A key step that all gardeners (at one point or another) fret over is how to successfully transplant seedlings. Having carefully sown seeds indoors using trays, watching them first sprout always brings about some excitement – a testament to all the love and hard work that you’ve put in. Yet the thought of moving the young plants outside when they are at their most vulnerable can be scary. That’s why it’s so important to get it right. We’re here with all our how-to’s and tips for transplanting, ensuring that you can avoid damaging your precious plants. Ready to start your journey from pot to plot? Just read on.
What is transplanting?
Transplanting is the term used to describe the process of moving a young seedling from its seed tray or small container to a more permanent location. Whether that be planting it directly into the garden or in a garden bed. It’s important to note when creating your fruit and vegetable garden that certain varieties will need to be sown directly into their permanent location. Therefore, transplanting will not always be required.
How do you know when it’s time to transplant?
You’ll know when it’s time to move your seedlings to a more permanent location when you notice them growing out of their container. Their roots should be well developed before the transplanting process begins. And a good rule of thumb for vegetable plants is that they should be moved when they reach a height of around 5-6 inches.
It’s important not to rush this process. Remember that different plants have different timing requirements, so don’t forget to do a little research on your varieties to be sure. You’ll also need to consider the outdoor conditions. Warm-weather plants should not be moved outside until the last frost has passed and night-time temperatures are warmer.
Step 1: Hardening off
The first and arguably most crucial step in this process is hardening off seedlings. This step takes between 7-10 days and allows your plant to get used to outdoor conditions before being planted. Not to be overlooked, if this step is skipped or carried out incorrectly, you run the risk of your healthy plants succumbing to transplant shock. This is when your plants don’t have time to adjust to a new, unfamiliar environment. It can lead to their leaves wilting and no new roots to take hold, causing them to die. So, it’s crucial to not overlook seedling care.
Start by taking your seedlings outside, slowly introducing them to the effects of the sun and wind. Although you should start by only keeping them outside for an hour or two, slowly increase their exposure to direct sunlight and windier conditions. This will harden them up and reduce the risk of them failing to take root once planted. For even more detailed information about how to harden off your seedlings, you can check out our blog post on the subject.
Step 2: Gather your tools & choose a location
Next, you’ll need to gather some key tools to help you get the job done. We recommend having your gardening gloves on hand, as well as a trowel and hand-held gardening fork. This will help with digging, creating drainage holes and transporting your seedlings.
When choosing a location to place the seedling consider the texture and quality of the soil. If you find the soil is compact, it’s best to get your trowel or gardening fork. Loosen the soil by running the tool across its surface, breaking down any large clumps of soil and removing rocks or other debris. You can also add organic matter to your soil if you find that it has a dense clay texture.
Remember to keep fragile plants in a more sheltered area, out of the way of any harsh conditions. We also recommend carrying out some brief research into your specific fruit and veg varieties to understand their preferred environment. For instance, ask yourself do they thrive in full sun or partial shade? Once you know the answer to these questions and have prepared your soil, you’ll be ready to choose the perfect spot.
Step 3: Dig a hole & transplant
Now that both you and your seedlings are ready for transplanting, it’s time to start digging some planting holes. The depth and width of the hole will depend on what you are growing. For instance, potatoes will need to be buried deep in the ground, though raspberries should be planted shallowly. You should be able to ascertain your plant’s exact planting requirements with a quick Google search. Or, you can even check out our knowledge hub to get in touch to ask our gardening experts! Though generally, the size of the hole should be a little larger than the root ball of your seedling to give it plenty of room to grow.
We recommend transplanting on an overcast day in cool, damp weather. Start by gently lifting your seedlings from their individual pots. To ensure you get them out carefully without any damage, you may want to gently tip them over. Then, set your seedlings down in the hole and tamp the soil into place. Water them well immediately to eliminate the risk of air pockets and help the soil settle.
Step 4: Water & mulch
Newly transplanted seedlings will require plenty of hydration. So, once planted give them a good sprinkling of water aimed at the soil around the roots. This will help to lower the chances of transplant shock. Plus, now that they are exposed to more intense conditions outside, they’ll need more water than they did indoors to thrive.
You should also consider adding a layer of mulch to the soil around your seedlings once you have thoroughly watered them. Mulching will help to lock in the moisture, maintain a consistent temperature in your soil and even suppress the growth of weeds. Though, avoid putting your mulch too close to the stems of your seedlings. This may trap too much moisture and lead to root rot.
Step 5: Protect from pests & harsh weather
Even once you’ve transplanted the seedlings they will still need a little protection. Birds can wreak havoc on your crops, picking at your tomatoes and peppers before they can be harvested. Similarly, high, harsh winds can damage your plants even after being transplanted. That’s why it’s wise to consider covering your seedlings. This will ensure that they do not become damaged before having the chance to properly take root and grow in their new home. Investing in a fleece to cover your young plants solves both pest and weather problems at once. Plus, it can be easily removed whenever you need.
Know that you all about how to successfully transplant your seedlings, you’re ready to plant! To get started, check out our incredible range of plants online now. You can also learn more about growing your own by checking out the articles on our knowledge hub. We’ve got posts on everything from how to create a garden journal to showcasing the best low-maintenance plants for your space. Plus, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on social media (@gardeningexpress), we would love to hear from you!