Ever heard of the saying that goes, “If you don’t move out of your comfort zone, you’re never going to grow?” Well, the same can be said for some plants. Moving plants from point A to point B is known as transplanting, and if you’re an avid gardener or planning to become one, you’re going to be doing a lot of it. In this blog, we’re going to equip you with all the tips and tricks on properly transplanting your greens so that you can continue to grow your garden and produce fresh crops all year round. Now, let’s get digging!
What is Transplanting, and Why Should We Do It?
Transplanting is when we move seedlings from their pots into the garden soil or a bigger container. If you’re someone who prefers purchasing seedlings or “transplants” from a garden center, then transplanting is an essential skill to master. The same goes for those of you who like to start your seeds indoors. We transplant seedlings because we want to give them enough space to grow and mature. Plants need lots of room to spread their roots, so it wouldn’t make sense to keep them in a tiny container forever – otherwise, they would die from not getting enough nourishment. If you have an overcrowded garden, the tendency is that your plants will stop producing because they are fighting for nutrients. But, you can save the day by transplanting your plants to a new location.
Can You Transplant All Your Plants?
However, you must keep in mind that not all plants are fit to transplant – this is especially true if you are growing taproots such as carrots, beets, radishes, and the like. Since these root crops grow underground, transplanting them would disturb their growth and destroy their roots, so it’s best to start these vegetables from seed and leave it in one place. Squash, cucumbers, melons, eggplants, and beans also don’t transplant well due to their delicate roots. However, there are some cases where you can successfully transplant them, but you must do so with utmost care. We suggest that if you plan on growing any of these products in your garden, make sure you have already planned out a dedicated spot for them.
How to Select Good Plants for Transplant?
If you want to take the quicker route and not start from seeds, we’ll share with you some tips on how to select suitable transplants when you’re shopping in the garden center.
Look for Short and Bushy Plants
First off, when you’re choosing a seedling, the most important thing you want to look for is short, bushy plants with dark green leaves, which is a good sign of health. And if you take a closer look, you should check for strong white roots, but make sure that they are not circulating too much of the topsoil (in which case it is a sign of stress because the roots are searching for nutrients). Don’t pick the large plants or the ones that have already flowered and bore fruit. A mature seedling will have less energy to yield fruit once you transplant them in your garden since they are too focused on growing their fruit. In contrast, a young plant with no fruit will have all the energy to focus on spreading its roots in your garden and adjusting to a new environment, which in turn will leave you with more yields in the future.
Look Out for Bugs
Another thing you have to look out for when picking a transplant is signs of infestations. Ensure that the plant you choose to bring home does not have any wilted, curled, spotted, or yellowed leaves, as these are indicators that the plant is sick. It could also mean that bugs have taken over the plant, so remember to always check under the leaves for any critters that might be hiding. Trust us, you don’t want to bring home any pests that could infect your whole garden, so take out your magnifying glass if you have to.
Stay Away From Clearance Sales
Lastly, some additional tips to bear in mind are picking plants that will flourish in your climate and region and steer clear from the clearance aisle. As tempting as a bargain may be, we suggest not to fall for the 70% off tag unless you are an experienced plant doctor. Those plants are on sale because they have already outlived their stay in their pots and are more likely not to survive being transplanted to a new place.
When and How to Transplant the 7 Most Popular Spring Plants?
Now that you know a little more about what plants transplant well and what don’t, we want to share the next steps with you to help in the actual process of transplanting your seedlings. Transplanting can be a tad tricky at first, but it can become the easiest and cheapest way to expand your garden once you get the hang of it.
Get The Timing Right
Knowing when to transplant your seedlings outdoors varies on each plant. Cool-season crops should be planted outside before the temperature gets too warm, whereas warm-season crops will weaken if you transplant them too early in the spring. Ensure that you also keep an eye on your local weather forecasts when preparing to transplant your seedlings. Warm-season crops shouldn’t be moved outside until evening temperatures are consistently above 60°F, and if there just so happens to be a cold snap on the night you chose to transplant your seedlings, let’s just say – there won’t be a happy ending for them.
