Rebecca Kolls
Rebecca Kolls, April's Celebrity Gardening Judge

Send us your best seedling planting tips!!

Prize: Oxo 10-piece Garden Tool Kit

Celebrity Judge: Rebecca Kolls

Rebecca Kolls joins our Garden Party this month to help us judge your best seedling transplanting tips. Gardeners around the country know Rebecca from her many years as the gardening contributor to Good Morning America, and as host of her own syndicated television show: “Rebecca’s Garden.” Gardeners can now get Rebecca’s tips delivered straight to their home with her new magazine: “Rebecca Koll’s Seasons”

Rebecca’s going to help us judge the best seedling transplanting tip this month, and give away an incredible OXO 10-piece Gardening Tool Kit, featuring OXO Garden tools. (Why, oh why can’t we be eligible for our own prizes?!?)

OXO Gardener's Helper
OXO 10-Piece Garden Tool Kit

Being so far north, and at a higher altitude to boot, we wind up starting a lot of seeds indoors for the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Garden. Otherwise our growing season would be, like, 2 weeks long.

Each different variety of seedling, however, seems to need it’s own TLC when being transplanted to the garden. For instance, we learned last year (the hard way) that we need to cover our cucumber, squash, and melon seedlings with floating row cover fabric to avoid having them decimated by the dreaded neon striped cucumber beetles. (We wound up squashing them by hand each morning. Not that appetizing before breakfast.)

Tender seedlings travel a tough road in their early days out of the greenhouse or coldframe. Many pests and plagues threaten new plantings…rot, cutworms, wind.  What are your tips for hardening-off and avoiding other problems?

Enter your favorite tips (with pictures if you got ’em) in the comment section below. At the end of April we’ll announce which Rebecca chose as the most unique and helpful, and send the winner the OXO 10-piece Garden Tool Kit. (Be sure to include your email address so that we know how to reach you.)

by Josh and Brent

Reader Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Nancy

I start my seedlings in small pots lined with coffee filters, that accomplishes 2 things; 1- the soil doesn't drain out the bottom and 2- when I transplant, I remove the coffee filter with the seedling still inside and undisturbed, gently tear a hole in the bottom and plant – fortunately here in California we don't worry too much about hardening off but I think this might work in other areas too.

Reply
lu

I am a big recycler. So I plant my seeds in paper egg cartons. Then when the seedling is ready to transplant, I just gently pull apart the egg sections, rip a bit of the section if neededso the roots can expand and plant to whole thing in my garden! Egg cartons are biodegradable and very economical way of starting and transplanting from seeds!

Reply
Daria Pew

An even easier way to transplant is to not transplant. I sprinkled foxglove seeds around my property and grew at least six dozen foxglove that grew where they were most ideally suited. Please check out my blog at http://www.dariapew.blogspot.com and it is the featured blog for the month!!!

Reply
Andrea Wiley

Leave dirt around the roots so the plant is not traumatized as you transplant it.

Reply
Paul

I like to use eggcartons to satr my seedlings. I like both types Stryo-and the pressed board.

pressboard break down way nicely.

when It's time to plant them they hold their shap rather well.

Reply
Tiffany Owens

I use my garden bounty as hostess or dinner party gifts. I try to combine items that pair together well, or would be an automatic dish or salad, such as fresh tomatoes & basil.

Reply
MotherLodeBeth

Since I am on a fixed income I have to be extra careful about wasting any transplant. So I add a vitamin B tablet to my watering can and then when I transplant early in the morning before it is hot (gets 100* here) they get an added boost from the B vitamin so they don't have transplant shock.

And I use an old piece of tent over two pallets that I have placed in a / shape and then covered with a piece of old tent material as a shade cloth so the leaves don't get sun burnt.

Reply
Rebecca

We control weeds in two ways.

Planting densely helps 'out-crowd' weeds, Our garden is densely planted and we don't need to weed much.

If you have the time and don't want to place your plants closely, place layers of three sheets of newspaper on the soil and then top with mulch. The paper allows air and water to pass and is usually composted during the winter months.

Reply
Maria DeLuca

Here's how I control weeds in my garden: I use fabric mulch, and cover it with straw or wood chips.

Reply
maryann provost

my comment is for those who love rose of sharon trees, and dont like the spread of them. when you plant the tree and it reaches two feet tall braid the branches from the bottom up and the tree will grow that way and look like a bouquet when in bloom. all you have to do is pluck the few leaves that will grow between the braid.

