Getting my hands dirty
Planting young starts is one of the most satisfying things that I do. Really, planting is therapeutic for me and puts my hands in the earth. After a short amount of time, it’s easy to look over your work and see positive results. But, for some plants, the way that you set them can make a huge impact.
For example, plants that have a definite crown, like strawberries or asparagus, need to be planted with the crown just barely below or at the surface of the soil. Too deep and the crowns will either be non-productive or will smother. No pressure, right? Thankfully, most of my planting is not that critical. But, planting peppers and tomatoes for maximum root, shoot and wind resistance does have a simple trick. Plant these with about half of the main stem below the soil surface. You read that right. I’ll elaborate.
Spring weather is a mixed bag around here. It can be dry, wet, sunny, cloudy or stormy, but above all, it is usually windy. So, by planting tomatoes and peppers deeply it helps prevent winds from drying out, pushing over the entire plant, or snapping the stem. Also, the leaf nodes and many of the hairs on the stem will send out roots when they are in the soil. The original root ball is set deeply and there are many new roots being established. Your plants will be taking in water from that deeper area which retains moisture better than the top of your bed. The benefits of deep planting are huge!
Even when deeply planting these tender plants, it is still a good idea to put a stake in next to each one and gently tie the plant to the stake. This is simple insurance in case there is more wind than the plant can withstand. My tie of choice is old t-shirt material cut into 1” strips. This fabric is stretchy, soft, and wide enough not to cut the plant (like twine or other string materials). The goal is to keep the plant from being blown or snapped over but still allowing some movement. Slight breezes and movement actually help strengthen the main stem. As the plants grow, they may need more ties attaching the new growth to the stake until the plant has become strong enough to support itself or your external support structure is doing most of the supporting work.