Tips from the Garden: Transplanting & Seeding

April 25, 2014

Author: Neighborhood Farm Initiative

Category: Growing Knowledge Planting 101

 

plants

 

Indoor-started seedlings have a head start on the garden season, but they can suffer a setback if you transplant them without some TLC preparation. In the gardening community, this preparation process is called hardening off and it is important because it allows plants to adjust to the great outdoors at a slower pace. Skipping this important step could cause seedlings to yellow, wilt, die off, or go into shock (yes—this can happen to plants, too), which we don’t want of course! Below, we’ve outlined some pointers that we teach in our seed-starting workshop.

HOW DO I KNOW THAT MY SEEDLINGS ARE READY?

You should begin when the seedlings have a number of sets of true leaves and a well-developed root system, but if the root ball is small and hasn’t filled-out the bottom of the pot/container yet, it’s too early to transplant! If you’re unsure, check one or two by lifting them out of the pots and checking the root system.

HOW LONG DOES THE HARDENING OFF PROCESS LAST?

You will want to harden off gradually over the period of 1-2 weeks. On the first day, expose the seedlings to a shaded area outside for about 2-3 hours and increase this number by 1-2 hours each day over the total period. Simultaneously, reduce the amount of water you give to the seedlings each day to let the soil dry out.

ADDITIONAL TRANSPLANTING TIPS

  • Plan to transplant in the early evening so that the seedlings have time to adjust to their new home in moderate conditions.
    • If transplanting during the day on a warm/hot day, row-cover may be helpful to prevent burning and additional shock.
    • Dig a hole large enough so that the seedling will be planted up to its first set of true leaves. The other leaves (the first leaves or cotyledons) should be buried. This prevents them from becoming top-heavy and bending over during their early growth period.
    • For tomato plants you can use the trench method. The small hairs on the tomato plant that are buried will all become roots making a strong root system.

 

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