Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Plant Roots

The roots of the tomato plant, while abundant in number, are short and can only gather food and water from a limited area. A plant of garden bean, for instance, is not more than half the size of one of the tomato, but its roots extend through the soil to a greater distance, gather plant food from a greater bulk of soil, seem better able to search out and gather the particular food element which the plant needs than do those of the tomato. This characteristic of the latter plant makes the composition of the soil as to the proportion of easily available food elements of great importance. Tomato roots are also exceedingly tender and incapable of penetrating a hard and compact soil, so that the condition of the soil as to tilth is of greater importance with regard to tomatoes than with most garden vegetables.

Another characteristic of the tomato roots is that the period of their active life is short. When young they are capable of transmitting water and nutritive material very rapidly, but they soon become clogged and inefficient to such an extent as to result in the starvation and death of the plant. If the branches of such an exhausted plant be bent over and covered with earth they will frequently start new roots and produce a fresh crop of fruit, or if plants which have made a crop in the greenhouse be transplanted to the garden and cut back, a new set of roots will often develop and the plant will produce a second crop of fruit which, in amount, often equals or exceeds the first one. But such growths come only from new roots springing from the stem—never from an extension of the old root system.

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