Given the advent of some warm temperatures and sunny days, many home gardeners are moving toward finishing up seeding and transplanting most of their garden crops.
You may have noticed that tomato plants in stores now have blossoms and have even set small fruit.
This is a question that I am asked often: should I purchase tomato plants with flowers and small tomatoes on them? Don’t think that this is a bargain because both blossoms and fruits should be pinched-off, otherwise plant growth will stop as soil nutrients are diverted to fruit production.
With warm weather at hand, you need to take special precautions in transplanting not only tomato and pepper plants but other transplants as well. They can wilt quickly and die under a hot sun, especially if some wind is added to the equation.
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They will need shade and water until they become established. Even if the transplants survive, they can go through a period of transplant shock, which slows down growth.
During transplant shock, leaves may turn yellow and the lower ones may even drop off. You can help prevent transplant shock by adequate watering immediately after planting, applying a starter fertilizer solution such as a 10-20-10 and placing a board or other type of individual shade on the southwest side of each plant for several days after transplanting.
The shift to warm weather also means that weeds are probably growing well in your garden. It is no secret that weeds are much easier to control when still small. Don’t let them get ahead of you, which they can do in a heartbeat.
Using a sharp hoe or hand-pulling the weeds followed by an application of organic mulch constitutes a good weed control program for home gardens. The soil is now warm enough so that covering it with organic mulch will not impede plant growth. Mulch-covered ground will also help keep ground temperatures cooler and thus conserve moisture.
In addition, mulch-covered ground prevents new weeds from growing and forms a dirt-free cushion for home garden crops such as strawberries, peas, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
Watering is important, and the use of drip irrigation in the home garden conserves water and puts the moisture where it’s needed in the root zone of the crops and not on the foliage.
Enjoy Memorial Day, and remember those who have served the country in the armed forces and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Bill Lamont is a professor and extension vegetable specialist in the department of plant science at Penn State and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.