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Garden Help Desk: Depth is key when planting your vegetable garden

By USU Extension - | May 13, 2023

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Cucumbers, squash, and melons do well here when planted directly by seed in the garden, but they can also be grown from transplants. Look for young transplants with only one or two leaves for best results.

How deep should I plant my vegetables?

Most of our vegetable plants are best started directly from seed, and seed packets give detailed instructions for planting garden seeds; basically, the bigger the seed, the deeper it goes, but what about tomatoes, peppers and other transplants?

You may be familiar with the practice of planting tomato transplants much deeper than they’re currently growing. Tomato plants will put out roots all along their buried stems. Peppers and other vegetable transplants need to be handled differently, though.

You can plant pepper plants a little deeper than they are already planted in their containers, but they shouldn’t be planted deeper than their cotyledons (seed leaves). Most other vegetable transplants should be planted at their current depth.

Transplants have been available at nursery and garden centers for a few weeks now. Look for short, stocky plants with no flowers and no fruits to get the best performance in your garden.

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Choose vegetable transplants with no flowers or fruits. Transplants like this tomato plant with fruits won't be as productive over the gardening season as young transplants without flowers or fruits.

Do you have any information about growing fig trees? The selection, planting, pruning, fertilizing, watering, etc. of fig trees. We have purchased a Brown Turkey (Ficus Carica) fig tree and need to plant it soon.

There are some varieties that can handle our climate, and the Brown Turkey is one of them, so it should do just fine here with proper care. Now that you have your tree, choose a sunny south or west exposure in your landscape with well-drained soil. Your fig tree will need at least 6-8 hours of sunshine. A little protection from northern or canyon winds during the winter will be a plus. Keep in mind that your fig tree will drop some fruit during the fruiting season, so choose a spot where that won’t matter.

  • Plant your fig tree like you would any other tree.
  • Make the planting hole at least twice as wide as the root ball, but no deeper.
  • Don’t add any special soil amendments — just backfill with the soil you took out of the hole.
  • Water in thoroughly after planting.
  • A 2-3 inch layer of mulch (small or mini bark nuggets, compost, soil conditioner) over the soil around the trunk will conserve moisture, reduce weeds, and protect the trunk from mower and string trimmer damage.

Don’t fertilize your new tree this year. Let if focus on building a good root system instead. A soil test will tell you whether your new tree needs more than nitrogen each year after that. If your soil has adequate or high levels of phosphorus or potassium, as many soils in our valley do, you’ll only don’t need nitrogen when you fertilize your tree in the spring.

Water your fig tree deeply about twice a week for the first season. Let the weather be your guide; your tree shouldn’t be drought-stressed but won’t tolerate chronically wet soil either.

Pruning will involve an important decision right at the start. Figs are trained to either a single trunk or in a multi-stemmed shrubby habit. Lower-growing shrubby figs are easier to protect in the winter. If you want to maintain your fig with a single trunk, you’ll want to cut it back to 2-3 feet tall after planting to encourage the development of scaffold branches.

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Select young, healthy transplants, plant them properly, and give them good care for a good harvest later in the season.

Annual pruning is important for encouraging fruit production and for managing the height of the tree or shrub. Prune your established fig when it’s dormant- late winter through early spring. Avoid pruning in late spring or summer as that may expose the bark on the trunk and major branches to intense, direct sunlight and possible sunscald injury. Late pruning will also reduce your crop size because figs produce fruit on the new growth each season.

Here are the basics for pruning your fig tree after its first few years.

  • Remove any dead branches or stems.
  • Remove any thin, weak, or drooping branches.
  • Remove branches growing through or toward the middle of the tree.
  • Remove water sprouts (straight up) and hangers (straight down).
  • Head back long branches and twigs to encourage new fruiting wood and manage height.

Some other things to keep in mind:

  • Planting close to a west-facing wall may create heat stress for the tree.
  • Your tree may need some robust winter protection with bags of mulch, leaves or similar insulation around the trunk and over the soil. Shrubby figs can be covered with frost blankets or leaves. If your fig is killed back during an extreme winter, it may regrow and be productive again after a few years.
  • Fig trees need 3-5 years of growth before they will begin to produce fruit. Be patient.
  • You will see tiny fruitlets instead flowers on your tree when it is productive. This is normal.
  • Fruits won’t continue to ripen after picking, so let them ripen completely first.

Figs are a popular fruit that can be grown here with proper site selection and good care.


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