It’s time for greens and beans | The Compleat Home Gardener

But it’s still to early for tomatoes and peppers.

The end of April is when the green light begins to glow for adding summer color to your patio pots and borders. Look for summer flowering perennials such as delphiniums, dahlias and salvias. Some annuals are hardy enough to go directly into containers with just some nighttime protection. It is still too early to grow basil, coleus and inpatients outdoors but to make sure the nursery does not sell out of your favorite plants go ahead and purchase these tender annuals at the nursery now and keep them under the protection of a covered porch or patio until all danger of chilly nights is passed. In Western Washington this can be as late as mid-May. It is now safe to add geraniums, lobelia, and alyssum to containers.

In the vegetable garden plant seeds of beans, lettuce and other greens but wait a few more weeks before adding heat loving crops such as tomatoes, squash and peppers. Some gardeners like to plant early but cover the seedling with hoops and plastic at night. Mini greenhouses made from plastic milk jugs with the bottom cut out can be set over young tomato plants to keep them warm. Raised beds and garden sites up close to a building will offer more protection from cold nights than crops planted out in the open.

Q. I have trouble growing the lovely little mini petunias called million bells or calibrachoa. I give them full sun and plenty of water. They seem to rot in the ground but I do not see any signs of insect damage. Are they one of the annuals that cannot handle cold nights? G.H., Sumner

A. Million Bells or calibrachoa are a newer type of petunia that is actually quite hardy but it does have a tendency to rot in cold soil. For this reason, in Western Washington these mini petunias should be grown in containers with potting soil that drains well. When grown in pots or window boxes the plants will avoid the wet soil syndrome that happens after rainstorms in our climate. Calibrachoas (sometimes called ‘Calis’ ) love sunshine and fertilizer and some of the newer varieties such as ‘Cha Cha’ Million Bells have larger blooms and more vigorous growth than the first varieties that came on the market. These new calibrachoas come in intense colors such as ‘Electric Pink’, ‘Fuchsia’ and a bi-color called ‘Red Kiss’. No matter what name they go by at the nursery the Million Bells, Calibrachoa, Cali plants will provide summer long color as long as you avoid giving them wet feet.

Q. I am inspired by your personal garden that I see on Instagram and want to plant my own sunset garden with orange and red flowers. My question is about the kalanchoe plants you grow in clay pots. I see these for sale in the houseplant section of big box stores. Are these the same variety of kalanchoe you grow? Do they bloom all summer? They look like they would be drought resistant as they have thick leaves like a succulent. T., Email

A. Yes, I find many types of kalanchoe in the houseplant section of home stores and some of the newer varieties have double blooms that look like tiny rose buds. This is a succulent plant that likes to grow in terra cotta or clay pots with good drainage and can handle the heat. To keep them flowering all summer do not fertilize as this makes them bloom too quickly. Instead purchase plants with lots of buds and water only when the soil is very dry to the touch. Kalanchoe will flower longer when grown outdoors in a partly shaded location. They do need sun to initiate flower buds but once those buds are formed a shaded location helps the blooms to last for months.

Q. Quick question. What is your favorite variety of hanging fuchsia basket to give to a beginning gardener? Anon

A. Quick Answer: ‘Swing Time’ fuchsia. This white and red double flowering fuchsia is a classic that adapts well to changes in weather. All fuchsia baskets need protection form the hot sun, plenty of water, deadheading to remove the seed pods or berries that form after the flowers fade and these tender fuchsias love to be fertilized all summer. As for color and drama, I like a variety called ‘Lena’ with violet and pink double blooms.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply. Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti. For more gardening information, she can be reached at her website,