Additionally, if you are growing from seeds, you will need to keep track of the sowing date and observe the growth of the seedlings to see if they are ready to be transplanted. It would be a good idea to write the sow and transplant dates down on a little gardening journal or calendar, as this can help you plan your garden more efficiently in the future.
Here are the suggested times to transplant these different spring crops:
If you start from seed, wait for the seedling to grow at least 4-5 inches before transplanting them outdoors. Ensure that the temperature is at least 60°F outside (both day and night) since tomatoes are warm-season crops. Some gardeners will also suggest transplanting your tomatoes twice before moving them permanently to your outdoor garden. The second transplant allows the roots to grow bigger and stronger, which will give you a healthier tomato plant. In this case, you will have to wait for the tomato to grow at least 10 inches tall before moving them to the soil.
Peppers, like tomatoes, are also warm-season crops, so make sure to move them outside when temperatures are at a steady 60F. If you are starting peppers from seed, wait 3-4 weeks or until you see their third set of true leaves before transplanting them.
If you choose to purchase a strawberry seedling in the spring, you can transplant them right away as long as it’s not too hot outside. Temperatures that are too high can quickly kill your strawberries, so that’s why most zones in the United States tend to transplant their strawberries during late August when it’s a bit cooler again.
Broccoli is a cool-season crop, which is why you can transplant this outside during early spring or late summer, just like strawberries. According to Ohio State University, the seedlings should be ready to transplant when they are around 4-6 weeks old and have 3-4 true leaves.
Rosemary is notorious for having low germination rates, so starting from cuttings is usually recommended. Rosemary cuttings are usually ready to be transplanted outside after 8 weeks of propagation. If you are determined enough to start from seed, rosemary is ready to transplant once they’re 4-5 inches tall, and they can usually withstand a range of temperatures as long as it’s above 30°F.
Oregano can be transplanted once they’ve hit the 4-6 week stage and their seedlings have at least 4 true leaves. The soil outside should be around 70°F, so usually, oregano is transplanted after the last spring frost.
Mint is super easy to grow whether you are starting from seed or cuttings, so much so that it tends to take over your whole garden. We suggest transplanting your mint in a bigger pot but not directly to the ground. Transplant it when the temperature is around the 60°F mark.
Prep Your Garden and Plants Accordingly
Once you’ve got the timing down, turn your focus on prepping your garden and plants for the big move. Hardening off your plants is a crucial step that you must do before transplanting your crops permanently outdoors. Any plants that started growing inside need to transition to outdoor life gradually; otherwise, they will go into shock and wilt away. 7-10 days before transplanting, start bringing your plants outdoors in a shady area for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the time and their exposure to the sun and wind. Make sure to keep the soil moist throughout the hardening-off period, which will help your plant become better adjusted to living outdoors full-time.
Loosen and aerate the soil before moving your plants and add in lots of organic matter to help retain the soil moisture. If your soil is too dry, it will draw out the moisture from the plant’s roots and damage them. Rake your soil to even out the surface and make it less compact. Now we are ready to transplant your seedlings from your pot to the soil.
How to Transplant Plants from Pot to Soil
The best time to transplant your seedlings is on a warm, overcast day, early in the morning. This will allow your plant to get more time to settle in its new environment without being exposed directly to the scorching sun.
- Dig a hole on your soil about as deep as your seedling’s root ball and a little bit wider.
- Turn the pot upside down while supporting the soil, and gently top the bottom to remove your plant.
- Place the seedling in the hole you just dug and cover it back up with soil.
- Lightly press the soil around the seedling to ensure good contact between the plant’s roots and soil.
- Water the soil around the newly transplanted seedling to help settle the roots, eliminate air pockets, and reduce the potential of transplant shock.
And voila! Pat yourself on the back because you’ve just successfully transplanted a seedling outdoors. Now all you have to do is watch it and make sure your plants stay healthy and alive. Adding fertilizer after a few days from transplanting can help develop the roots as well, so you might want to consider doing that.
If you’ve got more questions about transplanting or all things gardening, come and join our Private Facebook Group or shoot us a DM on Instagram. We’d be happy to have a little one-on-one chat and give you some sage advice if you need any!