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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Never Plant or Transplant into a Dry Hole

Compost and soils amended heavily with composts can present some problems with transplants and seeds if you are not careful. I did some of my own testing with some local composts and guess what I found out!
People contacted me who had problems with vegetable transplants and even fruit trees after planting in composted soil. I did some of my own testing with transplants, seed and fruit trees.
            When planting in composted soils you can create problems if you are not careful, particularly now when temperatures are getting hotter. Here are my recommendations.
 Never plant directly into any dry soil. I realize it is easier sometimes to plant directly into dry soils. However, roots of transplants and fruit trees, particularly bare root, are very tender. When young tender plant roots come in contact with dry soils, they desiccate or dry out very quickly. Root desiccation and death can happen in seconds, not minutes.
This is called “transplant shock”. When tender roots dieback, the plant has to make new roots to replace them. The plant wilts, leaves may get brown edges or leaves may dieback. If the plant cannot recover from this “shock”, it can die. Transplant shock, if it doesn’t kill the plant, can set it back days or even weeks. In trees transplant shock can last a month or longer.
            Transplant shock is worse on small plants because they cannot recover as easily as larger plants. It is also worse when it is windy, air temperatures are high and the amount of compost added to the soil is high.
Always make sure soil is wet when transplanting. Don’t think you can plant in a dry hole and quickly water the plant.
There are good salts and bad salts. Fertilizers are good salts. But too much of a good thing can also be bad. If the compost is particularly rich, it can damage plants if it is not kept wet when planting.
            As a precaution when you have purchased or amended garden soil, water the soil and let it drain two or three times before planting. This helps to “flush” some of the salts from these “rich” soils.
            Wet the soil before planting. This helps reduce root desiccation due dry soils and “dilutes” salts contained in the soil.
Water transplants thoroughly, immediately after planting in wet soil. Do not rely on just the drip system to water plants immediately after planting. When planting during warm weather months, from April through September, water twice a day with a hose for one week right after transplanting.

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