Transplanting Seedlings: How to do it Correctly

| 2/28/2017 12:33:00 PM

Tags: raised bed gardening, seed starting, vegetable gardening, square foot gardening, hardening off, growing seasons, garden planning, Bryan Traficante,

If out of season or just fragile by nature, nurturing seedlings to maturity can be a difficult feat.  The first three to four weeks of any plant’s lifecycle is often the most delicate and that fact can be compounded upon by uncertainties with climate. However, these considerations and difficulties can be eased by harboring seedlings in a safer environment and then moving them to their permanent residence – e.g. transplanting.

Transplanting is the process of moving a plant from one growing medium to another. The process gives gardeners the ability to nurture a seedling in a safe and controlled environment, away from unexpected hot or cold spells or seedling hungry pests, so it can establish itself. The grower then takes the plant, slowly introduces it to the elements of its more permanent home (sun, rain, temperature fluctuations).

Along with providing safety from elements, transplanting is often used to extend the growing season of a plant so a gardener can have a head start on production. For example, tomatoes are fairly cold-weather sensitive. If your area advises to plant them in early April, but you get ambitious, plant them outdoors in mid-March and your area has an unexpected cold snap at the end of March, there’s a good chance your seedlings die causing you to start growing all-over again. However, ambitions can live on if you start the seedlings indoors in mid-March, let them grow in a more controlled environment, and wait to transplant them outdoors until the likelihood of a cold snap decreases.

Yet, despite transplanting giving gardeners flexibility and plant germination safety, the process can come at a cost. Simply put, plants don’t like to be moved. The process of transplanting, if not done so with care and patience can kill the plant from what’s called, transplant shock.

Seeds and Seedlings

To germinate seeds, you will need a container large enough to house growing seedlings for a few weeks. Generally, 1.5 to 2 square inches of root growth (roughly the size of an individual egg crate section) is enough area to nurture a seedling. Ensure your container has good drainage with whichever option you choose and fill it with nutrient rich soil such as a potting mix or compost mixed soil — avoid using soil from your yard as it often contains weed spores and won’t be as nutrient rich and balanced for the seedlings. It may work, but with the small volume needed for the seedlings, you might as well opt for the good stuff.

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