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Transplant Roots

I know these are not veggies. What I want you to see is the roots. Healthy, opened out, pointing down, not rootbound. These little guys will get a good start.

Many wouldn’t think how you transplant your veggies would make much difference, but it can! Here are some tips for smoothing and soothing that step in your gardening for your plants’ health and the soonest harvest!

Rather than popping your transplants out of the six pack and stuffing them into the ground unceremoniously, throwing some water at them, 5 minutes and you’re gone, consider enhancing that process! It’s an investment.

Think how big that root ball will get and generously give the planting spots some wholesome nutrients. Remember, also, hungry micro feeder roots grow laterally searching for food, like from naturally decomposing leaves and insects, so make your planting hole a little larger than that – at least out to the dripline of the mature plant! Do as nature would do.

Put your plant fuels right where they will be used, right in that planting hole! Throw in compost, what you estimate to be 5% organic matter by weight, 10% by volume if that area hasn’t had compost added recently. Be sure that is acidic compost for beans, celery and strawberries. Add 3/4 cup or so of chicken manure (or your choice), a good handful of bonemeal, handful of nonfat powdered milk and maybe a little bit of landscape mix from Island Seed & Feed bulk bins. Coffee grounds help prevent soil diseases. Could put in 1/4 C or less of them – go very lightly, all that is needed is 1/2%! That’s not a typo! Compost and manures add N (Nitrogen), necessary for growth. Bone meal is high in Phosphorous (for blooming) and takes 6 to 8 weeks before it starts working – perfect timing! It is also high in calcium, which helps prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes. Nonfat powdered milk, also high in calcium, is for immediate uptake, a natural germicide and boosts the immune system. 25% Worm castings is research approved as optimum. Worm castings have special plant-growth hormones, improve water holding capacity, suppress several diseases and significantly reduce parasitic nematodes, aphids, mealybugs and mites. They are not fertilizer.

If the roots of your transplant are jammed up a bit, gently pull down their little legs, spread them out in four directions. Dig your planting hole wide and deep enough that you can make a little cone of soil in the bottom. The longer roots will dangle down around the cone, happy to be in their natural direction, already starting to be able to reach for deeper soil nutrients and moisture.

Some gardeners trim or cut off any extra long roots rather than have them curl and fold. It’s better to dig a deeper hole and leave the roots intact rather than lose time in ‘transplant shock’ recovery. If you do trim the roots, also trim the canopy because now that there is less root, the canopy is too large for them to feed properly. Clearly you can’t do that with a plant like corn.

Transplant Technique Separating Lemon Cucumbers - John KohlerSelecting Transplants to save money! Not everyone wants to plant from seed! Not everyone wants to spend a ton of bucks on transplants either! Ok, so do it John Kohler style! See this video of him separating out ELEVEN lemon cucumbers from one 4″ container he purchased for $1.79 (those were the days, ha, ha) ! I didn’t believe it, but he did it easy! And I’ll bet they all grew! You can use this technique with many plants.

Sprinkle Mycorrhizal fungi right ON the roots of your transplants when you put them in the ground. Gently pat it on so it sticks. It increases uptake of nutrients, water, and phosphorus that helps roots and flowers grow and develop. The exception is the Brassica family – for example, won’t work on broccoli, kale, turnips, radish – save your time and money. Ask for it at Island Seed & Feed in Goleta.

If you have a spritz bottle handy, spray the roots and saturate the planting hole with hydrogen peroxide. It gives the little guys a boost of oxygen, uptake of nutrients, kills many disease causing organisms, pests, algae, fungus and spores. H2O2  Important details!

It may take some getting used to these next two ideas…  1) When you install your transplant, add soil in gently and water as you go. Let the wet soil flow into the spaces so your plant has soil contact and it can eat. 2) Especially don’t tamp down the soil with your foot because it may break some roots, slowing your plant’s growth. Compacting your soil presses the oxygen out of the soil and soil needs to breathe. Channels for soil organisms are closed – they can’t get around and closed water channels deprive your plant of deeper moist soil! Leave your soil light and loose!

