Home & Garden

Garden Checklist: Start the BLT countdown; it’s time to plant tomatoes

Stop waiting – and plant those tomatoes! Late April is ideal for transplanting seedlings outdoors.

Without a doubt, tomatoes rank as the most popular vegetable (or fruit or berry) for Sacramento home gardeners. The key to a bountiful crop starts with proper planting.

Tomato vines can grow new roots along their stems. Deep healthy roots will help those vines survive a long, hot, dry summer while also prompting a bigger harvest. So, plant seedlings deep, clipping off the lower leaves and leaving only the top leaves and little branches above soil. This promotes more root growth along the buried stem – and more tomatoes.

For drought-conscious gardeners, you can grow tomatoes and save water, too. But these plants do need consistent irrigation to keep them growing and producing. Young plants require about 2 gallons of water per plant a week; increase that amount as the plant grows, divided between two or three irrigations a week. Tomatoes grown in containers benefit from a drip system to keep their soil evenly hydrated. Cherry tomatoes tend to need less water to produce fruit than large heirloom tomatoes.

Remember to mulch; it helps keep moisture in the soil and tomato roots comfortable. If growing your vines in containers, line the inside of the pots with several layers of newspaper (another use for your Home & Garden section). That paper lining retains moisture while insulating roots in the pot from summer heat.

▪ Start setting out other warm weather crops such as eggplants and peppers. The warmer the ground, the faster these seedlings will grow.

▪  Now is prime time for planting summer vegetable seed, too, including: lima and snap beans, carrots, chard, corn, cucumbers, melons, okra, pumpkins, soybeans, squash and watermelon.

▪  In the flower garden, plant seeds (or transplants) for alyssum, aster, celosia, cleome, cosmos, four o’clocks, marigold, morning glory, periwinkle, rudbeckia, salvia, sunflower, verbena and zinnia.

▪  Watch out for snails and slugs. They love tender new growth. Go snail hunting with a flash light an hour after dark. Hand-pick these pests and dispose of them.