There is something special about getting started on the season earlier by starting your seeds inside. It brings spring into your life while there may still be snow on the ground. Transplanting is not terribly difficult, but there are things to keep in mind. There are special considerations when transplanting seedlings as opposed to planting seed directly in the ground.
Benefits of Starting Your Own Seedlings
There are a number of benefits of planting your own seedlings. Starting your own seed gives you more control over the variety of plants that you can start. Seedlings bought in the garden are generally only available in a couple of different types. In seed catalogs, you will find dozens of varieties that may better meet your needs. This includes multiple peppers and tomatoes that grow at different times, and have many different flavors.
Starting your own seed is also considerably less expensive than buying seedlings. Seeds typically cost from 1 to 2 dollars per packet, and give you the opportunity to plant ten or more seedlings. You also have the option to mix your own soil to ensure that plants are being grown organically, and without chemical fertilizers. Your own soil mix is generally less expensive as well.
When you plant your own seeds, you have a better chance of avoiding common diseases and problems that may afflict plants bought in the garden center. Some diseases spread easily, especially in crowded conditions where plants are touching. You also have more control over the strength of your plants compared to those in the store.
Prepare the Environment
Make sure that the soil is of good quality. The soil that you transplant into should be loose and able to hold moisture while also being able to drain properly. You can help accomplish this by adding organic matter to the soil such as compost, peat moss or well-aged manure. Also check the pH of the soil to make sure that it is balanced. Vegetables can tolerate some range in alkalinity and acidity of the soil. However, many plants prefer neutral to slightly acidic soil. The pH can be measured using a testing kit or pH meter that can be purchased in any garden supply store.
Transplants need to be hardened off before planting. Because they have been raised indoors, they are not yet acclimated to the cold and wind that they will encounter when placed into the garden. Hardening off is the process of exposing plants gradually to the elements. This means that a week or so before the last frost, you should place plants outside for a few hours each day. Start with a shady and somewhat protected spot and gradually introduce your plants to more of the elements.
Tips for Transplanting Seedlings
It is a smart idea at this point to keep a garden journal. In it, you can keep track of what you plant, where you plant, and when you plant each year. You can also journal about any problems that you have each year.
Transplants should be transferred to the ground during a cooler time. You can plant on a cloudy day or later in the afternoon.
Water holes where plants will go until the ground is wet. This helps to loosen the soil so that the plant can easily take root. It is also important to water the plants once they are set in the garden.
Be Kind to Roots
When removing plants from the pots where they have started, be very careful when removing them. Tender roots are easily torn when they are removed.
During the first two weeks, it is important to pay close attention to transplants. They are especially vulnerable during this time. They may require more water or extra shade on a sunny, warm day.
Want to learn more about transplanting seedlings?
Check out these helpful Extension websites:
Seed Starting and Transplanting from University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service
Transplanting Annuals into the Garden from Penn State Extension