Be sure where your water will flow. Use trenches, basins/wells, mini berms, to keep it where you want it, where it is needed. For plants like melon or winter squash, put a stake in the center of the basin where the seeds or transplants are, so you can water right where the roots are. As your super healthy plant matures, finding where it starts is often lost among prolific monster foliage. Time to time, restore the basin. The rest of the soil doesn’t need watering. Good hot soil keeps those melons and squash producing and dry soil grows less weeds!

After your transplants are in the ground, give them an Aspirin+ bath! Yup. One Aspirin, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (surfactant), per gallon of water. While you are at it, add a 1/4 C nonfat powdered milk and a heaping Tablespoon of Baking Soda as well. Aspirin, triggers a defense response and stimulates growth! As stated above, powdered milk is a natural germicide and boosts the immune system. Baking Soda makes the leaves alkaline and inhibits fungal spores! Use especially on your young bean plants, all your cucurbits – cukes, zuchs, any mildew prone plant. Use a watering can that has a rose (nozzle) that turns upward to get the undersides of leaves as well as their tops. Especially do this for tomatoes! Sometimes I plant one day, give the new babies their treatment the next, depending on how much time and energy I have, how many plants I need to plant.

Special treatment for Peppers! Rather than in the soil, do foliar sulphur, Epsom Salts! A cheap home remedy that can keep plants greener and bushier, enhance production of healthier fruit later in the season, and potentially help reduce blossom-end rot. You could apply 1 tablespoon of granules around each transplant, but research has shown a foliar spray of a solution of 1 tablespoon Epsom salts + a 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dish soap (the original plain Dawn) per gallon of water at transplanting, first flowering, and fruit set is quite effective! As a foliar spray, Epsom salts can be taken up quickly by plants, otherwise, it is sometimes hard for the plant to get it out of the soil because of calcium competition.

Last, if it is warm weather, if your soil has the wilts/blight fungi, top off the soil around cucumbers and tomatoes with soil feeding mulch. Straw is simple. Apply it no more than 1″ deep, enough to allow some airflow. Mulch keeps tomato leaves from picking up wilts from soil. It keeps cucumbers, winter squash and strawberries up off the ground, less susceptible to insects and rot, keeps fruits clean. See more tips about planting in fungi infected soil – tomatoes and cucumbers especially!

With bigger plants, plant an understory of living mulch! That can be two-for-one edible companion plants that enhance, repel pests and/or diseases, or a legume cover crop that feeds your soil while your plant grows! An understory of edible plants like lettuce, carrots, beets, are a wise use of space – no need for a special bed for them. As your bigger plants make shade, remove the lower leaves so the littles get enough light. Legume cover crops save time by feeding your soil while your primary crop is growing! White Clover is a good choice. See more on Living Mulch.

Don’t forget to put down an organic snail/slug bait a couple times BEFORE you plant an area, or you may not have plants the next day. If you live in a bird area, cover your new planties with bird net, aviary wire, row covers or a wire cloche. Make your cloches quite big – healthy plants grow pdq, pretty d— quick!

Soon, very soon, put up trellises by beans and cukes, and install sturdy cages for tomatoes and peppers. Going vertical gives you more space to plant, and keeps fruits clean up off the ground, they ripen all the way around, are free of soil diseases and ground crawlies! Convenient picking height too. Eat ’em as you stand there!

Planting Seeds!  Do your soil preparations the same as for transplants! Worm castings are especially good for seeds! Seeds germinate more quickly, seedlings grow faster! If you aren’t putting in your seeds at the same time as you do your soil prep, stake the center of the spots where the seeds will go so when you plant their roots will have maximum opportunities for tasty nutrition! If it will be a bed, stake and label the areas for each kind of seed so you plant in the best places for each.

Again, lay down that snail/slug stuff a few days before you plant. Do it twice to get the generations. If you miss that step, then put it down right when you plant. Otherwise you may think they never came up. Soil predators feast overnight. Stake the area where the seeds are so you don’t over water or step in the bed and compact the soil, damage delicate seedlings before you can even see them. Cover the area if you have birds. Seeds are tasty, tiny sprouts are a delicacy. Water gently, set your water wand on the fine mist setting, so your seeds stay where you put them and aren’t uncovered; keep them moist until they are up. When your little ones are up about 3, 4 inches, give them their aspirin+ bath, mulch them, promptly install their trellises and cages.

Mazel tov!

Updated 4.16.18, 2.24.19

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Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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