At some point in all of our vegetable container gardens, it will become necessary to transplant some of the plants into larger containers. Whether you are transplanting seedlings or a mature plant that needs some breathing room, the general rules still apply.
From Container to Container
Transplanting takes some practice, but is not that difficult. My main objective when transplanting is to do it fast but efficiently. The goal is to allow the roots of the plant to be exposed for the least amount of time possible. To start the transplant, make sure you have everything ready before hand. This includes having the new container all ready to go – the soil should be already mixed and moistened. It is also a good idea to put all tools that you might need within easy reach. If it is a seedling, before transplanting, make sure the plant is about the right age to transplant. For most plants, this means a few weeks old, but since some plants take more time than others to become sturdy enough to be transplanted, it’s always a good idea to check.
Remove the plant from it’s container by carefully clearing the dirt away from it’s roots. Try not to damage the roots. Although intuition seems to say otherwise, handling the plant by the leaves is the best way to perform the transplant. This is because if you break a leaf or a branch, the plant will be able to recover easily. However, injuring the stem could damage the plant so badly that it might not be able to feed itself.
When placing the plant in it’s new container, try to set it at the same depth as it was in the old one. Some plants, like tomatoes, can germinate roots from their stems so you can plant them deeper than they were originally. But for most plants, at the same level is fine.
Once the plant is in, cover with soil and water lightly, do not completely saturate the soil right away
From Indoors to Outdoor
Once your plants become sturdier, you might want to move them outdoors. But if you’ve started your plants from seeds indoors, you won’t want to put them outside right away. They need time to acclimate, a process called “hardening off.” It usually takes about a week or two to complete. Once again, make sure you are putting the plants outside in the proper season. For many of them, this means after the last frost but each plant is different so be sure to check. It is also not advisable to start during a heatwave. To start the hardening off process, place your plant outside for an hour or two on the first day. Make sure it is in a relatively sheltered spot – meaning not in full or direct sunlight and protected from wind, rain, extreme heat, animals, etc. The next day, keep it outside for a little longer. Then continue to increase the amount of time and sunlight as the days go by until the plant is able to handle being outdoors around the clock.