Tomatoes are susceptible to low temperature injury but it's safe to plant them outdoors when white oak leaves reach the size of a squirrel's ear. Make that about May 10, when danger of frost is usually past.
Some of the best kinds of plant include Better Boy, Burpee's Big Girl, Park's Whopper, Supersonic and Floramerica. They're resistant to fusarium/verticillium wilt, a destructive disease of tomatoes.
A little bit of know-how can help get a fine yield, according to University of Maryland specialists. Here are their suggestions:
Plant them in full sun.
If no soil test has been made, add three to four pounds of 5-10-10 or 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 square feet and mix it with the top six inches of soil.
If you purchase plants from a garden center, be sure they are dark green, thick-stemmed and free of insects and diseases.
If they are in peat pots, be sure they are planted deep enough that tops of the pots are completely covered with soil.
The plants should be watered immediately and any flowers or small fruits pinched off.
Use a starter solution when planting them. Mix a soluble fertilizer, such as Hyponex, Rapid-Gro, Hy-Gro or Instant Vigoro with water and put a cup of it in the hole with the plant before filling with soil. Follow directions on the label for mix.
Don't plant your tomatoes when the wind is blowing or when the soil is too wet.
Tomatoes need the equivalent of one inch of rain a week. If watering is necessary, a good soaking once a week is better than two or three light sprinklings.
Blossoms sometimes drop off prematurely early in the season without setting fruit. This may be caused by cold temperatures (below 60*f.) or too much nitrogen fertilizer. But it rarely continues, and later flowers usually produce fruit.
When the first fruit is about the size of a half dollar, scatter a heaping teaspoon of 5-10-5 fertilizer on the ground around the plant 8" to 10" away from the stem. Mix the fertilizer into the top half-inch of soil and water thoroughly.
Don't allow weeds to compete with tomato plants for moisture and nutrients. Pull weeds up while they are still small. A mulch will help keep them from getting started. Q: Can you give me directions for proper care of a zoysia lawn? A: When starting a zoysia lawn with plugs, cut the grass at a height of no more than one inch. Fertilize it lightly during May, June, July and August, and water it during dry weather. If you have well-established zoysia lawn, cut it at 3/4" tall, and remove the clippings because they do not break down readily. If it's growing well, it may not need to be fertilized and certainly should not be fertilized later in the season than mid-August. Q: We'd like to grow flowers in a shady spot in our garden. Which flowers are best? A: There are several kinds of shade: low shade (under the low branches of a tree), high shade, light shade, deep shade (on the west side of the house), dry shade, moist shade, morning shade and afternoon shade. Some plants recommended for shade will grow only in one kind of shade, while others will tolerate a wider range of conditions. Impatients, wax begonias as coleus are by far the most successful flowering annuals for a wide range of shade conditions. The only shade conditions difficult for them are deep shade and dry shade. Q: Which is the best way to run rows in my vegetable garden -- east and west or north and south? A: Your vegetables will get more sun if the rows run east and west. Group tall-growing vegetables together and don't plant tall-growing ones on the south side of lower growing ones. Q: My lima beans grew well last summer but the pods did not fill out properly. What was wrong? A: You may have planted them too late. Lima beans do not set pods well in mid-summer. Q: It is possible to grow garlic in my vegetable garden? If so, when do you plant it and dig it so it will keep? A: Garlic can be grown in the garden if it gets full sun. Separate the garlic blub and plant the individual cloves about six inches apart in early spring. Harvest garlic when the leaves turn yellow. Q: I have a male aucuba in my yard and would like to propagate it for two lonely female aucubas several miles away. Can this be done? A: Aucuba roots readily: in fact it's one of the easiest of plants to propagate. Take cuttings of new growth 6"-to-9" long in late spring and plant them in pots. In late summer, plant them near the females. Q: When's the best time to plant asparagus? A: Early spring is the usual time. Roots are usually available for sale then and that's when mail-order companies ship them. Q: How can I keep an Easter lily so it will bloom again? A: When danger of frost is over, take it out of the pot and plant outdoors where it will get full sun. When the leaves turn yellow, cut them off. Sometimes it comes up again in the fall and blooms, and next year it may bloom in early summer. Q: Which plants attract hummingbirds? A: They go after tubular flowers. Their long needle-like bills permit them to feed there. The color of the flowers doesn't seem to make a difference. Best kinds include gladiolus, petunias, butterflybush, fuchsia, morning glory, Japanese honeysuckle, canna, nasturtium, columbine, hollyhock, lantana, phlox, rose and cardinal flower. Q: Would it help my tomatoes to put a hive of bees in the garden? A: Tomatoes are self-pollinating and don't need bees for pollination. Other self-pollinating garden vegetables are peppers, eggplant, snap beans, lima beans and peas.