Mary's Veggie Garden

May 19, 2010


Filed under: Gardening,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 9:42 am

Removing a tomato from its pot.

This article was published in the May issue of Dutchess Dirt. I’ve added more pictures.

May is the month for transplanting annuals. I’ll transplant cabbages, kale, and more lettuce in early May. Mid to late May, when the soil is warm and the chance of frost has passed, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants go into the garden. This month I’ll try to answer a couple common questions about transplanting.

How do I get this plant out of the pot?

Place your hand over the top of the pot, with the index and middle fingers to either side of the plant’s stem and your thumb and little finger resting on the edges of the pot. Now, flip the pot upside down then give the bottom a sharp tap. The root ball should drop into your palm.

Plants in a multi-pack container are a bit more challenging. I usually rest the container on its side tilted so the plants hang down a bit, then grasp a plant at its base and pull gently while pushing the bottom of the pot.

Sometimes a plant won’t come out, usually because it is dry and root-bound and the roots are sticking to the pot’s sides. Don’t try to force it; a plant with a broken stem is rubbish. Use something slender and flat, such as an old kitchen knife, or a plastic plant tag, to separate the roots from the inside walls of the pot.

How deep should I plant it?

Place most transplants into the garden at about the same depth as in the pot then cover the top of the root ball with ¼” – ½” of soil. Many plants grow as a rosette: several leaves arising from the same spot. Do not cover this growing point with soil.

There are two exceptions: peppers can be planted 1-2” deeper than in their pot, and tomatoes can be planted several inches deep because a tomato stem develops roots where ever it touches the soil. Take advantage of this to get a deeply rooted plant.

More transplanting tips

    • If several plants are together in a pot, separate them before planting by gently pulling them apart.

This parsley is extremely root bound. Notice how the roots are wrapped into the pot shape. Hey, what do you expect from free plants?

Parsley with roots unwrapped and ready to be planted.

  • Get the roots as deep as possible. Often there are roots curled around the bottom of the pot. Gently uncurl the roots and let them hang to the bottom of a deep hole. Even when the soil surface looks dry, it is damp several inches below, and a deeply rooted plant can use this moisture. Deeply rooted plants are also less likely to lean over in a storm.



During May, keep up with the weeding. Weeds are much easier to pull and kill while they are small, with tender stems and few roots. Decapitating a tiny weed with a weeder will kill it. If you are pulling weeds, lay them on top of your mulch in the sun where they will dry up dead in a few hours. Bigger weeds are tougher to pull and tougher to cut off. If your weeds have started to flower, dispose of them outside the garden, so they don’t leave seeds behind. Many weeds bloom very early – that’s what makes them weeds.

May 9, 2010

How do Potatoes Grow?

Filed under: Gardening,Potatoes,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 8:11 am

Most of us have seen stored potatoes starting to grow. Fleshy sprouts emerge from the eyes. As the sprouts lengthen, the potato shrivels, becoming soft and wrinkled. The potato flesh is transforming into potato sprout before our eyes. However, this is not quite how potatoes grow if planted.

Sprouted fingerling potatoes - left, grown in the garden; right grown in the basement.

Last week I noticed some potato plants in the garden where the fiingerling potatoes grew last year. This is a sure sign I missed some potatoes during harvest. Because the plants in last years potato patch were infected by late blight, and I’d even found a couple infected potatoes, I dug up  these volunteers.  The late blight pathogen only survives on living tissue, so its possible that these potatoes could have carried the infection through the winter. Having experienced the devastation of late blight once, I don’t want it again.

Now we can compare the potato which overwintered in the garden and is now growing, with the potato which grew in a brown paper bag in the basement. The obvious differences are roots and leaves. The potato from the garden has grown roots which drink moisture from the soil to feed the growing sprouts, leaving the potato firm and juicy. Once the sprout broke through the soil, leaves formed, using sunlight to feed the expanding plant. In contrast the potato grown in the bag grew its sprouts at the expense of the potato, leaving it wrinkled and limp. When I removed the sprouts from the garden potato, I discovered that the roots grow from the base of the sprout, not from the potato.

Sprouted fingerlings - left, grown in basement, right, grown in garden.

What happened to these potatoes? The ones from the basement were too limp to prepare for cooking; they went into the trash. The fingerlings from the garden had no signs of blight. I removed & discarded the sprouts, scrubbed up the potatoes, and ate them for supper.

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