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‘Sad’ tomatoes can be rescued

Q. I was given a couple of tomato plants in a one gallon container that are in pretty sad shape. Nearly all of the leaves are at the top of the plant, and the stems are mostly naked and about 18 inches tall. Is there a way for me to plant them and still have healthy plants? – H.M., Albuquerque

Tracey FitzgibbonA. As long as you have a fairly long space in your garden, yes, you can save the lives of these plants.

The day you’re going to plant, don’t water the tomatoes in the pot, so they are a bit on the droopy side.

I suggest that you pick a spot that gets a fair amount of sun and give that area a good roughing up.

Next, if there are any straggling leaves or exhausted stems, go ahead and pinch them off the main stem. You can powder those spots with rooting powder.

Then, I want you to dig a trench, about 6-to-8-inches deep, aiming to make it as long as your tomatoes are tall, including the height of the pot. Dampen the trench.

Next unpot the tomato and literally lay it down in the trench. The root ball end of the trench should be a bit deeper.

Starting with the root ball end, cover it with the soil that came out of the trench. You’re going to bury the whole plant except the leaf end and maybe 4 inches of the stem.

Now comes the reason you want the plant sort of droopy. As you get to the plant’s top, you sort of bend and gently aim it to point up.

If it needs a bit of staking to assist it, you can tie it off making sure that the tie isn’t holding on too tight, just tight enough to offer assistance in standing up straight.

Remember to check the tie as the plants mature to be sure it isn’t cutting into the stem.

Go ahead and gently water the covered line to completely dampen the whole length of the plant.

Now the miraculous part.

The tomato will root all along the now-buried stem and continue to grow upright from the leafy top.

You will need to remember to water the area or length of the planting all season long since the root ball is now at least a good 15 inches away from the above ground plant. Don’t allow the area to dry out completely.

Soon the plants should regroup and grow to maturity. You can save the leggy gifts you were given and as long as you have the space, you should go for it. It will be good for the soul to help these plants fulfill their initial intention – making lots of yummy tomatoes.

Q. A lot of my plants look droopy as of late during the day, so I’ve taken to going out and giving everyone a spraying off. Am I helping them get through this hot spell correctly? – F.S., Albuquerque

A. Please stop the mid-day spraying of your garden. Truly, it’ll do more harm than good in the long run.

I will suggest that if you feel the need to spray off your gardens, do it early in the morning, aiming to be done by 9:00 a.m., or at dusk, well after the heat of the day.

Offering a spraying off – especially lately with all the added particulates in our air from the wildfires in Arizona – does assist the plants. It helps keep the leaf surfaces unclogged and that’s a good thing. Just don’t do it during the heat of the day.

If the leaf surface is wet, the sunlight can be magnified through the droplets of water, literally burning or scorching the leaf surface. Having the leaves scorched will lead to a whole host of other troubles.

Also, the city requests/suggests that any landscape and garden watering not be done between the hours of 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The reasoning is that any water offered during that time frame is far more likely to evaporate.

I suggest that you water deeper and longer in the morning or evening hours so your plant life is better equipped and prepared to withstand the heat of the day.

Sure, a bit of “droopy” is to be expected, but spraying off during the heat of the day will only lead to heartache – yours and the plant life. Change up your watering habits a bit, continue to offer the spraying off but during milder times of the day, and keep on Diggin’ In.

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to features@abqjournal.com.

 





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