Reply
Linda

About the peppers-they can be really tough to start. They like the soil temp very warm, so I've had the best luck on heat mats or suspended above the furnace. I also like ordering seeds so I'm sure they're fresh and have been stored properly. Many garden centers have the racks in the sun and the humidity of watering nearby plants can ruin some seeds.

Hardening off will ensure that your plants won't be entirely dessicated by exposure to sun and wind the first day you bring them out from their protected environment inside.

Reply
Linda

About raised bed planters-I made mine from oak boards, as I have in the past. This year, however, I have termites in them-the first time ever! And they are new beds from last season, so they either were in the wood or the soil I put in. I just did a program for a community garden, and they used donated decking (like Trex) from recycled plastic. Don't know yet if that's safe for food……….there's also a great system available from Gardener's Supply. It's a little pricey, but lasts forever. From an environmental standpoint, using recycled plastic for the lifetime of the garden may be a good alternative-at least you're not buying something that needs replacing every few years, adding to production pollution. Good luck!

Reply
cheryl

Hi, I want to build boxes for my patio, which is where I have the most sun, to plant tomatoes etc, but don't want to use pressure treated wood or plastics. Does anyone have any information or ideas about what I can use…something that won't need to constantly be replaced. I'm thinking 2 boxes about 4' x 3' each. Thanks!

Reply
Josh Kilmer-Purcell

hi cheryl…tough question. unfortunately, untreated wood will have to be replaced every 3-4 years. if you're not building too many of them, taking the soil out in winter and storing it in garbage cans will make them last a few years longer. (plus it make it easy to amend the soil the next spring.) my only other suggestion would be to find someone who does custom metal work. sometimes you can find a metal shop who will make things quite reasonably.

Reply
Jacquie

… And what the dickens is cornmeal juice? I've squeezed and squeezed – and not a single drop!

Reply
Jacquie

Being a brand-new gardener in hope of starting a small garden, i dont understand the logic of "hardening off" the seedlings. If they started on their own, they probably would do okay, so why the extra TLC?

Also, are peppers particlarly fussy/delicate? I tried starting some Hungarian wax seeds and… Nuttin'. Must have been my doing/neglect because typically I can push a stick in the ground & it'll grow. HELP!

Reply
Josh Kilmer-Purcell

hi jaquie…hardening off helps the plant get used to the cold and direct sun. just think of it as spending winter in a nice heavy down coat then rushing outside on the first frost-free, 40 degree spring day completely nekkid. It would feel much colder to you than it actually is. Indoors the seedlings are protected from temp fluctuations, and lights & shadows. Outdoors is a cruel cruel world to them, so it's nice to give them little tastes at first.

(all that said, we often skip to putting them right outdoors if the weather seems like it will be mild for a week or so.)

Reply
Josh Kilmer-Purcell

also, jacquie…peppers can be difficult to germinate. for instance NONE of our habaneros germinated this year, and they're under the watchful eye of SUNY's best greenhouses. it just happens. better re-sow, or track down some seedlings. sorry.

Reply
Linda

Great tip about the cinnamon and cornmeal juice-new to me! I don't have damping off as long as I remove the saran wrap/dome cover as soon as I see seedlings break ground. Setting up a small fan to lightly blow on the plants makes them strong and keeps the very surface of the soil dry-the key to keeping the fungus from growing.

Reply
Gardener-At-Law

I fill seed trays with moist soilless mix; firm lightly by pressing down with the lid end of an empty bottled water bottle; impress a hole with a pencil or bamboo stick and drop in a seed or two. Then sprinkle either vermiculite or fine chick grit (from the feed store) on top, and cover the tray over with a layer of plastic wrap to keep things moist until the seedlings begin to emerge. If the particular plant is prone to damping off disease, I may also dust cinnamon on top or water with cornmeal juice (natural fungicides).

Reply
Linda

After spending 8-10 weeks babying those seedlings, be sure to harden them off for a couple of weeks before planting. Start with an hour or two the first 2 days, on a warm day out of the sun and wind. (under a shrub works great) Gradually increase the time and exposure until they're toughened up enough to take full sun and spring breezes.

