Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

Root cutting. I did not know that!

July 10, 2020 Fred Hoffman Season 1 Episode 27
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
Root cutting. I did not know that!
Chapters
00:01:11
Benefits of cutting roots before planting
00:13:17
What to add to a planting hole (nothing that wasn't there originally!)
00:22:58
Chile pepper myths
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
Root cutting. I did not know that!
Jul 10, 2020 Season 1 Episode 27
Fred Hoffman

You think you’re learning something new every time YOU listen to the Garden Basics podcast? Heck, I learn something new in each episode, as well. So, this time around, it’s a compilation of garden knowledge that will definitely make you a better gardener, and a better food shopper. We will call this episode, I DID NOT KNOW THAT. College horticulture professor Debbie Flower talks about the benefits of cutting the roots of plants before you stick them in the ground, and most importantly, HOW you cut those roots.
A former guest on the show, Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, recommends washing off all the soil from woody plants before sticking them in the ground.
Also, which soil and fertilizer amendments to add to a planting hole (How about liquid seaweed or kelp meal, says I. How about none, says Debbie. Compromise: add it to the top of the soil after planting).

Hot chile pepper expert Dave Dewitt talks about the myth of the Hatch Chile, and how those oversized jalapeño peppers that you might see at the market may not pack much heat…which for many of us, might be a good thing. Dave Dewitt is the author of many chile pepper books.

Planting tips, pepper advice, on this episode of Garden Basics with Farmer Fred. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go.

More episodes and info available at Garden Basics with Farmer Fredhttps://www.buzzsprout.com/1004629.

Garden Basics comes out every Tuesday and Friday. It's available just about anywhere podcasts are handed out. Please subscribe and leave a comment or rating at Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Got a garden question? There are several ways to get in touch: call and leave a question, or text us the question: 916-292-8964. E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below. Be sure to tell us where you are when you leave a question, because all gardening is local.

All About Farmer Fred:
Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube
Garden columnist, Lodi News-Sentinel 



Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

You think you’re learning something new every time YOU listen to the Garden Basics podcast? Heck, I learn something new in each episode, as well. So, this time around, it’s a compilation of garden knowledge that will definitely make you a better gardener, and a better food shopper. We will call this episode, I DID NOT KNOW THAT. College horticulture professor Debbie Flower talks about the benefits of cutting the roots of plants before you stick them in the ground, and most importantly, HOW you cut those roots.
A former guest on the show, Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, recommends washing off all the soil from woody plants before sticking them in the ground.
Also, which soil and fertilizer amendments to add to a planting hole (How about liquid seaweed or kelp meal, says I. How about none, says Debbie. Compromise: add it to the top of the soil after planting).

Hot chile pepper expert Dave Dewitt talks about the myth of the Hatch Chile, and how those oversized jalapeño peppers that you might see at the market may not pack much heat…which for many of us, might be a good thing. Dave Dewitt is the author of many chile pepper books.

Planting tips, pepper advice, on this episode of Garden Basics with Farmer Fred. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go.

More episodes and info available at Garden Basics with Farmer Fredhttps://www.buzzsprout.com/1004629.

Garden Basics comes out every Tuesday and Friday. It's available just about anywhere podcasts are handed out. Please subscribe and leave a comment or rating at Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Got a garden question? There are several ways to get in touch: call and leave a question, or text us the question: 916-292-8964. E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below. Be sure to tell us where you are when you leave a question, because all gardening is local.

All About Farmer Fred:
Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube
Garden columnist, Lodi News-Sentinel 



Farmer Fred :

