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Agriculture Today

Too hot to plant tomatoes?

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August 22, 2012 | 3,511 views | Post a comment

Q. Is it reasonable to plant tomatoes in this heat? If we wait, will we miss harvesting a crop before cold weather arrives?

A. That is the $64,000 question. I am going to wait a little while but will plant before Sept. 1.

Tomatoes will survive if you plant now as long as you keep them watered, every day for a while. They won’t grow much and the leaves will be off color and long and thin rather than full size. If you remember last year, however, within two weeks after the temperatures cooled, the tomatoes grew new leaves. In two to three weeks after that, most plants were setting fruit. It was clear that the tomatoes were growing roots during the hot weather, which was translated to a quick adjustment to leaf and fruit production when weather conditions improved.

Q. My zinnias and vinca look great despite the heat. How long can I expect them to keep blooming?

A. They normally perform well until Thanksgiving and may even bloom longer if the weather stays mild. Some years it is hard to find space to plant snapdragons and stocks in October, which is the recommended planting time for the cool weather annuals because the hot weather flowers still look good.

Q. Our post oak is covered with a frothy fungus-like growth. The leaves also are a dull green. The tree is huge. Can we treat it and with what?

A. I have seen mealy bugs on oaks this year. That is what it sounds like your post oak has. Mealy bugs are sucking insects that protect themselves under the frothy white material you see. They cause havoc on hibiscus and other plants so they need to be controlled but control is not practical on a large oak. The mealy bugs will not cause long-term damage on a healthy tree with a 1-year infestation. To reduce the potential for their return next year, spray the trunk and branches as high as your hose end sprayer will reach with dormant oil this winter.

Q. My Bermuda lawn looks great now but since the rains quit I have had to water every week. I am worried our well will go dry. What will happen if we quit sprinkling the lawn?

A. Bermuda, zoysia, and buffalo grass lawns have the ability to go dormant if water is not available. The grass will turn straw-colored but will quickly green up again with no long-term damage when the rain returns.

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

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