Edible Gardening

Ready, set, plant; tomato time is here

The soil is finally warm and dry enough in the Sacramento region to plant tomato seedlings.
The soil is finally warm and dry enough in the Sacramento region to plant tomato seedlings. Bigstock

No more waiting; it’s finally tomato planting time!

This soggy (and often chilly) spring put the brakes on early planting of summer staples. In most gardens, the ground was just too cold and wet for tomato “feet.”

But now the weather feels like a headlong rush into summer. So, bring on those toms!

Before you dig in, choose the right spot for tomato success. They need at least six hours of direct sunlight a day to bear fruit. They demand well-drained, loamy soil rich in organic material and nutrients; add some aged compost before planting tomato seedlings.

Another key to a bountiful tomato harvest: strong roots. That allows plants to pull up more water and nutrients. Plant seedlings deep, clipping off the lower foliage and leaving only the top leaves and branches above soil. This promotes root growth along the buried stem – and faster development of tomatoes.

Tomatoes need consistent irrigation to keep them growing and producing. Young plants need about 2 gallons of water per plant a week; increase that amount as the plant grows, divided between two or three waterings a week. Tomatoes grown in containers benefit from a drip system to keep their soil evenly hydrated.

After planting, add mulch to keep moisture in the soil and tomato roots comfortable. If growing your crop in containers, line the inside of the pots with several thicknesses of newspaper. That paper lining retains moisture while insulating the pot from summer heat.

▪ Besides tomato transplants, start setting out seedling eggplants and peppers. The warmer the ground, the faster they’ll grow.

▪ Now is prime time for planting summer vegetable seed, too. Among those you can plant now from seed: 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.