Alabama Grown (

The zinnias are blooming like gangbusters and will continue until frost. If you didn’t plant any this year, put them on your list for next year. You won’t regret it.

  This Superbells calibrachoa is a showy container planting that keeps flowering throughout the hot summer.

Each month, I will feature a cool tool, gadget or other product I like, and, next month, I will give you some shopping tips.

For now, the cool tool for August is the Dramm One Touch Rain Wand. I have used Dramm water breakers and watering wands for years in the nursery and at home. The One Touch Rain Wand offers ease of control, whether you are watering a 100-foot greenhouse or a patio full of container flowers. For professionals and home gardeners alike, the Dramm One Touch Rain Wand rocks!

If you have any questions or comments regarding the plants or garden gadgets discussed in this column, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Become a fan of Home Grown Tomatoes on Facebook and keep up with the latest news. Tell all your friends, too!