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information well you've come to the right spot. So you think you're learning something new every time you listen to the garden basics podcast? Heck, I'm learning something new in each episode as well. So this time around, it's a compilation of garden knowledge that will definitely make you a better gardener and a better food shopper as well. I guess we'll call this episode, "I did not know that". College horticulture Professor Debbie Flower talks about the benefits of cutting the roots of plants before you stick them in the ground, and more importantly, how you cut those roots. And we talked with hot chili pepper expert, Dave DeWitt, he blows away the myth of the Hatch chili and how those oversized jalapeno peppers that you might see at the supermarket just might not pack very much heat which actually for many of us might be a good thing. It's planting tips. It's pepper advice. It's All on this episode of Garden Basics with Farmer Fred. It's Episode 27. And we're gonna do it all in under 30 minutes. Let's go. Recently when we were talking about how to plant a fruit tree, our favorite college horticultural Professor retired Debbie Flower talked about that one of the things you should do when you're transplanting that young fruit tree into its permanent home is to cut the roots of that tree. In fact, you would want to cut the roots when transplanting any new woody plant. Now that may sound like heresy. Why would you cut roots? They're what feeds the plants, Debbie Flower?

Debbie Flower :

Yes, that's very true. roots are the place that the plant absorbs most of their water and some nutrients as well. So it does seem like a bad practice to go around cutting roots, but plants that are grown and containers and most of the plants We purchased from the nursery are grown in containers are not, it's not legal to sell them until the roots of that plant have grown to touch the inside of the pot, well, then they get put on the nursery floor and maybe they sit there maybe for a week, maybe for a month, maybe longer and those roots hopefully continue to grow. And if they've touched the edge of the pot, they're going to start circling around and around inside that pot. And if you take that plant out of the ground and planted in the ground, those roots will not change direction, you might get new roots growing branch roots growing off of those that spread out underneath the soil, but those that are in a circle will remain in the circle. And in woody plants, the roots become Woody. And so that circling set of roots become a concentrated area of wood underground as a plant. It takes a long time, but as the plant ages and the top gets bigger and bigger and you The branch roots potentially grow out and collect more nutrients in places further away from the plant. That woody section gets each root gets fatter and fatter and fatter. And all of a sudden the plant is sitting under the on top of this narrow, cork shaped a bunch of roots woody roots, and it becomes unstable. In fact, those roots as the trunk of the tree gets fatter, those roots can can actually strangle the trunk of the tree and over the tree goes. And there it is a big reason for loss of woody plants in the landscape. And for decline once those roots start getting fatter and fatter, they not only choke the trunk of the tree, they choke each other and the plant declines and you lose it. So to prevent that from happening, so going all the way back to bringing home that that new woody plant from the nursery that's in the pot with the roots that have touched the inside of the pot and And started circling around, we want to change stop that circle, we want to get rid of that circling root so that when those roots get fatter and Woody that they don't choke each other, they don't choke this, the trunk of the plant and they don't cause instability in a large tree or shrub. And to do that we cut the roots. Now hopefully, the only place you have circling roots is right inside right on the outside edge of that root ball, which is right inside the pot. And so you don't need to cut in very deeply, quarter of an inch at the most use a sharp tool, I like to cut down once down the four sides of the pot and an X across the bottom. Often you'll have a whole mat of roots on the bottom of the pot. And that just stops that circling. Yes, it does damage to the roots, but transplanting from a container into the landscape does damage to the roots anyway. And so it takes to that roots absorbed most of their water and with that any dissolved nutrients in what's called the root hairs. And they are very young parts of the root there on the tips of the root. And they each root hair last only two to three days. And so you need to give that plant shade for two to three days, you always water after planting, and then you give it shade for two to three days I've been known to make little hats out of out of newspaper and put them on the plant for two to three days. Then it's got a new set of roots from everywhere you cut. If you've cut with a nice sharp tool, you'll get new root tips. Those will get new root hairs in two to three days. And the plant will just take off, you'll get a much more vigorous plant if you cut the roots and I'm safer one down the line.

Farmer Fred :

So when you're saying cutting the roots are you do you actually mean you're scoring the root ball? Yes. And when you're scoring the root ball, how deep Do you go into that mass? Let's say you're pulling a plant out of a one gallon containers so maybe it's seven inches or eight inches wide or so, how deep Will you plunge your knife and drag it down ripping those roots.

