Hello again fellow gardeners! It’s time to plant all the frost-sensitive stuff (after May 5th). Tomatoes, squash, beans, etc. You can continue planting through mid-July usually. Check out the days to maturity on your seed pack or nursery tag to find out how long it will take before it bears a crop. You want a crop before the average first frost which is late October or sometimes later.

Choose the right plant. When shopping for starters, look for nice, strong looking plants. Inspect the bottoms of the nursery pots. You don’t want to purchase plants that have excessive roots coming out the bottom of the container. Also try not to pick plants that are already flowering or fruiting while in their nursery container. Plants like this might not ever reach their full size or production potential. Inspect the plants for damage, insects, or bugs and check for deformed or discolored foliage as this could be a sign of disease.

After you get them home, give them a couple days to acclimate to their new surroundings. This is very important! Most nursery plants have come from a climate-controlled facility from another city or state.T hey have never seen the full sun or dealt with hot, dry air. If you put the plants straight out into the bright sun, they might burn and die. Place them in a semi-sheltered area for a couple of days before planting. This goes for ornamental plants as well. 

Allow for enough space between plants. In general, I plant things like tomatoes about 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart and give them something to support them. Peppers and summer squash should also be planted 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart. Corn and beans need about six inches. Choose compact plants for containers or raised beds. Check the label to see what size the plant should be when mature. You don’t want to plant something into a pot or raised bed that’s going to be a monster. Look for names that include compact, space saving, or container friendly. These things were specifically bred for use in containers or raised beds.

For plants to reach their full productive potential, they need nutrients.They will do fine with what’s been added to the soil when you prepared your beds for a while, but you will need to replenish this after three – four weeks, then every three – four weeks after that. Did your peppers not produce last year or your tomatoes were all foliage and no fruit? Fertilizer, my friends! I recommend for beginners to use a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 or one with more phosphorus (the middle number) than the other nutrients such as 10-20-10. Feed and water your plants regularly, get them planted in enough sun and you will have a harvest to be proud of!

Bury tomato plants half way up their stem. Carefully pluck the leaves from the bottom half of your tomato starts and plant them so they are half buried. Tomatoes have the ability to form roots along their stems. This trick will make a very robust tomato plant. 

Please contact me at kmmckay810@prteditor with any gardening questions or to share a tip of your own. You can find my locally grown veggie starts from Patagonia Plants at the Patagonia Farmer’s Market on Thursdays 9a.m. to 12p.m.; at the Sonoita Hardware store; or by making an appointment to come to my backyard nursery (make an appointment by emailing me).