Grow Transplants Successfully

            How many times have you tried to get an early start on your garden by growing transplants inside only to give up in frustration because you could not get the right combination for success?

            Growing transplants can be a bit tricky if you don’t have all the ingredients you need for success, says Dr. Dave Williams, horticulturist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

            Williams offers the following easy suggestions to help make transplanting garden vegetables and flowers successful.

·         Most vegetables and flowering annuals require at least four to eight weeks growing time before being ready to transplant into the garden.  Don’t start too early before you are ready to transplant them because seedlings can become stunted if they are root-bound in their container.

·         A “soilless” mixture of growing media is a must.  Seedlings can be killed by a common fungal disease called “damping off.”  Using a growing mixture that drains well and is sterile can help avoid this problem.  There are many good commercially prepared “soilless” mixes available for growing transplants. You  also can make a mixture from scratch.  Mix equal parts by volume of sterile potting soil, perlite or vermiculite and [dampened] moistened sphagnum peat moss.  Most commercial mixes have a [damping] wetting agent added that makes watering the media easier.  Also, mixing in a few ounces of dolomitic limestone will buffer the pH of your growing mix.

·         To get the best results with the least amount of transplant shock to roots, plant seeds in individual containers such as cell packs, peat cups, jiffy peat pellets or foam cups.   Make sure the container is clean and free of [disease] pathogens and has holes that allow good drainage.  [Sowing rows in open flats requires more work.]

·         Do not plant seeds deeper than the recommended depth.  Smaller seeds may not even be covered.  As a general rule, cover the seed just enough so it is no longer visible.  Some seed that have hard seed coats benefit from soaking the seed overnight. Okra and squash are two examples.

·         Moisten the growing mix prior to seeding.  Then gently water with a sprinkling can, taking care not to wash seeds, or batter young seedlings.  Keep the media moist, but not soaking wet to avoid disease problems.   Some companies sell a capillary mat with their transplant supplies that allows even moistening from the bottom.

·         Temperature is difficult to control when growing transplants in your home. Soil and air temperature should be kept between 70 to 75  F in the daytime and 60 to 65 F at night. Some seedling kits come with a clear plastic cover that helps keep emerging seedlings from drying out. 

·         Seedlings need full exposure to light after emerging. After the risk of frost, reduce watering just prior to transplanting in the garden and move outside to a shady area to harden plants.

·         Use a water-soluble fertilizer prepared according to the label recommendations, when watering. 

Too much shade or cloudy weather, temperatures too warm, excessive watering and excessive fertilizing cause spindly or leggy transplants.


SOURCE:  Dr. David Williams, Extension Horticulturist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System (334) 844-3032.