How to Transplant Seedlings
Transplanting seedlings is a matter of seedlings, supplies and patience. Knowing when to transplant is your first step. This tiny carrot seedling has plenty of room and can grow where it is five or six more days if you’re pushed for time.
This seedling has it’s first true leaves. You can see the heart shaped cotyledons at the bottom of the plant. The other two are true leaves. It’s time to transplant, especially if the seedlings are crowded. Spacing tiny seeds out to give seedlings adequate space for root and leaf growth is tricky.
Supplies for Transplanting Seedlings
Most seedlings aren’t particularly fussy. Vine crops have tender stems that snap easily if they are too long during transplanting, and they don’t like to have their roots disturbed. Transplant them from the starting tray into 6″ containers or the garden as soon as they have their first true leaves. They are our exception.
I move seedlings from a 1020 tray (10″ wide by 20″ long) into six packs most of the time. You can use yogurts cups and other containers you’ve kept out of the recycling bin if you’d like.
You need potting medium. ProMix or something similar, the same material you started the seeds in, will work just fine. I recommend adding worm castings or compost to the mix to give the seedlings enough nutrition to last them a month. Dampen the medium and allow it to set long enough to absorb the water it needs and drain the excess.
You might need fertilizer. If the leaves start to yellow the plants are lacking nitrogen. If they’re slow to grow they need an all-round fertilizer. I prefer to give them a weak solution of compost or worm casting tea all the time rather than a bigger dose of fertilizer occasionally. Plants, like us, need to be fed on a regular basis. They’ll slow down if they aren’t being fed.
Gently separate seedlings from each other and the seed starting medium. Leave as much medium as possible on the roots to help minimize transplant shock. Make a divot in the medium that’s larger than the roots and pop the seedling in. If you are transplanting tomatoes you can bury the stem to the first leaves. New roots will form along the stem. Growth will slow for a week or so while the roots get established but in the end it’s worth that extra week’s wait. Peppers, brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) and other plants that don’t form roots on the stem planting just above the roots is enough. Leave more room in the medium for roots to grow.
Gently fill medium in around the roots and when done, water all seedlings enough to settle medium and soil into their new home. Avoid direct sunlight and wind for a week to allow the plants to recover from being moved. Transplant shock can stress plants to death. If you’ve transplanted seedlings into the garden you can give them shade with floating row cover or by planting them larger plants later in the growing season. Happy gardening!
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