My Secret Garden

Friday, March 16, 2012

When and how do I move them?

Alternate title: Transplanting Without Tears

Before I really got into gardening, I believed you planted a seed in the ground and voila a few days later you had a plant that some time after that produced food or flowers. Now I've found that my plants are moved more often than my German Shepherd Dog we affectionately refer to as the Lump.

I have learned so much about transplanting.  When to transplant, how to transplant, where to transplant, and even with whom to transplant (I'm just kidding on that last one). So your seeds have become little teeny green plants. You are wondering "oh no! Now what?" Now you move them.

Transplanting is really easy. I think it's easier than germinating the seeds because with the transplants if something goes wrong you can see it right away which eliminates a lot of guesswork.

So what is a True Leaf?
The time to transplant is when you see 2  true leaves.  When a seed germinates it creates little leaves, called "seed leaves" seed leaves often look nothing like the true leaves.  Seed leaves are almost always in pairs and are very nondescript seed leaves of many different families of plants look alike. Seed leaves are the first leaves to soak up the sunlight. They allow for the plant to create the true leaves which are characteristic of the plants.

Seed leaves left to right Alyssum, Zinnia and Lettuce.

A true leaf comes after the seed leaves.  True leaves look like miniature plants.  While true leaves in the same families look the same, true leaves in different families don't.

Notice how the right two look alike, they are both brassica, cauliflower and broccoli the left one looks different it is lettuce.

When its time to transplant your seedlings, you will see the true leaves. Ideally you want two true leaves and to wait as long as possible to move your plants.  The longer you leave a seedling in it's original spot, the stronger your plant will be.  A stronger plant is more likely to survive transplanting.

Okay My plant is ready, Now How do I do this? 

Items you will need:
1- Small trowel
If moving to larger containers:
Enough Larger Containers for the seedlings you want to transplant
Potting Soil to fill the Containers

If moving to the garden:
Beds prepared with organic material to feed the plants 
Pre-dug small holes where you plan to plant.
I generally add Miracle Gro Organic Soil and compost when I first plant.

So your seedling has 2 true leaves, it's a nice size sturdy little guy and now you're ready to move it.

I've found the best tool for transplanting is a little trowel from a gardening set I bought for my daughter. The goal is to get a small shovel that will fit in the row and only affect the plant you are set to move.

After you loosen your seedling from the flat pick up the the seedling by the true leaves and place into a larger container with potting soil or directly into your prepared garden bed.

I cut an "X" on the bottom of these cups to facilitate drainage.

Now your transplants are happy in their new bigger digs! Don't forget to label the new containers. I generally label the containers with original seed planting date, transplanting date and plant name. I learned this part the hard way when last year until mid-June I was playing cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage roulette!
I will cut off the bottom half of the cups and plant the cup and all in my garden.  This will protect the plants from insects.

 What can go wrong?

Most people think the best way to move a seedling is to handle it by the stem.  This is ABSOLUTELY WRONG!!! NEVER EVER EVER Handle a seedling by the stem. Handling a seedling by the stem can injure the stem, injuring the stem can make the stem more susceptible to damping off.

Damping off is a group of diseases that attack plant stems and cause the seedling to collapse and the plant to die. The stem withers and changes colors. The Ontario Crop IPM has a great picture of damping off in pepper plants.
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