The Q&A Archives: Root System

Question: What would cause the root system of tomatoes not to develop properly? Roots are very small and cannot support the plants. I have railroad ties surrounding the garden, could this be putting some type of chemical into the soil??

Answer: While it is possible that chemicals could leach from railroad ties, it is unlikely that is causing this particular problem. There are several possible common expanations. One is that the soil in your raised bed has some sort of imbalance which is causing the new roots to stop growing. You might want to run some basic soil tests and see if this is the case. Another is that planting out transplants which have not been fully conditioned or hardened off, or transplanting into soil which is too cold, can stop them in their tracks. Finally, often transplants which have been stressed fail to root properly into the surrounding soil. The stress can be anything from irregular watering to being allowed to become rootbound to an actual nutrient deficiency in the potting mix. Unfortunately it's not always possible to tell that something like this has happened to them until they inexplicably fail to grow.

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