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Best Tips for Brassica, Lettuce and Tomato-Transplanting Success

| 6/22/2015 11:32:00 AM


Most of the spring transplanting is done around my garden, with a record-late planting date for my tomatoes (June 8th) and basil (18th) due to the persistent cold and damp weather. I transplant several hundred of plants every year all which I've started from seed, either indoors or in the groud under our simple glass-top cold frames. An early spring start is sometimes necessary, like with tomatoes here in Maine's short growing season or beneficial, like with crops in the Brassica family, to give the plants a head start so to not be such a likely prey for pests like slugs and flee-beetles. In early July I'll start my rutabaga and Chinese cabbage in a small open space in our garden and about a month later transplant them after we've harvested our garlic and early potatoes.

A correctly done transplanting will eliminate stress for the plants and expedite the resumed growth. I pay close attention to the forecast when it's transplanting time and act a bit differently depending on which crop I'm working with.


Cabbage, kale, broccoli and broussel sprouts will not do well in heat so it's important to either wait for some wet weather or be very diligent with covering the plants and water them. I try to let nature do as much work as possible for me so if I see the right conditions coming up and the plants are big enough to take being dug out and moved, I tend to drop everything else and get to work. If the sunny days persists I do my transplanting in the evening and cover the plants with pots until they are established.

I plant my brassica seeds in tight rows and when it's time to dig them out I first thin out all plants that are too small and then water the plants pretty heavily so the soil stick together better around the roots. Never expose dug plants to sunshine or drying winds, not even for a few minutes! I usually dig out 20 or so plants, use a tray to carry them to where I'll plant them next, dig a small hole with a trowel (a mason trowel works great), put the plant in, fill in with a handful of compost and push the dirt back around the plant. I form the soil so the plant sits in a small depression that will catch rainwater.

Brassica grows new leaves from the center so I plant them deep enough that the stem is buried all the way to where the new growth shoots out without covering that part. I snip off most of the bigger leaves, to give the plant less tissue to keep alive. For all plants I can think off – vegetables, trees, shrubs and flowers alike – the general protocol is to encourage strong roots before any top growth. While it might seem like it'll set the plant back to trim off leaves, the plant will establish roots faster and catch up in size quicker.

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