Debbie Flower :

Like it sounds so torturous, not very. quarter of an inch at the most. Okay, just the you're just if it's a well grown plant in the container, the only place you're going to have those circling roots is going to be right at the outside edge of that root ball, and they're going to be as thin as your hair. And you just want to cut them you don't want to go into the center section of the roots. You just want to cut them.

Farmer Fred :

Do you have to use a weapon? Could you couldn't you just use your fingers and just sort of scrape them loose?

Debbie Flower :

I prefer weapon because I prefer a clean cut. A clean cut will the plant plants close any wounds that are made to them with chemicals first, and a clean cut is closed more efficiently than a ragged cut? using fingers works But it produces a ragged cut. And if there's any chance of a root disease entering then that is a place where it's more likely to enter. I use pruning shears or scissors or Knives.

Farmer Fred :

So when my wife's not home, which of the kitchen knives should I use?

Debbie Flower :

Yeah, it shouldn't be a knife dedicated to the garden.

Farmer Fred :

All right, that means that means keeping it clean and keeping it rust free.

Debbie Flower :

Well, all tools should be kept clean and rust free.

Farmer Fred :

We ought to do an episode one of these days on tool preservation. There's no question about that. But yeah, if you've got your pruners handy, I guess you could just use the blade end of that to do this. Yes,

Debbie Flower :

and I've done that many times. I almost always have a pruning shear in my pocket. So yes, I've used that many, many times for this purpose.

Farmer Fred :

Now we know a person up in Washington State Linda chalker Scott, who is a Washington State University horticultural Professor as well. And she likes to wash off all the dirt when she pops that new plant Out of the can before she transplants, it basically takes a hose to it with on jet setting on the nozzle and, and washes off all the dirt out of that transplant. Is that a good idea?

Debbie Flower :

Well, it's definitely an idea that that has its purpose, you will see the whole root system and you will see if there are any other problems with that root system. I had a plant I had great hopes for I'm always trying plants from different parts of the country that have similar climates to mind seeing if they'll work in my yard and I have one that that I bought at a local university plant sale. And I realized this year I've had it in the ground about two years that it's not going to survive and I bought it in a four inch pot. So that means that the pot is four inches across the top. That's where we measure pots and at the two inch size This year I noticed the roots are circling at the two inch size. So that means that when it was trapped, it was probably grown. I don't know if it was grown from seed or cutting, it was grown in a flat or potentially in a six pack which would be a two inch size pot or in its own individual two inch size pot. It was allowed to grow until the roots touched the inside of that two inch side sized pot and started to circle then it was moved up to a four inch pot in the nursery production. When that happened, no one cut the roots. And so when I planted it from four inch, I cut the roots because it is a woody plant. But I wasn't aware of the problem at the two inch center of the plant. And now I'm going to lose the plant. So washing all of the media that's in the container off of the root system will expose those kinds of problems which can then be corrected or potentially be corrected. Some may be too Close to the trunk, you may lose too much of the root system in doing that process, but in following her, I don't know if it's a blog or it's a Facebook page, I guess. Many people have reported successfully doing that procedure and their plants surviving very well once put in the ground. Again, they're going to the roots are going to be damaged and the plant will need two to three days minimum of shade to recover its its root hairs and start to absorb water and the dissolved nutrients in that water and recover from the process.

Farmer Fred :

Heavens knows that isn't just woody plants that end up with that girdling root problem, but you've mentioned to do this cutting on new woody plants. Now, what about annuals, I mean, I've purchased vegetables, tomatoes and peppers where when you pop it out of the container, it's definitely a mass of roots that are going round and round.

