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Agriculture Today

Use large containers for ‘patio tomatoes’

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South Texas Gardener
August 15, 2012 | 3,506 views | Post a comment

Q. What do you think of “patio tomatoes”? I want to try and grow tomatoes in containers this fall. How large does the container need to be?

A. Plant tomatoes in August. There are “patio” tomatoes recommended specifically for containers but I don’t recommend them. The plants are very attractive but the fruit is low quality. Select a regular recommended variety such as Surefire, Solar Fire, 602, Tycoon, Celebrity, or Dwarf Cherry Surprise (BHN 968).

I like Surefire the best because it is the variety that produces tomatoes the quickest. It has a relatively small plant and produces a lot of tennis-ball size fruit.

Tomatoes require a container that is at least 5 gallons in capacity. A half whiskey barrel is ideal. The larger the container, the more reservoir is available for roots, moisture, and nutrients. A larger container also reduces the inclination of the plant to topple over, as it becomes top-heavy with foliage and fruit.

Q. Is it a good time to put a new lawn in? The drought over the last few years has killed most of it.

A. Many communities are still in drought restrictions so it is probably not the best time but if you do have access to enough water to establish a new lawn make sure you have solved the issues that resulted in the dead lawn.

Are there 6 inches of soil in the lawn area? If not, add landscape mix or compost to reach 6 inches.

You also may want to consider replacing the lawn with hardscape, groundcovers, perennials, shrubs, mulch, and trees. They require less water. Seek out my articles on low water use landscapes and drought tough lawns on the website plantanswers.com.

Q. Fire ants are making it difficult for us to harvest the okra in our garden. How can they be controlled without spraying the okra with insecticides?

A. I use two tactics:

•Spray the fire ants off the plant with the water hose just before harvest for short-term relief;

•For long-term control spread Amdro around the garden. Amdro is not labeled for use in the garden but the bait applied outside the garden will be carried to the hills around the garden for good control.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the director of the Water Conservation and Technology Center at Texas A&M-San Antonio. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, email him at reader@wcn-online.com.

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