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.
Choose 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.
To 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.
Here’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.
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.