Reply
Sonia

There are some great tips here! One of my old faves is to use toilet paper rolls when transplanting seedlings into the garden; that deters cutworms and other munchers.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Reply
Larissa

Living in NH i have to start most of my seeds in doors. I plant all my seeds in cardboard egg cartons that i saved all winter long. I keep the top of the egg carton attached but cut a hole in the lid and tape on a piece of plastic wrap making a mini greenhouse. I mix my soil with coffee grounds to help with fertilizing and it seems to keep the soil moist longer. After the seeds have sprouted I open the lid and place in a sunny window. Once the seeds are ready to be replanted I use a plastic spoon to gently scoop out the entire seedling, roots, and soil. If you take your time and are careful about it you will not disrupt the roots or the baby plant. After replanted I continue to toss my used coffee grounds on the top soil. My plants are always happy, I always listen to music when I am gardening, I think they enjoy that as well! Peace!!!!

Reply
Linda

When the seedlings are about 2 inches tall, I transfer them to 4" Cow Pots-they're made of composted cow manure here in Connecticut. Unlike peat pots, they decompose quickly in a season and the plants love them! You should still bury the top edge or tear off to avoid moisture wicking to the surface. Just mix the torn off bits right into the soil.

Reply
Chris

All these tips are great and very helpful. My tip is a little different. I find growing my own food to be very nourishing for both body and soul. When I transplant seedlings or direct plant into the garden, Not only do I follow some of the tips already mentioned but I also make sure to thank each plant for the expected harvest.

Reply
Victoria

l save eggshells and plant a single seed in them or single small transplanted seedings. Then l put them back in the egg cartons to grow. The plastic egg cartons also work well for this, some places are still using them.

When l plant them out in the garden, or transplant them to a larger container, l genty break the bottom of the eggshell so the roots will grow through. lf they are planted directly in the garden l leave the eggshells protruding from the ground a little, this deters cutworms. This also adds calcium to the soil.

Reply
CanCan (Mom Most Tra

Instead of buying peat pellets, we have found that we can make our own little self-contained mini pots from cardboard TP rolls. We cut one end into six flaps and fold them under all origami-style to make a base, fill with soil and seed/seedling and let them get established. When they are ready, you can just plant the entire tube and eventually the cardboard will decompose. Just make sure you use brown ones and not the bleached white ones. 🙂

Reply
Amy

To coax my little seedlings into adulthood, I pot them up sometimes two or three times, and move them into a little zippered plastic "greenhouse" against a sunny outdoor wall of our house. On sunny days, I leave the greenhouse open, and/or move the little guys out where they can feel the breezes…seems to thicken up their stems. I also keep one grow bulb burning at night when it's in the 30's, just to remind them that warmer weather is coming soon. Lots of TLC!!

Reply
Annette

Norman, I also use the plastic milk jugs like that for when I have to use extreme treatment on a plant (i.e. pesticide spray when all else has failed). This way, I can treat the plant at the crack o' dawn and have the product be fully dry before the beneficial insects come out to play.

Reply
Annette

I use the peat pots and also the peat pellets. I have a very large container garden (50-60 containers). I save all of my produce containers that berries and organic greens come in. I use those as 'mini-greenhouses' as my deck is fully exposed and frequently gets strong winds until summer hits. I have a 10' overhand from my neighbors deck above so I keep the mini greenhouses under the overhang against the wall so they are protected from the elements and check them daily for moisture levels and pests. Even on the 3rd floor of a building, oddly I still have to deal with slugs and cutworms. Once the 'true leaves' have presented, I move the mini greenhouses out from under the overhang during the day for more exposure and also open the lids part way. Once all danger of frost has passed, I place the peat pots in the prepared containers.

Reply
Jodi McCreary

I start small herbs in cardboard egg cartons and then just plant the entire package in the ground. This eliminates having to remove the seedling from the start-up container (less handling of the plant is better). I leave an empty slot between seedlings so they have room to grow once transplanted into the soil.

Reply
vie lewis

Is this were I leave a tip for starting seeds? Well I will if not will someone let me know where?

I have started seeds so many different ways. After many years even with a greenhouse. I use egg cartons made from cardboard. they sit in the house on top of the fridge . They have a plastic bag covering them lightly and every day i check them only when they have 2 sets of leaves do I tear the little cells apart and transfer to a larger container , depending on the weather I will either keep them inside longer till they start more growth or set them out.I have never lost one. If I put them in the greenhouse some days I get to busy and don't go out till late in the afternoon by then they could be in trouble. This has worked for me for 20 years.

