Tips for Transplanting Seedlings
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Transplanting seedlings from their containers into the ground can be a delicate affair. You can break the stems or not prepare the ground enough for them and sometimes they wont make it no matter what you do. Now I will not claim to be a transplanting master, I have killed my share of seedlings in the past and will most likely continue that into the future. What I will try to do is pass on some techniques that I have tried and succeeded with so you don’t make my mistakes.
The number one goal when transplanting something from one spot to another is to reduce its transplant shock as much as possible. They is done through a few ways that I will cover here in a little bit of detail.
Tip 1- Don’t Transplant Seedlings.
I know it's a strange tip to start off with but I feel it is perhaps the best one that I can offer. It is a challenge to transplant seedlings for a number of reasons. The first being they are delicate and mother nature is a fickle thing. I have had many seedling get killed by unexpected cold snaps, strong winds and powerful rain storms over the years that sometimes it is just not worth it. So the first thing I look at now is do I need to prestart the plant to get a good harvest. If the answer is no I typically won’t do it. It is a waste of my time and money and I am fairly certain it would be a waste of yours.
The second reason I can tell you for not transplanting seedlings is that plants that grow right where you want them in the garden will be be tougher and better adapted than those seedlings ever could be. They will be able to survive those cold snaps or rain storms much better than your transplants could.
If you really need to start crops sooner than conditions will allow outside I would suggest a cold frame or a hoop house to protect garden planted crops rather than transplanting seedlings.
Tip 2- Big but not to Big
When you grow or buy seedlings to plant in your garden you need to pay close attention to their size. If you buy some that are too large there is a good chance that they will be root bound. A seedling is root bound when it has grown too large for the container it was grown in. If not remedied the plant even after placed in the ground will have poor growth. The only way to help relieve root bind is to physically loosen the roots which ends up causing transplant shock which still may kill the plant.
So to big is no good but the other end of the size spectrum is something to be watched closely as well. When you try to transplant something that is too small you will be disturbing it at a very delicate time in its life. If you try to transplant something and you get mostly root and little soil then it was probably too early. Now knowing when to try transplanting something does come with experience but you can follow some general guidelines.
Those are the two rules I will typically judge my home seedlings on and they have served me well so far.
Tip 3- Loosen and Moisten the Soil
This one is kind of a no brainer but is a mistake I have made myself when I transplant seedlings. I will have typically loosened and dug in compost in the beginning of the year but I didn’t do it right before I planted. I have come to the conclusion this is a mistake and that the soil plot must be entirely dug and loosened right before you plant. This is very critical as it makes it easier for the roots of the plant to move through the soil and establish itself quickly.
You should also water both the soil plot and the pot where the transplant is before you do any moving or planting. The extra moisture helps reduce the shock to the plant and is perhaps one of the more important things you can do to help the new transplant along. Keeping it evenly moist for a week or two after transplant is also important.
By following these tips I have know greater success in my seedling transplanting than I have before. However different things will work in different situations depending on your climate, soil type and the plants that are being grown.
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