Plant vegetable transplants deep

Bob Dluzen
Special to The Detroit News

With this streak of warm weather, garden soil temperatures are warming up quickly. That means conditions are right for planting all vegetable transplants, even the warm season ones, at least in my sandy soil. Your garden might be different. Damp soils or those in lower areas will take longer to warm up.

I’ve been hearing discussions from gardeners about the depth they should set their transplants.

The most common advice you’ll hear is to set the young plants at the same depth they were growing in the flat or container. That works best when your transplants have strong, short, stocky stems.

Sometimes transplants can get leggy as they stretch because of a lack of light, which is common in homegrown transplants.Or from purchasing plants very early and holding them too long while waiting for good planting weather; the transplants have simply outgrown their growing container.

Most leggy vegetable transplants can be planted much deeper than their original growing depth with no adverse effects. As a matter of fact, most will benefit from deeper planting even if they are not spindly or leggy.

The classic vegetable plants that many gardeners plant deeply are tomato plants. They respond extremely well to being planted so that only the upper leaves of the plant are above ground. The roots are set either in a deep hole, or at an angle in a trench long enough to accommodate the plant.

This tomato plant is a perfect candidate for deep planting. Remove the weakest bottom leavers before planting.

Other plants will benefit from deeper planting too. Peppers and eggplants do very well when planted deeply but  the soil must be warm at the bottom of the planting hole for best results. Placing elongated stems deep in the soil helps the young plants remain upright while they are getting established and helps keep them from being knocked around by the wind.

Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and plants in the cabbage family will  be helped by planting them a couple inches deeper than they were originally growing. Deeper planting places part of the long stem underground giving the plant a more secure anchor. With the cabbage family of plants, don’t plant any more than an inch or two deeper than their original depth.

Many transplants with a single stem seem to respond well to this treatment; an exception might be corn but most corn is planted from seed.

With vining plants like melons or squash I don’t set them too deep but I usually place them in the garden slightly deeper than their original growing depth.

When setting plants deep, always remove all leaves from the stem up to the level where they will be set -- never bury any leaves.

Try setting your transplants at different depths to find what works best under your garden soil conditions.