Transplanting Seedlings

May 31, 2006

You’ve nurtured those vegetable plants from seed and taken the effort to carefully harden off your transplants.

Now make sure that you employ the best transplanting techniques to get your vegetable seedlings into the garden with as little disruption in their growth as possible.

Choose the Ideal Time for Garden Transplanting

The first thing to consider is the timing of when you transplant your seedlings into the garden. Don’t be in a rush to harvest the first fresh tomato from the garden, instead aim to have the healthiest and most productive plants in the neighborhood when they begin to bear fruit.

Don’t set your vegetable plants out into the garden until the weather conditions are just right for the crop that you’re transplanting. Why risk having your sensitive plants destroyed by an unexpected late frost, especially if jumping the gun doesn’t provide much benefit.

On the other hand you don’t want to transplant cool weather crops too late into the growing season. Visit the following link for more information on the proper time for planting vegetables.

Handling Tender Vegetable Transplants

If you’re positive that the weather conditions are right and have prepared the planting bed, the next step is to get the seedlings out of their growing containers. Gently and carefully work from the bottom and sides to loosen and separate the plant from its container.

Always handle the plants by their individual leaves or by the root ball. Avoid grasping the plant by its stem, which would be like holding someone by the neck. Also try not to disturb the soil that is surrounding the plant’s roots and leave the root ball in tact.

For plants that are growing in flats or out in the garden, prick them out with as much of the soil and root system as possible. If you have multiple plants growing in a single cell or container try to separate them evenly by dividing the root ball. With some plants it may be wiser to sacrifice one plant rather than attempt to untangle the intertwined root systems.

Setting Transplants into the Garden’s Soil

Dig the appropriate size hole before removing the transplant from its container to reduce the length of time that the roots will be exposed. Set the plant into the ground at about the same level that it was growing in the tray or flat.

For seedlings grown in individual containers you can judge the level and size of the hole by setting the entire container in the hole before you remove the plant.

Tomato plants are an exception and should be planted much deeper than they sat in their growing container. The tomato plant can be buried at an angle to keep more of its stem up in the warmer soil levels. Tomato seedlings treated in this manner will develop a stronger root system by growing roots all along the portion of the stem that is buried underground.

Watering Transplanted Seedlings and Avoiding Shock

Place about half of the soil back into the planting hole, then stop and water the plant with a hose or watering can before you finish filling the hole with garden soil and lightly tamp. This will supply moisture to the plant’s root zone rather than to the soil’s surface where it may quickly evaporate.

If you notice your new vegetable transplants wilting it’s often a sign of transplant shock rather than a lack of moisture. Visit the following link for a tip on how to reduce transplant shock to leafy vegetables like lettuce and oriental greens.

Another trick that works well to help prevent transplant shock is to include a dose of liquid seaweed in the water that is used to irrigate the soil when setting out the vegetable seedling. The organic seaweed fertilizer will provide a wide range of nutrients and help reduce the amount of stress on the young seedling.

The Key to Stress Free Vegetable Transplanting

The best way to ensure that your vegetable transplants will recover quickly from the move into the garden bed is to check the weather forecast before you decide to transplant.

Whenever possible, avoid transplanting vegetable seedlings when the weather is expected to be excessively hot. Also, transplant during the evening hours so that the plants will enjoy a cool night with no sunlight beating down on them.

The absolute best time for transplanting is immediately before a period of rainy weather or cloudy overcast days. If you can time your plantings to coincide with these weather conditions your plants may not even notice that they have been uprooted and moved to a new location.

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

  • Ken

    I find it useful to water in my transplants with water that has been warmed a little. My water comes from the ground at 48 degrees.

Previous post:

Next post: