Growing veggies or fruits from seed is a fun way to add new and unusual varieties to your garden. Starting your seeds indoors gives you a head start so you have transplants ready to put into your garden when the weather cooperates.
A common question I am asked is “when and how and do I transplant my indoor seedlings?”
In order to make transplanting a successful process, the right timing everything! Put them outside too soon and they may not be ready for the harsher outdoor environment. If you wait too long to transplant, they may become stunted and root bound in their original containers.
Timing Tip #1 – When to Transplant
Although there is no absolute rule of how big a seedling should be transplanted, I like to transplant when my seedlings have 3-4 sets of true leaves. The first leaves to emerge from a seedling are the cotyledons. These “baby” leaves provide food for the seedling until the true leaves grow. True leaves are the “adult” leaves, and will help feed the plant long term. Transplanting at this time in the seedling’s life will ensure that the it has the nutrients it needs to sustain itself in a larger container or in your garden.
How to Transplant
I started seeds for my fall garden indoors in peat pellets in August. They quickly outgrew the peat pellets and developed their true leaves. I had two options at this point, transplant directly in to the garden, or into larger containers. What to do?
Enter foam cups. Since my seedlings are cool weather veggies, and it’s still a bit hot outside, I chose to transplant them from the peat pellets into foam cups.
Foam cups make quick work of the transplanting process, buying my seedlings time, and helping them grow bigger and stronger until the weather cools off and they are ready for the garden.
A few reasons I like using foam cups (my fav is the 16 oz size) for transplanting:
- quick – punching drainage holes with a nail is a breeze – I punch multiple cups at once – a real time saver!
- simple – nothing fancy here folks, just a foam cup
- inexpensive – readily available, and can be used multiple seasons.
Watch the video “Transplanting Seedings” on my YouTube channel to see how quick and easy it is:
Timing Tip #2 – Hardening Off
Now that my seedlings are transplanted into their new home, they are ready to get their fill of sunshine during the day on my deck, right? Not so quickly! They need to be hardened off before they are outdoors 24/7. What does this mean?
Hardening off is simply the process of transitioning seedlings from growing indoors to outdoors. Think of your indoor seedlings like babies growing in a sheltered indoor environment. Light and temperature are regulated. There is no wind or rain for them to deal with. Your babies are not ready to go out into the big, bad world all at once. Taking the time to transition them to the outdoors gradually, helps them acclimate to what they will face in the garden and have a much better chance to survive and thrive.
Watch the video “Hardening off Seedlings” from my YouTube channel to see exactly what to do so your seedlings are ready for outdoor growing and produce lots of veggies for you to eat.
Comment below: Did you start your fall or spring seeds indoors? Did you transplant them and/or harden them off yet? What other timing steps do you feel are critical to help your plants survive and thrive in your garden?
See you in the garden,