Reply
Norman R. Hines

My dad, now gone, and I used 1 gallon plastic milk jugs to cover tomatoe plants early, like this morning we had light frost in MD. Cut the bottom off, remove the cap and set over plants easy to remove and set beside the plant on warm days then replace at night if cold or frost might happen. Good green recyling and you can easily store them from year to year.Brown paper grocery bags work, close top at night, reopen during the day and then just compost into the ground when no longer needed.

Norm

Reply
Magdalen Bray

It helps to soak the compost and seedlings before you start to prick them out. They separate more easily.

Reply
Josh Kilmer-Purcell

hi linda…the fork idea is great. it seems like it might help preserve a lot of root structure when separating.

kristen…peat pots are certainly one of the best options out there. it's also important to be sure the top of the pots are either completely buried or ripped off. if the rim sticks up above the top of the surrounding soil, it will act like a wick and dry out the roots.

laura…one of the saddest things about making our own yogurt is that our empty yogurt carton supply is dwindling! we use them for so many things.

dana…the popsicle stick is a great idea too. i confess to impatience, and have ripped many a stem off by tugging too hard.

Reply
Dana Cowan

One of the best ways I have found to transplant very delicate seedlings is to use a wooden popsicle stick to gently work in the soil surrounding the seedling to encourage it to sort of pop itself out of the seedling tray. It can then be transplanted to a larger pot to fully grow into itself to prepare for it's big journey into the garden! By using the popsicle stick you protect the plant from being handled too much and risking pulling or ripping it from the soil- which can drastically reduce the rate of survival for those hard-working germinated seeds!

Reply
Laura Kuhn

The key to growing successful transplants is having a supply of handy little pots. I recycle one-serving yogurt cartons: simply wash and put a couple of holes in the bottom for drainage. Or make your own "peat pots" by wrapping newspaper around cut paper towel and toilet paper tubes. They decompose right in the ground when you plant, so your seedlings avoid transplant shock.

Reply
Kirsten

I think the best way to transplant seedlings without harming the delicate roots and stem is to start your seeds in peat pots, then gently break open the sides of the peat pot and transplant the whole thing into loose soil. The peat pot will degrade as the plant grows and it also helps to keep the seedling moist.

Reply
Linda Turner

Old forks are great for transplanting anything, especially new seedlings. If you need to thin out crowded plants, and want to save as many as you can, use a fork to gently separate roots. Make sure to water well beforehand!

Reply
Linda Turner

Through trial and error, and reading everything I could get my hands on for the last 20 years, I developed some pretty fool-proof methods for starting seeds indoors. The basics are listed on my website under "Plant Information". I would say that providing proper light (shop lights are great) and growing at cool temperatures (60 degrees) are foremost for success. And when they're ready to go out, taking the time to "harden them off" gradually, about 2 weeks, ensures they'll take right off once they're planted.

Reply
Joseph Chathaparampi

Dear Dr. Brent:

I have attempted to click the "Upload photo here" sight and I reached to the following message "Click the link below to upload your own photo.

Text underneath Add link."

However, I do not see a link. Please help!!

I thought that it is because of my browser, then I tried Mozilla Firefox and then Internet Explorer. In both cases I reached at the same point without progressing any further. Your Tech "Geek" might know and I am illiterate when these happens!!

Sincerely, Joseph.

Reply
Elizabeth and John S

After transplanting seedlings, sprinkle spagnum moss (milled) on top of your soil mix to prevent damping off.

Tada!! It works!

Best regards from,

30 + years hippie gardeners extraordinaires

Reply
Dr. Brent

Uh oh, Elizabeth and John. You have outed yourself as hippie gardeners extraordinaires. That means we expect to see lots of tips shared from you
throughout the season.

Reply
Joseph Chathaparampi

Dear Dr. Brent:

Thank you for your encouragement.

Now, how do I attach a picture? what is your email address?

Reply
Dr. Brent

Hi, Joseph

Look in the right hand column of the page where it says "Reader Photos". Click the link and submit your photo. It's very easy. Let me us know if you have any problems.

Reply
Joseph Chathaparampi

Seedling Planting Tip:

Transplant seedlings as they start to produce the true leaf (past the first leaf from the original seed). As you transfer these seedlings, do not pull or handle them on their stems. Use your fingers and pull them out of loosened soil by holding on to the (first seed) leaf, so that you may not injure the plant. Joseph Chathaparampil: chathj10@yahoo.com

Reply