HOW DO I TRANSPLANT MY SEEDLINGS?
Transplanting means growing seedlings in some specialized environment or container and then transfer it to its final place. It is different from direct seeding methods where seeds are directly sown in its final place.
The initial few days are very crucial for any plant. In transplanting you can control its environment to the fullest. You can adjust its optimum temperature, humidity water requirements etc. That is very difficult if you plant the seeds directly to the ground soil
SIGNS TO LOOK FOR IN YOUR SEEDLINGS, TELLING YOU THEY ARE READY FOR TRANSPLANT:
- First true leaves have developed; these are the set of leaves, after the first emergent leaves
- Leaves are forming a canopy over the soil
- Leaves are bright green and healthy-looking
- Roots are beginning to emerge from the bottom of the pots
- Stems are thickening
- Leaves are beginning to exhibit a purple colouration (plant is already beginning to show signs of stress and has a Phosphorous deficiency)
- Seed leaves (cotyledon) have turned yellow (the leaves are no longer feeding the plant and the plant is receiving less nutrients from the soil)
- Soil needs to be watered daily, due to drying out (the plant is growing and requires more water)
STEPS IN TRANSPLANTING
- Use a hoe, spade, or trowel to make a small hole in your garden for each seedling.
The hole should be deep enough so the transplant is at the same depth in the ground as it was in the pot (except for tomatoes). Make the hole twice as wide as the root ball.
- Unpot a seedling by turning its pot upside down and cupping the seedling with your hand.
Be sure to keep the root mass and soil intact. If the seedling doesn’t come out easily, gently tap on the edge of the pot or gently press on the bottom of each cell of the flat with your fingers. Whatever you do, don’t yank out a plant by its stem. Continue squeezing and rotating the pot until you can slide the root cluster with the soil straight out of the pot. When using a pot with sufficient drainage, this should all come out as one ‘clump’. separate the roots a little with your hands once you pull it out to allow new space for growing.
NOTE: If it falls apart or crumbles away as you take it out you have either over watered your seedling (Or not allowed enough drainage) or not a lot of roots have developed. Either way you can continue with the transplant and pay extra attention to the plant in future. If you are struggling to get it out of the pot and have to cut the pot from the plant then this means plenty of roots have developed, this is usually not a bad thing unless you have left the pot crowded with roots for a long time, this can traumatize the roots and prevent further growth.
- Check the root ball’s condition.
If the roots are wound around the outside of the pot, work them loose with your fingers so they can grow out into the soil. Unwind larger roots and break smaller ones (this won’t hurt them) so they all point outward. Try to keep as much of the original soil intact as possible.
- Mix a diluted liquid fertilizer into the soil of the planting hole to help the plants get off to a fast start.
Reduce the recommended strength on the fertilizer container by half. For example, if it says apply 1 tablespoon per gallon of water, use only 1/2 tablespoon.
- Put each prepared seedling into the holes that you made.
- After firming the soil around the roots with your hands, form a shallow soil basin around the base of the transplant.
- The soil basin serves as a moat around the seedling to hold water. When you water or when it rains, the moisture stays in the moat and drains to where the roots are located. Depending on the conditions, water the bed that day or the next.
If the weather has been dry or if the soil is sandy, you may want to water the entire bed; if it’s rainy or the soil is already very wet, wait until tomorrow to water.
- Keep the bed moist while the seedlings get established and begin to grow strongly.
Mulch after the seedlings become well-established. In extreme hot, dry weather, provide temporary shade for transplants with paper tents or wooden shingles pushed into the ground on the south or west side of the plants.