Starts for transplanting


Transplanting Seedlings

Okay, it has been a few weeks and you should have lots of baby plants. A couple of types of seeds will have not grown, don’t be sad. You can never win them all. Next year try to start them another way or if you still have more of those seeds try to direct sow them now instead. Gardening truly is a science project, you can’t count on most plants doing exactly as well year after year, except zinnias. You can always count on zinnias.

Supplies 1.jpg


As many empty containers as you can get your hands on. I save yogurt cups all year, small nursery pots and six packs. Basically any plastic container that you can put holes in the bottom of will suffice. I use a small drill bit on a Dremel tool to put holes in my containers.

Quality potting soil, organic or not.

Water (duh again)

A bucket and big spoon.

Bamboo skewer and small plastic (or metal) spoon.

Trays- I buy old cookie sheets and clear plastic serving trays from the thrift stores/yard sales. The clear plastic trays are nice to use on the top shelves in the greenhouse or on the starting shelves because they don’t block the light from filtering down to the plants below.

Labels and a Sharpie – I use popsicle sticks and if you are super cheap like me you can save them, flip them over, and reuse them next year. Yep, that cheap. There are plastic options you can buy from the nurseries, etc. also.

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Are they ready to move?

The basic rule is when the start has its first set of true leaves it is ready to be moved from the “seed starting greenhouse” and be placed into its own container. Don’t let the starts get too big because the roots will be long and intertwined, making it harder to not hurt the plant as you move it.

Mix up some damp soil and fill your container. Use your bamboo skewer to make a deep hole in the middle of the container or each six pack spot. Carefully – use the skewer to dig under the roots on the starts and break a start loose. Do NOT touch the roots. Gently hold the start by the stem or leaves and ease it out of the “greenhouse” dish while using the bamboo skewer to disentangle the roots. Set the roots into your hole in the container, again use the skewer to help finagle the roots into the hole. Set the start in the new container at the same depth that it was growing before. Tamp your soil back in around the start and lightly water it in. Just like planting outdoors, you want to water them in to close up the air pockets you have created in the soil around the roots.

** The plastic spoon** With some very small starts such as Coleus or Lobelia (one of my favorites) it is helpful to use the spoon to just scoop out the start and put the entire little scoop of soil with the start sitting in it right into the hole. Similar to the way you would use peat pellets.

Once you have them transplanted, labeled, and placed onto the trays (to catch the water while they are still indoors and help you move them from inside to the outdoor greenhouse) place them back under your shop lights. Adjust the lights to approximately 6”above the plants by using the chains you have hung the lights on. Check them every morning and evening to be sure they are slightly wet but not sopping wet. Keep them under the lights for about a week and then our next step is moving them out to the greenhouse. I will write up another article on what that process looks like at my house. My way is certainly not the only way to do all of this, but it works.

Prepped and roots.jpg

Detangling roots.jpg

Watering in on tray.jpg

Planted and labeled.jpg

The aftermath.jpg

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