There’s a lot of planning that goes into your garden: deciding what you want to grow, where to grow it, and how to care for it. One thing you need to figure out is if the plants you want to grow are direct sow plants, which can be planted directly in their final garden bed, or transplants, which need to be started indoors and transplanted into the garden later.
Plants that need to be transplanted typically have smaller seeds, as opposed to direct sow plants that have large seeds with a tough coating. Some examples of transplants include tomatoes, petunias, and peppers.
You can purchase starter plants from a garden center or farmer’s market, or you can grow them on your own. Once you have your starter plants, there are certain steps you must follow to ensure they are happy and healthy once transplanted outside in your garden.
When to Transplant Your Starter Plants
Many growers say that plants are ready to be transplant when the second true leaf develops, but this isn’t always true. Research how long your specific kinds of plants need to be indoors, and make sure your plants have a well developed root system before transplanting them.
For the best results, slowly start acclimating, or hardening off, your plants to the conditions they will face in your garden when you think they are almost ready to be transplanted. You can do this by gradually moving them to sunnier places in your house.
Also be sure that the threat of frost has passed. Summer crops will do best when temperatures remain above 60 degrees while cool season crops can withstand temperatures in the 40s, but check your variety for specific instructions.
Planning Your Garden
To prepare a garden where your plants will thrive, you’ll need to be able to answer these two questions:
- Do these plants need full sun or do they prefer to have a little bit of shade?
- How far do the plants need to be spaced from each other so that they grow properly?
Each plant is different, so you’re going to need to do your research. For example, tomato plants prefer direct sun and most need to be spaced out about 24 inches while peppers need direct sun and to be spaced 18 inches. Petunias should be spaced 12 inches apart in full sun. (Check your variety for specific spacing instructions)
Spacing is really important, especially if you are not familiar with how tall and wide your plants can get. If you give your plants enough room, they will grow and produce to their full potential. If your plants are too close together, you risk mildew and lack of sunlight which can lead to less growth, weaker stems, and poor production.
How to Transplant Starter Plants
Once you know where you will be planting your starters and how far apart they need to be spaced for optimal growth, you’re ready to get them into your garden.
Here are the tools you’ll need to transplant your starter plants successfully:
- A prepared garden
- Starter plants (transplants)
- A small shovel
- A watering can
Step 1: Water Your Starter Plants in Their Tray
The first thing you need to do is water the plants really well in their tray. Be sure to soak them so the whole root system and all of the soil is moist.
The process of transplanting can be shocking to fragile starter plants. By soaking their soil thoroughly before you remove them from their containers, you are preparing your plants for their big move.
More: How to water your starter plants>
Step 2: Carefully Remove Your Plants from Their Tray
When it’s time to remove the transplants from their tray, remove any debris and weeds from their soil. Carefully remove the plant and its root system and soil from the tray/container.
If you are using starters that came in degradable containers, we recommend cutting slits down the sides of the containers before planting so they break down quickly enough and your plant’s roots don’t get caught in their container.
Step 3: Plant Your Starter Plants in the Garden
Make a hole for each of your plants in your garden, paying close attention to how far each hole is spaced apart so your plants will not be overcrowded as they grow. Remember that planting in rows will make it easier to water your plants in the future.
To ensure your plants do not become root-bound once transplanted, make sure the soil in the hole is loose and gently loosen the roots on the plant to encourage them to grow once planted.
Place your transplant in the hole and, using your hand, gently push the garden soil up to the plant to support it. The garden soil should come up to meet the top of the transplant’s soil line; don’t cover the transplant’s original soil with the garden soil.
Step 4: Water Your Plants in the Garden
Once your plants are in the garden, you’ll need to water them again. We recommend watering your plants in the morning because watering can become damaging for your plant when the sun is at its hottest.
Be sure you water the soil around the plant and not the actual plant itself to avoid burning the leaves, which can lead to mildew.
Caring for your Plants
If you follow these steps for transplanting your flower and vegetable starter plants into your garden, your plants will begin to grow and thrive in their new garden bed.
As always, the friendly folks here at Harris Seeds are willing to answer any questions you might have about starting plants, transplanting your starters, or caring for your garden. We can’t wait to see how much you grow!