Zionsville Times Sentinel

May 8, 2013

Frost-free is not worry free

By Lynn Jenkins
For the Times Sentinel

— Gardeners’ hearts are a-thumping. Central Indiana’s frost-free date is just around the corner.

May 10 is regarded as the last average date that we can rest comfortably with our tender flowers and veggies out overnight. Because it’s an “average” date based on weather over the years, the date actually shifts. This year it falls on May 8. Not that this date is a promise by anyone — we’ve had snow in May! Weather stats are not guarantees.

But the last frost date is pretty important for gardeners. I usually just go with Mother’s Day as the day I use for setting out annuals like impatiens or geraniums, or transplanting tender veggie or herb starts like cucumbers or basil. Most years I wait even a bit longer to set out tomato plants, which really hate cold soil.

Waiting until the soil warms up (Yes, there are soil thermometers!), makes sense for tomatoes, which are planted deep. I usually snip off the bottom set or two of leaves and dig the transplants well into the soil. Tomatoes are one of the few plants that will root along the stem and will enjoy the extra depth — and roots — that come with the deep setting. It also helps in summer with watering, being deeper set where the soil is moist and with extra roots to take in water. With deep planting and a good mulch applied in June (Wait to allow the soil to really warm up before mulching.), tomatoes can usually get by without any additional water during a typical summer.

See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.