Debbie Flower :

So definitely is. And I've seen that as well. And because I'm so indoctrinated into cutting roots, I've cut them. In that case when they're very small, let's say they're in a six pack, or two inch pot, they're very small, I just cut the bottom, maybe inch, it just cut it in half. It's called butterflying. When you cut a root ball in half from the bottom to the top, and then you you spread it out like the wings of a butterfly. And that is done. Sometimes it's an extreme way to handle the roots, but it is done sometimes to free the root system from that circling problem. But annuals and many perennials, herbaceous plants, animals in particular, it's a less of a problem. The circling roots is less of a problem with annuals because they're only in the ground for one season. And so they don't, they don't get woody roots. There are herbaceous plants, so they don't have the ability to form roots so they don't form woody roots through its will get fatter and fatter, but they're softer, they move more under the ground and we are only growing them for one season, perennials, herbaceous perennials. perennials means it has a life cycle that lasts three or more years. So it starts from seed and grows produces seed and dies. That process takes more than at least three or more years to occur. That's the lifecycle of a plant or lifespan of a plant. And so the lifespan of herbaceous perennials is three or more years but they are herbaceous so they do not form wood. herbaceous means they stay soft and green and the roots stay white and pliable, and so they're more forgiving, the root system is more forgiving and less likely to have a circling problem. They may still circle but they can maneuver around each other better. I cut the roots of everything. It's just a habit I have developed. I have probably lost a few plants here. there when I have cut more than I should so that's the probably the thing to watch is that you don't cut off more roots than then need be.

Farmer Fred :

Alright, so we've we've freed the roots are going to stick it in the hole but wait a minute, go to any garden Facebook page or ask any a gardener and they'll probably have a secret recipe of something to put in that hole along with that plant to help the roots grow. One of the odder ones that was ever mentioned to me was participating in a community planting at the local post office and installing some some woody plants. And a landscaper came up to me says you want to know something, take some chalkboard chalk and grind it up and put it at the bottom of the hole. I do that with every tree I plant. And I had no idea and I still have no idea what the benefit of chalk is and and I did not do it but

Debbie Flower :

No, I and I don't even know what chalkboard chalk is made from To be honest, is don't do it.

Farmer Fred :

Yes. Don't do it. Yes. No, I'm pretty sure chalkboard chalk is made up of the bitter tears of elementary school children

Debbie Flower :

and their teachers.

Farmer Fred :

Alright, so but there are things you can buy and there are some things that you shouldn't buy. As far as additions. I still Yeah, I know we will disagree on this one, but I will still add kelp meal or seaweed in with my fish emulsion mix as sort of a booster because of the auxins in there to help develop roots.

Debbie Flower :

Okay, well, auxins can't act unless they get inside the plant. And I'm not aware that they can dissolve in water and be absorbed into the root system with the water that roots absorb. But is this a granular form formulation that you're using?

Farmer Fred :

It's a water soluble form formulation water soluble formulation,

Debbie Flower :

yes. Many people want to mix things into the backfill of the soil the backfill is is what you've basically taken out of the ground when you're going to plant this plant and you put it in a bucket or a wheelbarrow or on a tarp or on the soil next store someplace over there and they want to mix something in with it and throw it back in the hole and the blanket recommendation is don't do it. There are exceptions. Exceptions are soils that are very, very poor. I've worked in revegetating mines, coal mines in particular, I've worked in re vegetating landfills, garbage dumps where your garbage goes and then you put stuff, they put soil on top and make them into parks and have to plant things up there. Some times especially the mines, those soils are particularly horrible. I lived in Nevada where some soils were very, very horrible and people would hire a backhoe to come in. Dig out a bunch of soil, they'd modify that soil and then this is a huge quantity of soil and put it back in the ground. And and the the only experiment I'm aware of that was done on this process was done by somebody I worked with at UC Davis, john lichter, and he did it with pear trees, ornamental pear trees, and he planted them. And I can't give you specifics. I don't remember how big they were when they were planted, all in the same field and certain, you know, randomly some got something mixed into the backfill, and some did not end it was true that for the first few years, the ones with something mixed in the backfill grew faster, grew better. But then they hit the they hit a mark a several year mark where those trees just stopped growing, and the others continued to grow and out grew the ones with the extra material in the backfill. And the explanation is that you can't and especially with woody plants, so the bigger the plant, the more important it is that you do not put something into the backfill. You can't amend amendments mixing in, you can't amend all the soil where the roots are going to grow. Roots of a woody plant grow two and a half to three times away from the trunk as the plant is tall, and that's on all sides. So if we have a three foot tall shrub, the roots all the way around, are going to grow six to nine feet away from the trunk. So you're going to have a circle that's 12 to 18 feet across. If you can dig up all of that and put your amendment in all of that soil, then fine, do it but that's a whole lot of soil. So generally we're digging a hole that's only two to three times as wide as the rootball we're putting in there. And so if we amend That soil the roots may grow very vigorously and happily into that amended soil and then they reach the field soil. And they stop. roots or lazy roots take the path of least resistance. I have a whole collection of articles about roots growing and drainage ditches and roots growing in sewer pipes and because that was the easiest place to grow, so they grow where it's easiest. And if they hit the side of that hole, and the soil is very different than what the amended soil in the hole, they'll just start circling just like they do in a pot, the shrub or tree will become unstable and slow down its growth because now the roots are limited to that hole alone. So the general recommendation is no. Obviously it's more important with bigger plants with woody plants with plants that are gonna be in the landscape longer that you don't amend the soil with annuals with herbaceous perennials. It's it's less of a problem and is there in a limited bed, a container, or a bed that surrounded by concrete and asphalt or other hardscape that they want, where the roots will not grow, you can you can amend the entire thing, go for it, you'll make a better place for them to grow. But if it's just out in the landscape, and the roots are going to be able to grow to your neighbor's yard and under your lawn and all kinds of places, then do not amend the soil, put them back into the field soil that came out of that hole. And they may take a little time to get adjusted, but once they do, they'll be a much better plant.

