Seedlings are a lot of work; it takes weeks of TLC to grow plants from seeds, and the last thing you want to do is make one of these seedling transplanting mistakes that put your young plants in jeopardy.
Transplanting is a big deal. It might not feel like a big deal to you, but going into the garden is a huge step for your seedlings. It adds new stress to your plants, and if you do so incorrectly, the seedlings might enter a stage of shock that causes dramatically reduced growth. Some seedling transplanting mistakes lead to the death of your plant, so it’s best to know what you should and should not do.
Let’s go through these mistakes that you don’t want to make when planting your seedlings in the garden.
- 11 Seedling Transplanting Mistakes
- 1. Forgetting to Harden Off Your Seedlings
- 2. Planting Seedlings in the Wrong Spot
- 3. Planting at the Wrong Time in the Growing Season
- 4. Not Checking the Forecast
- 5. Planting at the Wrong Time of Day
- 6. Breaking the Roots
- 7. Not Loosening Up Root-Bound Seedlings
- 8. Not Amending Your Soil
- 9. Adding Too Much Fertilizer
- 10. Not Watering Newly Transplanted Seedlings
- 11. Forgetting to Stake Tomato Seedlings Immediately
- Final Thoughts
11 Seedling Transplanting Mistakes
1. Forgetting to Harden Off Your Seedlings
You spent the last eight weeks loving and growing healthy seedlings, so you don’t want to make the very first seedling transplanting mistake - forgetting to harden off your seedlings.
Hardening off is the process of slowly introducing seedlings to outdoor conditions. Growing seedlings inside keeps them in a safe, comfortable bubble for growth, but when it’s time to move out into the world, they have new things to handle.
Suddenly, there is the sun, the wind, dew, rain, and more.
If you forget to harden off seedlings, they aren’t ready for outdoor conditions, leaving them susceptible to sunburns, snapping in half because of rain or wind, and shock.
You put too much work into these seedlings to make this mistake. Start the process of hardening off one to two weeks before you want to plant your seedlings outside.
2. Planting Seedlings in the Wrong Spot
Gardeners need to know where to plant each seedling in their garden. Not all crops grow best in the same location; learn the growing requirements for each of your plants.
For example, some plants, like peppers, thrive in heat and sunlight. They need a location that receives six to eight hours of sunlight each day. On the other hand, spinach benefits from some afternoon shade, especially as the temperatures increase.
If you plant your seedlings in the wrong spot, you’re not providing them with the optimal conditions. That will decrease their growing potential; you might end up with a smaller harvest or a plant with less vigor.
3. Planting at the Wrong Time in the Growing Season
One of the biggest seedling transplanting mistakes is planting at the wrong time because you want to start gardening sooner. Gardening is exciting, and when the weather gets warmer, you might feel anxious and ready to get started.
Don’t rush transplanting; know when you need to transplant seedlings outside.
Some plants are cool-season crops, like cabbage and spinach. You should plant them outdoors before the temperatures are too warm. Plant these crops two to four weeks before your final frost date.
Warm-season crops, such as tomatoes and peppers, cannot be planted until the danger of frost is gone. Final frost dates are estimates for your region, so always pay attention because it changes each season.
Heat-loving plants do best when the nighttime temperature remains consistently above 60℉. Pay attention to the temperatures and wait for the right growing season for your plants. It’s better to wait a week or two to plant these crops than planting too soon.
4. Not Checking the Forecast
Checking the forecast is an essential step that needs to be done BEFORE you transplant seedlings. Too many gardeners follow the average last frost date and plant their warm-season crops on that date. However, a rogue frost isn’t out of the question, so check the 10-day weather projection before transplanting.
Last year, my region had a late frost in the middle of May. It killed the buds on our mulberry tree, and many of my friends planted their tomatoes and other warm-season crops in their gardens. Most experienced huge losses.
Checking the forecast guarantees that the following 10-days truly has above-frost temperatures.
5. Planting at the Wrong Time of Day
Transplanting day is a big day for your young plants; picking the wrong time of day is one of the most common transplanting mistakes.
Plants need time to settle before being exposed to stress. Ideally, pick a cloudy day so that your plants don’t have to work with strong sunlight and stress from transplanting. The best time of day to plant your young plants is in the early morning or late in the afternoon.
Your plants will have time to settle before facing the sun. I prefer to plant in the evening because it reduces water evaporation and wilting.
Avoid excessively windy days or rainy days. These aren’t ideal for transplanting.
6. Breaking the Roots
Roots are tender, and if you snap the roots, it stunts the growth of your seedlings. This tends to happen the most when you have overwatered seedlings that are stuck in their containers. When you remove the seedling from the pot, the roots often break.
One way to stop this from happening is to moisten the soil slightly the day or two beforehand. Drier soil is easier to remove from a container. You’ll water as soon as the plant is in the ground, so it’s okay if you wait longer than average.
7. Not Loosening Up Root-Bound Seedlings
If your seedling is root-bound, you have to work the rootball around, spreading the roots out gently. You’ll be able to tell that your plant is root-bound because the roots will wrap around the soil in the container tightly. This signifies that the container was too small for the plant or you waited too long to plant it in your garden.
It’s okay; it happens to everyone sometimes. Some plants are more likely to become root-bound, like cucumbers and zucchinis, which is why many gardeners recommend direct sowing these plants into your garden.
If you don’t loosen up root-bound seedlings, the roots won’t grow into the ground, accessing water and nutrients. They’ll fail to grow properly, and they might die.
8. Not Amending Your Soil
The soil in your garden beds is the foundation for your healthy plants, and dirt needs to be rejuvenated each year. You should add compost to your garden every year; it adds essential nutrients that your plants need for growth and helps proper water drainage.
Before you add any other amendments to your soil, make sure you test your soil each year. Your local county extension office should offer cheap soil testing that will accurately tell you the composition of your soil, along with the pH range. Once you know what your soil lacks, it allows you to add appropriate amendments to give your plants the best chance of survival.
9. Adding Too Much Fertilizer
Ideally, you added compost when you prepared your garden beds before transplanting your seedlings. Avoid adding too much fertilizer when you transplant. Young plants have a higher risk of burning from excess nitrogen.
The best time to fertilizer is three to four weeks after you transplant the seedlings. The roots need time to establish into the ground, allowing them to access the nutrients you add.
10. Not Watering Newly Transplanted Seedlings
Newly transplanted seedlings need to be watered as soon as they’re planted in the garden. Watering helps the roots establish into the ground and allows the soil to settle together, holding the plant firmly in the ground.
It’s easy to forget to water, especially when you’re planting more than one seedling. You start planting, then go inside of a drink of water. Before you know it, you forgot to water, and the seedlings aren’t happy.
Keep a watering can with you and water your seedlings as soon as you plant each one. That gives your plants the best head-start possible.
11. Forgetting to Stake Tomato Seedlings Immediately
Most tomato plants require staking or cages due to their large, mature size. Don’t wait to add the stake to the ground. The best time to stake a tomato seedling is right when you transplant it into the garden beds.
If you place a stake into the ground a few weeks after planting, you risk disturbing or damaging the root system. Placing the stake when you transplant ensures no damage to the roots happens; you don’t want to take a chance that you’ll stunt the growth of your plants.
Moving your seedlings into the garden is the first big step that you take towards having a beautiful, healthy garden, but you don’t want to make any of these seedling transplanting mistakes. Make sure you pay attention to the weather and time of day when you plant and follow all recommendations to encourage healthy growth.
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