Mudflow - Don't try this at home!

Ooops, Ooops, Ooops,

My 29 gallon is inundated with plants, so tonight I decided to thin the
herbaceous gwowth. First to be removed was a large sword, which had taken
over half the tank.  I yanked the the plant out of the substrate, however a
large amount of the vermiculite and soil substate came up with the roots.
From what I can see (the visibility is about 1 inch) much of the gravel
around the plant has sunk as the substrate under the plant decided to stick
with the roots. I don't know if I'll have to tear the tank down now, when
things clear up I'll know  more.

I have two questions:

1) What is the best way to remove plants from a setup like mine without
damaging the substrate?

2) What is the best way to construct a substrate to withstand plant
removal? For example, what about using a plastic grid of some sort between
the soil and gravel?