Transplanting seeds can be tricky. You have to make sure the seedlings are ready or you run the risk of shock, or worse, losing your hard-earned seedlings.
I’m no pro, so I get all of my gardening tips and tricks from my friend, Penny. She’s a seasoned farmer, and is a jackpot of gardening information (she’s also a quilter by trade – visit her quilting site at Quilting by Penny). My seedlings were looking a little tender, even after a few weeks, so her advice was to “harden them off”.
Hardening off takes patience and commitment. We’ve got plenty of the latter, but not so much of the former. Hardening off basically consists of taking the seedlings outside every day so they can get used to the elements like wind, rain, and direct sun. You start the first day with just a few hours, and keep it up every day, gradually lengthening the amount of time they stay outside.
If you are a full-time working/school/baseball/basketball/any-other-event-you-can-think-of family like we are, ain’t nobody got time for that. Buttttt we had to make time, so our advice is to start on a Friday afternoon.
We have a picnic table in our backyard that sits under a giant tree, so we started our seedlings there. We started off with 3 hours on Friday, 5 hours on Saturday, and 7 hours on Sunday. By Monday, we left them outside for the whole day while we went to work.
One thing to remember is that you have to increase watering a bit while hardening off. The extra sun time causes the plants to drink up that water, so make sure you check on them to make sure the soil is still moist. Also, keep an eye on any demon-cats that like to paw at your seedlings (I’m looking at you, Dean).
After a week or so of hardening off, it was time to put those babies in their new home. This also gave us time to water the soil in our raised bed so we could make sure it was good and moist (ew, what a word) for the seedlings.
Transplanting is difficult. It makes me curse. It never fails that I will think I’m being careful, and a tiny stem will rip off in my giant man hands. A word of advice – use a spoon to get the soil out of the tray. If you just dump them over, they a) won’t come out, or b) will all avalanche out at once, causing certain despair.
My method was to scoop the plants out with a plastic spoon, and transplant it directly into a hole in the soil. I made sure the leaves were still above the soil, but that the roots were firmly in the ground.
The cucumbers were easy. A couple of them were wilted, but most of them worked out just fine.
The spinach and lettuce were a different story. I mentioned in The Garden – Part One that I made the mistake of putting too many of the tiny seeds in the tray. They were severely clumped up and the roots were intertwined. I tried to separate the spinach, and I lost most of them. RIP spinach seedlings. Most of the lettuce I just left in the clumps and hoped for the best. I’ll let ya know how that turns out.
There you have it, transplanted spinach, lettuce, and cucumbers. Make sure, after putting them into the soil, you pat it down around the plant, and water well.