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10 Tips for better transplanting

April 27, 2012

This post might be a bit late to be useful this time around, but maybe not, I’ve just been so busy gardening…  Hopefully you’ve been doing the same!

I’m just going to put it out there like it is, no sugar coating. Are you ready?? I’ve made some pretty bad gardening decisions in the past, especially when transplanting. Sometimes it was a lack of time, other times were a result of just not knowing any better. Over the past couple of years I have learned some things that made this last round of transplanting just about perfect. Well, the transplanting part anyway, growing good transplants is another story all together, but I digress. Here are my tips:

1. Transplant late in the afternoon, after the sun is decreasing in strength and it has started to cool down a bit. This will give the plants the maximum amount of time to recover before having to face the sun.

2. Avoid transplanting on windy days if possible. The wind dries out the soil faster as well as it causes an increase in transpiration (moisture release) from the leaves. This is because on calm days the air around the leaves becomes more saturated and slows the release of water vapor. Since the plants may already be struggling with a change in environment, this additional loss of water can make things much worse.

3. Give your transplants a good soak before sticking them in the ground and then water them as soon as they are in the ground. Some people wait till they are all in the ground and then water everything at once. Not a good idea. The drier soil around the roots will wick the water away from the moist root ball. I like to soak mine in a weak seaweed solution right before I stick them in the ground. The trace minerals, vitamins, and natural growth stimulators get them off to a great start!

4. When choosing transplants, look at the bottom of the container. Do not buy transplants with the roots sticking out the drainage holes as they are more than likely root bound.

5. Fertilize with a good, organic, LIQUID fertilizer. The plants will be able to use the nutrients almost immediately and they will recover from transplant shock faster. The goal is to minimize, if not eliminate transplant shock.

6. Expose the roots to air as little as possible. Don’t pull the plant out of the pot until it is ready to go into the ground. The small root fibers are very sensitive and may die back if allowed to dry.

7. Properly harden off transplants before transplanting. Just like us, plants need to be acclimated to the new weather. This applies all year, not just in the extreme heat and cold.

8. Shade plants for a few days after transplanting, especially in the heat. I made little cages as described in Square Foot Gardening and I use clothespins to attach regular window screen that I have cut. One layer of screen provides about 12% shade so in the summer I double layer them. This also works really good for seed starting outside in the summer and late fall.

9. Transplant tomatoes as deep as you can without burying the top most set of leaves. Remove any lower leaves before planting. Tomatoes will sprout more roots all along the stem. More roots means a healthier, faster growing plant. 

10. Consider buying a soil blocker instead of using plastic or peat pots. Not only will you save money and not create plastic waste to add to the landfill, or hopefully the recycling center, but you will pretty much eliminate root bound plants and transplant shock.

There you have it! 10 tips to get your plants off to a better start. Better plants mean less pests and more food for your table.

Happy Gardening!

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