Handy Transplanting Secret

January 27, 2006

Hate transplanting strong, healthy seedlings to the garden only to watch them wilt and shrivel from the stress of being moved to their new location?

Here’s a transplanting secret that works great with leafy vegetables like greens and lettuces. Simply reduce the amount of leaf foliage at the time that you set the young transplants out into the garden.

The problem with moving seedlings out of their growing container, flat, or nursery bed is that no matter how careful you are, you’re still going to disturb and break off portions of the seedlings root system and cause some degree of transplant shock. This stress results in wilted plants that take days or weeks to fully recover, no matter how much water or fertilizer is applied.

A simple solution to this problem is to trim back the plant’s leaf area to match the reduced root structure. This treatment isn’t appropriate for all types of plants, but is perfect for seedlings of lettuce and other leafy greens.

You can remove individual leaves or use a pair of sharp scissors to trim about half of the plants leaf area. Leave the smaller leaves toward the middle of the plant, and allow at least a third of the total leaf area to remain. Also be careful that you don’t remove the growing tip from the center of the transplant.

While you should still handle them gingerly, leafy transplants that have had their top growth reduced can take a lot more stress without showing the ill effects of being moved. It’s easier for the transplant’s root system to support fewer leaves and rather than needing time to recover from the disruption of being uprooted and moved, the plant will quickly resume active growth.

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  • Great article Kenny. It makes a lot of sense to remove these nutrient loving leaves straight after it has been transplanted.

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