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Never Plant Tomatoes Deep

Rather than gimicks, test your soil for a ­productive garden

On a Saturday morning garden show, a caller was advised to plant long-stemmed tomato plants deep. Supposedly, burying the stems deep in the garden soil forces the plant to produce new roots along the stem, resulting in a stronger plant. I strongly disagree.
    That tomato plant was growing in a pot in a greenhouse. Its roots were surrounded by air containing 21 percent oxygen. Roots of plants need oxygen, while the green tops need carbon dioxide. Planting the roots deep means less oxygen is available to the roots. Thus deep planting does force the stem to generate new roots, but it won’t happen quickly.

Create an Efficient
Watering System for Cucumbers, Squash,
Melons and Pumpkins

    Readily available five-gallon plastic pails are an efficient garden helper in irrigating and slow feeding.
    First drill three to four 1⁄4-inch holes in the bottom of each pail and fill the pails three-quarters full of compost. If you are using fertilizer, put it on top of the compost in the pail.
    Place the pails at least six feet apart in your vegetable garden. Next sow about three seeds together in three to four locations four to six inches distant from each pail. After the seeds have germinated, thin each cluster to one healthy plant.
    Water the hills through the compost in the bucket. Every time you water, fill each bucket with water. The water will filter through the compost, taking nutrients into the soil.

    If rain is excessive, the plant may not survive because the original root system will drown. This is especially true in silt or clay loam. Oxygen will penetrate a sandy soil deeper than a silt or clay-loam soil. Oxygen does not easily penetrate compacted soil.
    If you purchased tomato or pepper plants with long stems, plant them shallow as you would other bedding plants. Stake and tie the stems to keep them upright. If you compare both methods, you’ll see that the plants will establish rapidly and resume normal growth long before the plant that was planted deep in the soil.
    Much of my agricultural research involved studying roots and root development. I have a great appreciation for roots because without them there are no higher green plants. That’s why I place such high value on knowing and testing the soil. We cannot take soil for granted and assume that just because it has a good rich brown color it will be productive.
    A productive garden has a pH between 6.2 to 7.0 with optimum levels of calcium and magnesium as well as phosphorus and potassium. If your garden soil is sandy, have it tested for boron. Boron is a very essential element in plant nutrition and is often deficient in sandy loam or loamy sand garden soils.
    For this reason, I will not make any fertilizer recommendations unless the soil has been tested by a reputable soil testing laboratory.
    I recommend sending soil samples to A&L Eastern Laboratories, Inc., 7621 White Pine Rd., Richmond, VA 23237. Get information on taking soil samples and the types of soil testing at

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.