Farmer Fred :

I was just thinking that when you were raising your children, how often did you utter the phrase the general recommendation is No.

Debbie Flower :

No, I don't think I ever said that to my kids. But I would always explain the reason I'm a reason person,

Unknown Speaker :

right? Okay. Yes.

Farmer Fred :

So basically no

Debbie Flower :

Right,

Farmer Fred :

just use the native soil. But I gotta add something. This is my baby, I just planted my baby, right? Can I

Debbie Flower :

put it on the surface, okay, plant your baby and then pour the dilute would have to be dilute fertilizer again, it's not a great idea because you're pouring it onto damaged roots but if it's very gentle, it's probably fine and it'll be mitigated by the presence of the soil. But put it on the surface, put the mulch on the surface, put the chicken manure on the surface, put the whatever I don't know what chalk do on the surface, I'm not recommending that, but put it on the surface and then it will work its way hopefully it's it's either moved by by insects or it's water soluble, it will work its way into the root system. And and that's the better choice and you can spread that on a much larger area.

Farmer Fred :

So not even granular fertilizers should you be throwing into the hole With the plant

Debbie Flower :

correct, and definitely nothing in the bottom of the hole, no rocks, no chalk, nothing, no layer, it does not improve drainage. In fact, it does the opposite. It stops the water from going deeper into the soil. And so you end up saturating the root ball when you do water it and that's so you're drowning the plant.

Farmer Fred :

I believe that's osmosis.

Debbie Flower :

Yeah, it's um, yes, it's it's the how water moves thing. Yeah, when it reaches a different texture. So your field soil is one texture and then you hit a bunch of rocks in the bottom of the hole. That's a very different texture than your soil. That again, why water takes the path of least resistance to. It will stop going down and find an easier way to go a place that has similar texture and that's the media you just dug out of the hole and put back in the hole that has a certain amount of Oxygen compared to solids in it, that's even different from what's outside of the hole where you did not dig. And so the result is the hole in the ground that you dug will just fill up with water. And for a while, that's okay. But after a while, it's not okay. The plant just drowns.

Farmer Fred :

It's actually cheaper and easier the way you're recommending it.

Debbie Flower :

It is and I tend to believe although I have no proof that the adding things to the soil when you plant to the backfill when you plant is was done so that people could charge you more when they did it for you.

