Although it’s great to start vegetables right in the ground from seed, sometimes we gardeners have to compromise to provide a controlled environment or the right timing for starts.
Whether they are grown at home using a heat mat or greenhouse, or picked up at the local nursery, Bill has learned a few tricks over the years about transplanting seedlings. There are two key things to remember.
First of all, leave the roots as undisturbed as possible — don’t loosen them as you would with plantings of trees and shrubs, even if they are compacted.
Secondly, handle seedlings by their leaves and not their stems. Disturbing the roots or damaging the stem will slow the initial growth of seedlings once they’re in the ground.
There’s no question it can be a challenge to get seedlings out of the six-pack intact and can occasionally require some aggressive loosening and pushing. If all the potting soil comes off the roots, don’t give up in dismay — just plant the seedling with bare roots as gently as possible.
If there are multiple plants in each cell, gently tease them apart and plant separately.
Almost all vegetables except carrots, radishes, and turnips can be transplanted when young. Surprisingly, even beets can be easily transplanted as seedlings.
When it comes to planting depth, we two bloggers have a difference of opinion and experience. Bill argues for planting at the same depth as the soil around the seedling and Terry would have been in the same camp up until this year.
At an amazing organic production garden in Occidental, Terry was instructed to plant all seedlings deeper than the current root ball — digging a hole deep enough to bury them to just below the first set of leaves.
Ever the science teacher, she ran an experiment in the Havens garden this winter with brassica family plants. Students planted broccoli, chard and cauliflower, all from the same batch of seedlings, at two different depths. At first all the plants seemed to grow at the same rate, but then the deeper plantings really took off, producing much more vigorous and productive plants. From now on seedlings in her garden are going in at a deeper level. With this new data, we’ll have to see what Bill decides.
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