Sowing is one thing; transplanting young seedlings is an equally tricky business with its own rules for success. Here are a few of them from The Old Farmer’s Almanac Book of Garden Wisdom!
Tips for Transplanting
Handle with care. This is the time to have a tender touch and all supplies at hand.
Choose your moment. The best time to do it is on a misty or cloudy day or late in the afternoon when the sun is low.
Make contact. Poke a hole in loose soil and press the roots firmly in contact with the soil.
Water sparingly. Seedlings need moisture, of course, but don’t overdo it.
Be protective. Don’t allow the seedlings to be damaged by strong winds or strong light. Shield the young plants from direct sunshine for a day or so, or provide them with a cloche or row cover to raise daytime temperatures and speed growth. (Remember, you are dealing with the very young.)
Be selective. Transplant only young seedlings. At the beginning of the season, this may seem inevitable, but continued decisiveness on your part is crucial to the late-summer yield. For a beautiful crop of tender lettuce, for example, sow seeds every month and transplant them as soon as they are ready. Toss out seedlings that have been crowded in their beds, their development arrested; they are old and impotent.
Toughen them up. Seedlings started indoors need a period of transition (about two weeks) before they are exposed to the outdoors. This process, known as hardening off, allows them to adjust to the wind, direct sunlight, and fluctuating temperatures. On their first outings, plants need shelter and must come in for the night. Later, when they have toughened, they may stay out overnight in a sheltered spot.
Keep a warm spot for them – but not too warm. Cold frames are good for hardening off, but never leave them closed on a warm day. Entire crops have been lost in a few hours when the temperature rose too high too fast.