It’s getting to be time to plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers out in the garden, but the seeds I started are still quite a bit too small to stand up outside without some help. After they germinated, I put my seed starting trays in the sunniest window we have – but that wasn’t quite sunny enough. Though most of the cells have germinated, some seeds – the ground cherries and tomatillos – only sprouted a few weeks ago – six weeks after I sowed them! Others have done relatively well, but are still a bit puny.

Here are a few tips for successful transplanting:

  • As soon as seedlings grow their first pair of true leaves, they’re ready to transplant into larger pots. This can be delicate work, but you can wait a week or so after those leaves grow for stronger root growth and better success in transplantation.
  • Whenyou’re removing the seedlings from their cells, it’s best to pull them by their leaves. This may be counterintuitive, but if a leaf breaks, the plant will grow a new one. If a stem breaks, that’s the end of your plant.
  • Squeeze the cell gently, but be careful not to mash the roots inside. Slowly pull out the plant – don’t worry if all the soil in the cell doesn’t come with it.
  • Place the seedling into a larger pot, lined with a bit of growing medium at the bottom. Use peat pots that will disintegrate in the soil so you don’t have to disturb the roots again when I plant them in the garden.
  • Use rich soil from the bed you’ll eventually plant the seedlings in as the growing medium. After they germinate, they start needing nutrients from the soil, and most germination soils (like coir fibers) contain few or nutrients.
  • Most seedlings to best when they’re repotted at the same soil level at which they were growing before. The exceptions are tomatoes.
  • Tomatoes should be planted as deep as possible, as long at the leaves are still above the surface of the soil. Burying the stems make tomatoes send out new roots at higher levels, giving you much stronger seedlings at planting time.

Repotted Seedlings

I repotted my Early Russian cucumbers, which could have used this treatment a few weeks ago. They had started to dry out in their small cells. I also repotted three each of Reisentrabe and Vorlon tomatoes and Thai White Ribbed Eggplant. The paprika peppers and Violette Longue Hative eggplants were not quite ready to transplant. I do have a few more tomato seedlings that could be repotted. Some lucky friends will get them, because three of each is about all my beds can hold, especially because I’m sure I’ll pick up more seedlings at a nursery or plant sale.