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The Greener View: Tomato Seedlings

Jeff Rugg on

Q: I bought a wisteria vine from a mail order catalog. When it arrived, it was about as thick as a pencil and about 3 feet long. It didn't even have leaves. I planted it, and to my surprise, it grew just fine. After just a few years, the trunk was about as thick as a baseball bat. Unfortunately, a record cold winter two years ago killed the top. Last summer, it sent out a bunch of new shoots from the roots that all grew to about 2 feet long, and all of them just laid on the ground. How do I get a nice central trunk again?

A: It is no surprise that what you got in the mail was a bare root and dormant plant. That is the way many mail order plants are shipped. The vast majority do grow just fine if they are planted soon after they arrive.

I have a question that you probably can't answer, but maybe the mail order company can. Was the wisteria grafted? If the top was grafted on to a root stock and it died, the roots may send up new shoots, but they won't produce the flower color you were looking for.

My guess is that since you describe the plant as a stick, and you don't mention it having a bunch of branches, it was probably not grafted. If I am right, you can use one of the new branches as the new trunk.

The main goal in picking a new trunk is to look for one that is straight. Loosen any mulch, and lift each branch to see if it can be raised to become a trunk. Pick one that is coming up from the roots and not off the old trunk. The old trunk will decay, and you don't want the new trunk to be attached to a rotting stump.

Strap the new trunk to a stake or trellis. Don't tie it so tight that it will become girdled as it grows. Cut off all the other branches, and keep cutting off any new ones so all the energy from the roots is focused on the single trunk. It should grow rapidly.

Q: I started some tomatoes and other vegetables from seeds in small pots. In some cases, two or more seeds grew. I left them to see which one was the strongest, but now they are all about the same size. I am afraid to try to separate them because I might damage them all. If I just cut one off, will the dead roots harm the plant I am keeping?


A: If one of the tomato plants is a lot smaller than the other one, then I would cut it out. If they are close to the same size, can you tell if the roots are similar, or does one have more roots? Keep the better one. If they are identical, you can cut either one. Keeping both isn't a bad thing, but one may dominate the other one anyway. Keeping both is similar to having one that branches low to the ground.

Q: My mom gave me a lot of summer blooming bulbs and roots for plants like dahlias, cannas, Peruvian daffodils and other summer bloomers. I can't plant all of them this summer. Can I store them until next year?

A: I am sorry, but your success rate for storing the bulbs for that long will be very low. If you can't plant them in the ground, can you plant them in pots? If the answer is still no, then you should give them to friends who can enjoy them this summer, with the caveat that at the end of summer, they share some of the bulbs with you so you can store then until next summer.

This is a win-win situation. They get pretty flowers this summer, and you get free summer storage. You both get to keep some bulbs in the fall for next year.


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