Flower and vegetable plants can crowd each other when seeds are planted too closely together. Crowding delays maturity, stunts growth, and distorts the roots of carrots and other root crops. At the same time, there may also be skips; transplant enough seedlings to fill the skips, then discard the surplus. Here’s how to transplant, so there is as little shock as possible.
1. Start when the plants are small; if they have four to six leaves, they’re big enough.
2. Transplant at sundown on a cloudy day. Wind can injure as much as sunlight.
3. Wet soil thoroughly around the roots of seedlings that are to be moved. Do this a few hours beforehand so that the plants will be plump with water.
4. Dig transplanting holes before you uproot any seedlings. Fill the holes with water and let it soak in.
5. Shove a trowel in deeply to pry up plants. Move seedlings with as much soil around the roots as possible.
6. Move one plant at a time. Transplant quickly; don’t delay.
7. Immediately soak the soil around each transplant. Don’t wait until you have completed the row. For a week thereafter, sprinkle the transplants at least daily.
8. Never apply garden or houseplant fertilizer — liquid or dry — around newly transplanted seedlings. Their roots are too damaged to take it up.
9. If you must move large seedlings with many leaves, trim back half the foliage to reduce the leaf area through which water is lost. Use a shovel to move a big root ball and try to keep it from breaking up when you set it in place.