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The best way to plant tomatoes and peppers

It is gardening season again! Yippee!!! Every year I wait impatiently for that last frost date to come so that I can get some of my favorite plants into the ground. It seems like all my favorites need the warmest weather to grow, so I have to TRY and be patient!

This year was a weird one for weather, due to the fact that we had a few days that were below freezing in mid May when it is generally safe to plant tender veggies. Add into the fact that we have had a butt load of rain, making it dang near impossible to get fill dirt for our newly constructed raised beds. It ended up a blessing in disguise, because goodness knows I would have had my tomatoes and peppers planted already if not for that!

Every year that I grow a garden I learn more and more. These are some of the tricks that I picked up fairly early in my gardening career and they has served me well. This goes for any variety of pepper or tomato plants.

Very rarely do you want to plant tomato or pepper seeds directly in the garden to grow. You would need to have a VERY long growing season with warm temperatures to successfully harvest anything from them. If you are one of the lucky few in the right growing zone, good for you! Seriously, I'm a bit jealous!

For the majority of us that means that we either need to start seeds indoors 6-10 weeks ahead of the last frost date, or buy seedlings to transplant. So decide which route you are going to take and read on!

Now that you have your seedlings start by snipping, or literally pinching off most of the leaves up the stem, only leaving the tops and a couple leaves at the top. careful not to damage the stem of the plant. If you have flowers, pop those off as well. We want the energy to go toward healthy roots first!

This all may seem really counter-productive, but trust me, you'll see why later.

Now dig a hole that will fit the roots AND most of the stem that you just cleared of leaves. Add in a sprinkle of epsom salt and some of my favorite "Mykos" soil innoculent.

This adds a beneficial fungi called mycorrhizae to the soil. They in turn work in a symbiotic relationship with the plant basically increasing the root mass of the plant increasing the ability to absorb nutrients and water. Its really good stuff, and very interesting to learn about! If you want more info about mycorrhizae click here.

Now pop the seedling out of the tray gently, or break the bottom of of the peat pot and place into the ground. Gently fill around the plant and stem with garden soil, and firm up the soil slightly. It helps to have damp soil to start with instead of watering afterward, water beforehand. Both the seedling and the garden soil.

The whole premise of planting tomatoes and peppers deep into the ground to start is that fact that more often than not, if left with no support the plant with tip over and roots with sprout from the section of the stem in contact with the soil. This allows more uptake of nutrients to support growth. By planting deep you are encouraging MANY more roots for lending support to the plant as it gets bigger and starts producing fruits.

Though I don't plant in trenches this image below shows well how the tomato will grow new roots from the stem below the soil.

Image from NC cooperative extension

By taking what seems like a step back, because who doesn't love transplanting big beautiful veggies for an instant garden, you are actually setting yourself up for more success in the long run by increasing the capacity of nutrient uptake by the plant. More roots=more fruits very basically speaking.

What tips and tricks have you learned growing tomatoes or peppers? Do you have any go to's that you do every year to give you a bumper crop? Drop your favorites in the comments! Id love to hear all about what works for you.

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