Transplanting young seedlings is a rite of spring for many gardeners. Learn how to transplant your seedlings safely and easily to help them thrive.
Benefits of seed starts
Some plants, such as lettuce, have very tiny seeds that need light to germinate. Planting these directly in the ground often leads to losses due to wind dispersal or rotting under too much soil. Starting these plants in containers makes it easy to monitor them closely and keep the soil moist until the seeds sprout. As seedlings grow, they can become root bound, which means the roots start wrapping around the inner wall of the container. Many store-bought plants are root bound. Before this happens, you can up-pot or transplant those seedlings. Up-potting means moving a seedling from a small container to a slightly larger container. Transplanting means moving the plant to where it will live out its life.
When NOT to transplant
Plants that are fruiting, flowering, infested, or infected should generally not be transplanted. New transplants need to be able to focus on building a strong root system. Also, just as some people are more sensitive than others, some plants do not take kindly to being transplanted. The following plants should be sown directly into the ground whenever possible:
How to transplant seedlings
For many vegetable crops, you can transplant seedlings with the first leaves (cotyledons) below the soil line. Very often, these meristem tissues will transform into root tissues, adding nutrients and vitality to your plants. Once your seedlings are a couple of inches tall, you should prepare their new home, making sure that the soil is loose. The Bay Area’s heavy clay can form an impenetrable barrier to new roots if it is left smooth from a trowel or shovel. Be sure to rough up the edges of the planting hole. Then, follow these steps to successfully transplant your seedlings:
Caring for new transplants
New transplants should be treated gently for a few days. To help a young seedling thrive in its new environment (ecesis), be sure to:
Be sure to use plant markers when transplanting. This will help you recall where everything is!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!