Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Baby Roots

Sorry about the long break between posts.

I came home yesterday from work with the intention to go working out. I just had to do one thing 'real quick' in the garden.

Two hours later I had my 'real quick' thing done. The pumpkin and squash starts that absolutely, positively had to go in the ground or else went in. There were several that probably won't make it, or will be so stunted that it wasn't worth starting them in advance.

The thing about squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchinis, melons, etc. is that they hate having their roots messed with, especially when they're wee. Retailers sell them at nurseries and grocery stores but honestly, I would save my money. Except, that we're in a short season area for them. Long season for just about everything else. It's just that for crops that really need hot weather to get going, we don't get that hot weather, not for long. So although my roses are in full bloom and happy, the tomatoes are still shivering.

If you must buy pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchinis, melons, etc. at the store and take them home to plant, this is what I'd do if I was doing as I say instead of as I do (which is plant my own in peat pots and then wait too long):

Don't buy any where the root is coming out the bottom. At all. Peat pots are better than the plastic.
Plant them ASAP, preferably as soon as you get them home.
When you do plant them:
Prepare your area very carefully first. Weed, dig around to make the dirt soft, and make a little hole that's almost exactly the right size. Just make the hole a bit deeper (1/2 inch to an inch, depending on the size of the starter pot.) Use the pot to make sure the hole is the right size. Stick it in the ground, gently compress the dirt around it so that the hole doesn't collapse, and pull the pot back out. Don't worry if it does collapse, you'll be fine if you made it deep enough that a little extra in the bottom won't matter. Get scissors and (very carefully!) cut an x in the bottom of the pot--

Unless it's a peat pot!

Just trim the peat pot (with scissors, don't tear because you might tear down to the roots) down to the soil level if there's a rim, which there usually is. Put some water in the bottom of the hole and then plant the peat pot. (Make a shallow well around the plant and make sure the whole peat pot is covered.)

If it's not a peat pot, proceed to cut from the x up onto the sides a little bit so that you have a guide. Set the pot in the hole you made, make sure again that it's deep enough, and add water. Then cut down the sides down to the lines you cut on the bottom. Gently, gradually remove the pot from the plant, cutting wherever necessary, filling in and gently compressing the dirt as you go so the roots are disturbed as little as possible. Make a shallow well so that water will tend to pool around the plant, but dirt doesn't drift toward the stem when you do water.

You're done!

Sadly I've been too busy to deal with my starts so about half of them had roots poking out the bottom. Sigh. But, I also planted seeds directly in the ground a few days ago. With a little luck, between the two I should have something to show for my trouble come autumn. I will say that although it's a lot of trouble, it's very worth it to grow your own vining broadleaf hot weather plants. Try using them as ornamentals, and even the heavy-fruited ones can climb, though I wouldn't let a pumpkin climb up enough that its fruit won't touch the ground or have some support when it develops past the 10" size.

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