When it’s time for transplanting your seedlings outdoors, here’s how to do it without causing unnecessary stress to your baby plants.
We’ve waited for weeks, and it’s finally about time to plant those little seedlings out in the garden! (At least here in Ohio; modify these instructions for your location and climate.)
Transplanting is usually fairly straight-forward, but there are a few tips to keep in mind to minimize stress on your tender seedlings, and give them a strong start in their new home.
Following these simple instructions will help you avoid mistakes that could harm your seedlings, and help them get growing quickly with a minimum of disturbance.
Transplanting To The Garden
Toughen your plants for outdoor growing conditions by hardening off. Two weeks before outdoor transplanting time, stop feeding and slow down on watering. About a week before you plan to plant out the seedlings, put them outdoors in a protected area, out of direct sun and wind. Leave them outdoors for only 1 hour at first, then 2 hours, then a morning, until they are used to a full day. Water frequently.
Transplant on a cloudy or drizzly day or in early evening to spare transplants from the sun’s heat. Water the plants before you start. Dig a hole slightly wider than and of the same depth as the container. (Plant tomatoes deeper, so that roots form along the stem. See Tomato Trench Planting for details.)
If your transplants are in plastic or clay pots, turn the pots upside down and slide out the plants. Whack the pot with your trowel to dislodge stubborn ones. Plants in peat or paper pots can be planted pot and all.
Gently place the plant in the hole, and spread out roots of plants that aren’t in pots. Slit the sides of peat pots to open them up for better root penetration after planting. Stripping away the top rim of the pot above the soil line is also important, because if even a small piece of peat pot is exposed after transplanting, it will draw water from the soil surrounding the transplant’s roots, leaving the plant in danger of water stress.
Fill the hole and tamp with your hands, forming a shallow basin to collect water.
Slowly pour plenty of water—at least a quart—at the base of the transplant. Keep transplants well watered until they become established and start showing new growth.
When handling seedlings, hold and move them by grasping a leaf between thumb and forefinger. Yanking up seedlings by their stems will damage roots.