Garden Help Desk: Can I plant peppers and tomatoes yet? 01

Shallots in early spring.

Today we’re sharing some favorite vegetable gardening tips and techniques from a few of the gardeners at the USU/Utah County Extension office in Provo.

1. One of my favorite “tools” that I use in my garden every year is a roll of baling twine. It’s great for tying together the bamboo poles that I use to support my pole beans and it also does a good job keeping my indeterminate tomatoes orderly. I plant each tomato transplant between steel posts and then as the tomatoes grow, I run the baling twine from post to post on each side of the plants, looping the twine around each post as I go. If the twine is still in good shape at the end of the year, I can use it again the next season. I keep the roll of twine in a 5-gallon bucket and feed it out from the middle of the roll, so it stays nice and tidy.

2. I saved an old bedsheet that was worn through at one edge. I tore off 1” wide strips and use them to tie my squash to posts as they grow. The fabric strips are soft, so they don’t damage the plant stems. The strips are also good for tying my peppers to small stakes when the plants are overloaded with fruits. At the end of the season, I gather up the strips that are still good, tuck them into a mesh bag and run them through the washer. If the strips start to fall apart after a couple of summers being out in the sun, I can just throw them away without feeling bad about it because they didn’t cost me anything.

3. Steel T-posts are one of my favorite vegetable garden accessories. I plant cucumber seeds at the base of the posts and then I train the cucumber plants up the post as they grow. It keeps the cucumbers clean, saves space because the vines aren’t wandering in the garden and makes it easier to find the cucumbers when they are ready for harvest.

4. I always plant garlic and shallots every year because they need to be planted in the fall and come up in the early spring all on their own. They make the garden look productive and busy in the early spring when it’s still too cool and wet to do anything in the garden.

5. I always plant a few cilantro seeds every couple of weeks so that I will have a steady supply. You can also plant cilantro in the fall, let it overwinter and you’ll have garden-fresh cilantro in the early spring.

Question: Is it safe to plant my peppers and tomatoes after Mother’s Day?

Answer: For many Utah gardeners, Mother’s Day is the traditional start of the salsa garden season, but Mother’s Day can fall anywhere from May 8 to May 14. A lot can happen with the weather in the space of seven spring days. Instead of using a date on the calendar, start checking the 10-day weather forecast early in May. If the overnight low temperatures look safe for the week after Mother’s Day, it should be fine to start planting your garden.

Keep in mind that tender plants like tomatoes and peppers can be damaged by cold temperatures even if they don’t actually freeze. Basil is even more tender than peppers and tomatoes, so you’ll want to wait until the overnight lows don’t drop below 50 degrees before you put it out in the garden.

HIDDEN GARDEN TOUR — The Utah County/USU Master Gardeners invite you to join us in discovering more than a dozen of Utah’s most beautiful, private gardens in Alpine, Highland, Lehi, Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain, June 14 and 15. For more information go to To buy tickets — $15 — Google “Eventbrite Hidden Garden Tour.” If you have questions, please call 801-851-8479.