Sunday, May 26, 2013

It's that tender root time of year

I've got almost my whole garden planted. It's really hard to say what the growing season will look like, but so far it looks promising. I'm a little worried that the tomatoes aren't growing lots of new green yet. That's probably due to the temperatures. We've had some low lows (one night below 40 degrees, very chilly for tropicals) and it may have set the tomatoes back. Once they're set back, they don't like to get going again.

But, they're still alive.

Also, there's a lot going on with plants that we can't see, mainly, root development. It's easy to focus on the leaves. Why aren't my leaves bigger? Why isn't the plant taller and more full? What are all those yellow spots and purple patches? Oh noes, there are little holes in the leaves! But these things, though they may signal something like flea beetle damage, aren't that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. As long as the plant has enough surface area on the leaves to get sugar to the roots which can then fuel the development of new healthy leaves, ultimately the plant can be okay. It's much harder for the plant to recover from bad stuff going on with the roots.

For best root health:

Drainage, drainage and drainage. Here in the Pac NW it's easy for plants to get cold and waterlogged from chilly spring rains.

Mulch. It brings good soil organisms closer to the surface where they'll help aerate and fertilize soil that's closest to those young seedlings whose roots don't go very deep. Also, it keeps competing weeds down and helps warm the soil from the previously mentioned shivery rains.

Don't go too crazy with pulling weeds, especially if you use tools. You may be inadvertently damaging your plant's roots. Especially when the plant is very young and vulnerable, it's better to snip weeds that are growing very close to your plant, and to gently rub out tiny seedlings rather than using a hand rake on them.

Happy gardening!

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