After bringing your seedlings home from the garden centre, they will need a day or two to acclimatise. This is also known as “hardening off” and it essentially involves gradually exposing your little plants to windier, colder, and warmer conditions – so they don’t get such a shock when they get planted into your garden.
Taking care as we are transitioning seedlings from their pampered nursery and garden centre lifestyles (shade, watering two to three times a day) to life in the real world (variable temperatures, soil that dries out) is worth the effort, as it reduced the chance of sudden death – and it also strengthens the plants so that they can yield crops sooner.
Hardening off before planting seedlings
As soon as you get home, your new seedlings should be placed in the shade and given a light watering. Assuming you are in a frost free area then they can stay outside overnight. The next day, move them to a lightly shaded spot, or an area that only gets morning sun – give them a watering and leave them outside for the rest or the day and night. The following morning, you can plant them out!
Yes, you can plant seedlings as soon as you get home from the garden centre – but by waiting just two days you will find that you get much better results.
Rows or Freeform – Planting Seedlings
I am not a very orderly gardener, and prefer to just pop seedlings around whereever there is room. If you are a bit more linear than random, then use a piece of wood to mark out rows before you start.
Tips for success when planting seedlings
Check the weather before you start – don’t plan on planting out when it is hot and or very windy. If there is a three day heatwave coming, you are better off leaving the seedlings inside and keeping them watered until the weather cools down.
It is best to plant in the early evening so that your little plants don’t dry out – they only have very tiny root systems.
Before you get started, stand the punnet into a container of water to soak for around 20 minutes – deep enough so the water just covers the soil. This will help with separating the plants, and will reduce the transplant shock.
Make sure your soil is ready before you get the plants out, dig the area over and figure out what is going where.
To get seedlings out of the cell type punnets, pinch each cell in at the bottom and then push it up from the base – this should make the seedling plug pop out a bit at the top. Don’t be pulling on the stem to get it out, you will probably just rip it off and cause damage.
To separate plants in a block punnet, you kinda need to tease them apart, making sure that each individual plant comes out with it’s block of potting mix and roots.
Plant each seedling into their hole, and try to have the plant at the same level as it was in the punnet – i.e. don’t leave the roots exposed by planting too high, or bury the stem by planting too low.
Water them in as soon as you have planted them, I keep a watering can close by – rather than waiting until I am finished and putting on the irrigation, I just water them in as I go. Another handy tip is to add half a capful of Seasol to a large watering can, this product is a seaweed extract and soil conditioner that helps to reduce transplant shock.
In cooler months, use a snail & slug repellent around each plant – otherwise your plant babies will disappear overnight.
If you prefer to use a physical barrier, then old coffee or plastic drink cups with the bases cut out can be placed over each seedling. This is also very handy for preventing them from being snipped off by earwigs.
All the best with preparing and planting your new seedlings, let me know in the comments below how you went….were you patient enough to harden off your newbies, or were you super keen to get them straight into the ground?