The tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds that I recently planted are doing well and some were in need of transplanting already! I like to transplant the seedlings after they’ve grown two or more true leaves (the cotyledons don’t count). This can be anywhere from two to six weeks after germination.
Before I start I make sure I have everything ready; my new pots and some potting soil. I put a piece of paper towel or newspaper in the bottom of my pots to keep the dirt from coming out the bottom. By the time I transplant again (either into bigger pots or into the garden) this paper will have dissolved.
Freeing a seedling from its neighbors in a pot can be daunting if you haven’t done it before. One precaution is to always grasp a plant by a leaf not the stem. The plant can survive loss or injury to a leaf but if you break the stem it is fatal! I use a spoon and start at the edge of the pot and carefully lift the seedling. I try to choose the strongest seedlings rather than transplant every single one. I am often tempted to transplant them all as they look strong and healthy, but then I end up with way too many plants for my garden. Choose the sturdiest, most uniform plants and regretfully discard the others.
Set the seedling deeper than it was in the germination pot, placing the cotyledons just above the soil surface. Some plants, like tomatoes, will form roots along the section of the stem that is buried when you transplant deeper. Once every seedling has been transplanted make sure they are all labeled and given a drink of water. Then place them back under the grow lights.
This is the time of year that my kitchen really gets crowded as I usually run out of room under my two grown lights. We have wonderful south facing windows so I will alternate my seedlings so they all spend a little time in front of the widows. It won’t be long before I can move everyone outside into the garden!
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