Farmer Fred :

Yeah, make perfect sense. Yeah, you're saving us money, Debbie. Thank you. Well, you're welcome. That's Debbie Flower, our favorite retired horticultural professor, and we started off cutting roots and we ended up saving money. So there. Back on episode 25, you may recall we were talking with Dave DeWitt who has written many books about peppers, chili peppers, there was a far ranging conversation which included how to grow hot peppers throughout the year. Spoiler alert, you bring them indoors for the winter. But part of the conversation that we didn't have time to air then had to do with a lot of the myths that surround peppers. For instance, if you live in a state where the supermarkets have Hatch chili festivals, you just might be participating and in somebody's joke. Two of my favorite moderately warm chili peppers to grow are Inferno and the new mex Joe E Parker, and that they just are so versatile in a wide variety of recipes that if you just want a little bit of heat, those are the ones I would recommend. I've been doing some pepper parties here annually for about 20 years or so. And the Inferno in the New Mex Joe E Parker have always been the taste test winners, year after year.

Dave DeWitt :

Yeah, I'm growing Joe e Parker's right now that was what was left in the nursery when I went there, so I didn't say what was left, but they're fine. The six-four heritage is the most commonly grown one is the one that is mostly called hatch. HAtch is, a marketing term for New Mexico chilies. It's it's not a variety of chili there. It's very popular when the harvest comes in. The supermarkets in Texas have their hatch chili festivals, and so forth like that. And I was hired by Central Market to display cooking demonstrations a few years ago in Dallas Fort Worth, Austin and Houston. And so I had to drive to each each city. It was really interesting because though they all sold out, which I thought was pretty good. And but I'd start my talk on the on the Hatch chili Festival by saying there's no such thing as a Hatch. shortly. And then of course, talking about a horticultural variety. There's no such thing as a hatch chili. It's just as I said a marketing term for any of the new mexico chilies which confuses people a lot. You hear stories about the famed Hatch Valley in New Mexico, there's no such thing.

Farmer Fred :

I love marketing.

Dave DeWitt :

Yeah, right. And that people just make stuff up. They just invent stuff. And that's what's happened in this whole mythology about New Mexico Chili's and hatch Chili's. The town of hatch is not in the hatch Valley because there's no such thing. So it's in the Rincon Valley. If you look at a map and you see hatch and if you look at a county map of Mexico, you see the hatches in the Rincon Valley is not in the hatch. Like is that hatch Valley does not exist. I had to testify in height lawyers hired me to to investigate all this stuff. I you know, when I was first writing about chili peppers I I bit for the myth, too. And I caught the opposing attorneys which catchment Will you hear in this book you wrote that there is a hatch valley. Well, I was stupid. I didn't research it properly. And when that when I got actually paid a lot of money to work for attorneys and research that I reached out to properly and discovered there was no such thing as just an invention. You know, the whole the whole thing about chili pepper nomenclature is so confusing that, you know, it's it's baffling to most people, for example, the habanero is this species capsicum chinense, which means from China, or they're not from China. They've been they were the Western Hemisphere. You know, somebody made a mistake back, you know, hundred years ago or 200 years ago and nobody's corrected it. You know, for all the years it's just crazy.

Farmer Fred :

That again was Dave DeWitt. He's the author of many books about chili peppers, including the complete chili pepper book, A gardeners guide to choosing growing preserving and cooking and coming out soon chili peppers. peppers a global history. You can find a link to Dave de Witt's books in the show notes for this episode. Thank you for listening to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. I appreciate your ears. How about a subscription? You can get the podcast wherever podcasts are given away such as Apple, Spotify, Google, Iheart, stitcher and many more.

Debbie Flower :

And that is another process you can do is you can cut thewhole root ball in half.

Farmer Fred :

I'll get it it's for me.

Debbie Flower :

Okay, caller blocked.

Fred Hoffman :

No.

Debbie Flower :

Jerry. Jerry, stop. No, he's not available. It'll no way

Farmer Fred :

I'm not worried. I think it went away.

Debbie Flower :

Well, where was I?

Farmer Fred :

You'd just blown my mind away by cutting a root ball in half.

Debbie Flower :

OK

Benefits of cutting roots before planting
What to add to a planting hole (nothing that wasn't there originally!)
Chile pepper myths