If you are looking for a free activity on a cold day for your children I have a suggestion. At 2 p.m. March 16 and 17 in the Armory on Grandview in Newton the Harvey County Home and Garden Show will conduct a flower pot painting event for Kids! Each child that participates will be able to take home a flower pot they created at the show. Children 12 and under are free and adults are $1 to get in the door.

If you would like to have your tomato plants produce earlier in the year, there are certain things to keep in mind. Most people who try to get a jump on the season set their tomatoes out early and hope they do well. However, that is often not a good plan, as tomatoes have to have certain requirements before they will grow well. Those requirements are an acceptable soil temperature for root growth and an acceptable air temperature for both plant growth and fruit set.

Root Growth: Tomatoes need a soil temperature of at least 55 degrees to do well. Plastic mulch is most commonly used to warm the soil. Several days may be needed to raise the soil temperature. Check the soil temperature 2.5 inches deep in the soil at about 11:00 a.m. If that is not possible, check the temperature before leaving for work and again when your return and use the average of the two.

Air Temperature: Plants must be protected from frost. Hot caps or water teepees are placed over the young plants to provide protection as well as provide a higher average temperature to encourage growth. Eventually the plants will outgrow the cover and start to develop flowers. But if the temperature goes below 55 degrees at night, tomato flowers may not set. The plant is not hurt, but the blossom will not set fruit, or, if it does set fruit, the fruit is often misshapen.

How early can you transplant? Start with a date about 2 weeks earlier than normal.

If you are interested in starting tomato plants and many other plants yourself be sure to come to the Harvey County Home and Garden Show and learn how to do just that by attending Starting Seeds From Home 2:p.m.  in the Armory in Newton!

Saturday March 16

9 a.m. — Unusual Fruit; Ward Upham, KSU Rapid Response

10 a.m. — Growing Fruit in Containers; Ward Upham, KSU Rapid Response

11 a.m. — Plants for Pollinators; Pam Paulsen, KSRE Reno County, Horticulture Agent

Noon — Lunch at Mi Mama’s!

1 p.m. — Herbs in Containers for Any Space!; Kay Neff, Neff Family Farm

2 p.m. — Starting Seeds at Home; Judy Friesen, Harvey County Master Gardener

3 p.m. — Revel in your garden, then bring it inside: Growing specialty cut flowers; Derek Tjaden, Harvey County Farmers Market

4 p.m. — Annual Flowers in Containers; Karen Sanders-West,Sedgwick County Master Gardener


Sunday March 17

1 p.m. — Physical Health in your Home Garden; Aaron Swank, KSRE Harvey County, Nutrition and Family Finance Agent

2 p.m. — Small Space Composting; Katie Schmidt, Dyck Arboretum

3 p.m. — Better Container Gardening; Peggy Griffith, Sedgwick County

4 p.m. — Containers for Wildlife; Katie Schmidt, Dyck Arboretum


Admission is $1 and children 12 and under are free!


— Scott Eckert is a Kansas State Research and Extension Agent for Harvey County. Horticulture is his specialty. The Harvey County Extension Office can be contacted at 284-6930.