5 Tips for Transplanting Vegetable Seedlings

Like this article? Share it!
Print Friendly

Whether you start seeds indoors, or purchase seedlings from a garden center, transplanting is an important part of growing a vegetable garden.

Transplanting your vegetables using the proper techniques can be the difference between having a stressed vegetable garden and having one that thrives.

Here are five tips for successfully transplanting seedlings into the vegetable garden.

Purchase Strong Seedlings

If you are purchasing some of your vegetable seedlings from a garden center it is very important to choose seedlings that are healthy.

It can be tempting to purchase a sickly plant hoping you can save it from a dire existence, but this will mostly leave you with a poor harvest, or dead plant.

Buy Only Strong Healthy SeedlingsChoose transplants that are stocky with strong stems, deep green foliage, is free of yellow leaves, and there is no evidence of disease and pests.

Some signs of disease or pests are holes in leaves, leaves that look chewed, brown streaks on leaves or stem, and spots on leaves.

The seedling should be about as wide across as it is tall. Avoid tall, spindly seedlings with weak stems. If the seedling seems to fall over easily it most likely has a week stem and should be avoided.

Avoid buying any vegetables that have fruit or blooms already on them. You want the plant to concentrate on growing a solid root system before growing any fruit.

Plants with blooms, or fruit, are concentrating their energy on producing that fruit, not growing.

If you do buy a plant with blooms prune them off so the plant can concentrate on developing a strong root system.

You may want to avoid some of the big box garden centers like Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Wal-Mart. Many times the seedlings at these stores are mistreated and do not receive the proper care they need to remain healthy.

Of course, take this on a store-by-store basis as some stores may have very good staff that takes care of the plants well, while others may lack a good garden center.

Use your best judgement when purchasing seedlings.

Dig a Proper Hole

A good planting hole is very important to how well the transplant adapts and grows to its new home.

The planting hole should be at least double the width as the root ball of the seedling. If you have a seedling in a two-inch pot, then your planting hole should be four inches wide minimum.

The depth of the planting hole should be equal to the current depth of the seedling. You want to transplant the seedling so the soil level is about the same as the soil level of the seedling.

Transplanting the seedling too deep, or too shallow, can cause unwanted results.

The exception to the rule is tomatoes, which can be planted deep for better root development.

The soil in and around the planting hole should be loosened well to make it easier for the plant roots to grow downward and out. Don’t forget to add compost when backfilling the planting hole.

Avoid Damaging the Plant Roots

One very fast way to kill a transplant is to damage the root system. Some plants, like tomatoes and peppers, do not mind having their roots played with a bit.

Many plants like okra, cucumbers, and squash do not like having their roots disturbed and can even die from it.

Carefully Transplant Seedlings Into the Vegetable GardenTo avoid damaging the plant roots, use peat pots, or homemade newspaper pots to start the seeds.

When it comes time to transplant the seedling you can plant the pot and all in the vegetable garden. The paper, or peat pot will degrade in the soil adding organic matter.

This prevents disturbing the roots and leaves the soil around the roots intact.

If you purchased seedlings from a garden center then it most likely will come in a small plastic pot. Take extra caution when removing the seedling from the container.

Gently Squeeze the Container While Holing It Upside Down To Remove the SeedlingHere’s the best way to remove the seedling from the plastic container:

  • Gently squeeze the plastic container to help loosen the potting soil. This will help the seedling root ball to slide out from the container.
  • Turn the seedling upside down using the palm of your hand to “catch” the seedling
  • Again, gently squeeze the container with one hand while using the other hand to catch the seedling as it slides out of the container. If the container has a drain hole in the bottom, use your finger to push the seedling out.
  • Once the seedling is removed from the container transplant it immediately. Do not leave the seedling sitting out.

Prevent Transplant Shock

Imagine being yank out of your nice comfortable home, and plopped down in some strange new environment.

That would freak you out a bit, eh?

That’s what it is like for the plant when it is transplanted into the vegetable garden.

Transplant shock can be very common when transplanting seedlings, and many times the seedling may need a bit of help recovering.

Adding phosphorus to the planting holes is a great way to help reduce transplant shock, and help the seedlings to develop stronger roots. Phosphorus is essential for root development.

Bone meal and blood meal are excellent organic sources of phosphorus.

A root stimulator can be used to help reduce transplant shock as well. Always use these products according to the directions on the label, and only use them when transplanting new seedlings.

Avoid using fertilizers that are high in nitrogen for newly transplanted seedlings.

Water Religiously

The last thing you want to do is to transplant your vegetables then walk away without watering them well. Newly transplanted plants need to be watered well until they have become established in their new home and began developing new growth.

Keep the soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Water the transplants deeply each day, depending on rainfall amounts. Soaker hoses can be used, but be careful not to leave it running too long and drown the plants.

Once the plants have become established you can switch to typical watering patterns.

Transplanting Takes Extra Care

When transplanting seedlings into the vegetable garden, some extra care is need to baby them along until they become established and accustomed to their new home.

Using these simple steps will ensure your new vegetable garden is off to a great start and increase the chances of great harvests.

Enter your name and email address below to grab a free copy of my e-book, 101 Tips for Growing Amazing Organic Vegetables.

Inside you will find 101 tips that will help you grow a better vegetable garden. You will also receive my weekly newsletter packed with helpful information!

Like this article? Share it!
Print Friendly

Comments

  1. You make a great point that transplanted seedlings need phosphorus and not nitrogen when they are first transplanted. You want to grow roots and not leaves when the seedlings are getting starting outdoors.

    Do you know of any organic alternatives to bone meal for providing phosphorus? Urban Garden Solutions wrote a great post Mad Cow disease and bone meal http://bit.ly/ftfYMd. I think I’m going to try to avoid it going forward. I think that blood meal may also be something I want to avoid for the same reason.

    • That’s a really good point, Bill. Many people stay clear of bone and blood meal because it is the by-product of animal slaughterhouses. That’s the cold, hard truth of the production of bone and blood meal. There really isn’t a definitive answer on the Mad Cow Disease question, so I think at this point it is up to the individual gardener whether to use it or not.

      As far as other sources of phosphorus, that’s a tough one, because there are so very few that are available on the market. Of course, compost that includes some horse or cow manures will contain phosphorus. How much is really difficult to know unless you have it analyzed.

      Rock phosphate is a possible option, but it is a very slow release source as it can take several years for it to break down. There are some organic fertilizers for root crops available that can be used when setting out transplants.

      A good one is Root Crops Alive! by Gardens Alive!. It contains a good content of potassium and phosphorus. I would use this only when setting out transplants for plants other than root crops.

  2. andy felland says:

    well i have foiund your site helpful so far im new to growing anything i live in nevada in the desert right now im trying to grow corn beans tomatoes and squash and trees as i have none around me it has been a chore so far but i was looking for pics of what vegies leafs look like lol i started a bunch and didnt lable what they were madning live and learn i suppose.

Speak Your Mind

*

Gardener's Supply Company
AgHub Network