Garden News: Early tomato planting important

Photo by RICK BOGREN  Now's the time to get your tomatoes in the ground. Show caption
Photo by RICK BOGREN Now's the time to get your tomatoes in the ground.

It’s tomato planting time in south Louisiana, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. Try to get all your tomatoes in the ground by the middle of April.

Early planting is important for good production and to avoid insect and disease problems that crop up later.

When you go to buy them, make sure you choose nice, stocky plants. They should be relatively short — not tall and floppy — and have dark, green leaves and not a lot of yellow leaves.

It’s important to plant more than one variety, Gill says. Determinate varieties like Celebrity are bush tomatoes that grow to about knee high and stay more compact and are easier to control. Indeterminate or vining tomatoes like Better Boy grow taller and are a little bit more difficult to control. But they produce tomatoes longer and may give a larger total harvest.

Cherry tomatoes that produce lots and lots of small tomatoes, and Roma or paste tomatoes are more reliable once the weather turns hot.

Old heirloom tomatoes have become popular because of their great flavor.

“But understand,” Gill says, “the heirlooms have very little disease resistance. Some years, they do OK in Louisiana; other years, they produce very little. Always make sure you have some standard tomatoes to go along with them.”

You asked

Our bromeliads froze, and we aren’t sure if we should cut them back or dig them up or leave them alone. — Jan

Bromeliads are tropical plants that are generally too susceptible to cold to be planted in garden beds. But they may still be alive. Trim off the damaged tissue and leave the plants in place. If small, new plants don’t grow from the base of the old plants by the end of April, remove them. — Dan Gill

Can Knock Out roses be planted next to a brick wall? — Ila

Sure. I’d plant them out about 2 or 3 feet from the wall. — Dan Gill

Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.