As spring picks up its pace, it’s time for gardeners to start thinking about moving seedlings outdoors.
It seems like transplanting should be simple, but a beginner who tries it for the first time is bound to discover that there are a few pitfalls. Fortunately, there aren’t many, and they are fairly easy to avoid.
There are really only three main things to keep in mind:
- Harden off your seedlings. About two weeks before it is time to transplant them into the garden, set them out in a sheltered area for, say, one hour. The next day, set them out for two hours. The next day, three. When you can safely leave your plants outside all day without them wilting, they’re ready to transplant. One warning: Do not expose seedlings to strong winds during this hardening-off period. Their stems are too thin and delicate to stand up to much abuse.
- Check the forecast before you transplant. Choose a cool, fairly still day for transplanting. If it’s cloudy, so much the better. Transplanting is enough of a shock to seedlings without adding hot winds and a scorching sun to the mix. Also try to avoid transplanting the day before an evening hailstorm. When your plants are larger and tougher, they’ll be better prepared for severe weather.
- Water thoroughly. And frequently! Monitor your seedlings closely for the first week or so after they have been transplanted. Do not let the soil dry out. If the weather is warm and dry, carefully mulch around the transplants to help conserve moisture. There is probably nothing so detrimental to a seedling in shock as dry soil.
Bonus Tip: One of the most crucial steps in the whole process begins well before transplanting time. That is getting your seedlings off to a good start. Spindly seedlings with poorly developed root systems will typically die quickly once exposed to the mercy of the elements. For this reason, start seeds in a modestly roomy container filled with quality potting soil. Water them regularly, but allow the surface of the potting soil to dry out between waterings to avoid mold growth.
As you can see, transplanting really is simple. Just remember that seedlings are fragile. Treat them with due consideration, and they will soon develop into strong, healthy plants.