How to get the most out of your vegetable packs at the garden center – Orange County Register

Q I really need your help, I’m a pretty good gardener but lack knowledge when it comes to lush and vibrant packs of vegetables. Whether planted in the ground or in large containers, they will eventually die. How can I overcome this dilemma?

A. Vegetable packets sold at most garden centers can be difficult to plant successfully for a number of reasons. Once plants arrive at retail, they are often allowed to dry out, which can stress the plants. Find out when the growers are delivering the plants and try to be at the garden center that day, or at least the morning after.

Most vegetables and herbs are sold with far too many plants in each cell or container. I once bought a 4 inch pot of leeks that contained over 50 individual plants! If I planted this clump in the ground, no leek would ever grow much larger than a single chive plant. The pot looked beautiful and lush, but it was overcrowded. Realistically there should only have been about 3 or 4 leeks in that 4 inch pot, but then it wouldn’t have looked so pretty. I placed the bunch of leeks in a bucket of water and carefully pulled out as many individual plants as I could.

In some cases, you can break the root ball in half or just loosen it up a bit to give the plants a little more room. This works when there are only 5 or 10 individual plants in each pot or cell. This will inevitably damage the roots, so it’s a good idea to trim the top half of the plant to give the roots a chance to recover.

Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants usually have 2 or 3 plants per cell or pot, but that’s still too many. If you can’t pull them apart, simply cut off the excess plants at the top of the soil so that only one remains.

When planting, dig a hole two or three times the width of the root ball and fill it in with compost. When planting tomatoes, remove the lower leaves and plant them deep enough to bury several inches of the stem. These small bumps on the tomato stem will become roots, giving the plant a better start.

Be sure to press the soil firmly into the hole to prevent air pockets from forming around the roots. Make a watering basin by pushing the soil into a raised ring around the base of the plant. You should have a “donut” that is about 12 inches wide. Fill the pouring basin with water, let it sink and fill it again. Immediately after planting, these baby plants need extra attention, especially in the form of daily watering.

Finally, we like to mulch the new plants with fresh grass clippings. Once sprinkled around the seedlings and watered, they form a light mat that won’t disturb the growth of the new plants but will keep the weeds at bay. This should only be done if you have not used any weed killers or herbicides on your lawn.

Los Angeles District; 626-586-1988;

Orange County; 949-809-9760;

Riverside County; 951-683-6491 ext. 231;

County of San Bernardino; 909-387-2182; How to get the most out of your vegetable packs at the garden center – Orange County Register

Adam Bradshaw

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