How to Transplant Your Starts with Ashley Wiita, Horticulturalist

April 6, 2024

Transplanting is a great way to get a jumpstart in your garden. Whether you’re starting your own seeds or purchasing starter plants, it’s essential to understand the best practices of transplanting. Improper procedures when transplanting may lead to stunted growth, environmental damage, and even total loss of plants.

Family with small children gardening

Proper preparation is crucial to success in the garden. Whether starting from scratch with a new garden or adding to a long-established bed, consider having your soil tested. We recommend testing annually, but especially if it’s been several years since your last test, new soil has been added, or you’re planning to add some amendments. Additionally, it is always wise to have a plan before you begin transplanting. Think about the plants’ growing requirements including light, water, soil type, nutrient needs, and plant size at maturity. Pay attention to any special care the plant may need such as frequent pruning or deadheading and additional support, such as cages or trellises, to ensure you have the proper spacing.

Once your space is prepared and outside temperatures are warm enough, it’s finally time to begin transplanting. If the starts have been kept inside, you will want to acclimate them to the outdoors through a process called hardening off. This is achieved over the course of 10-14 days. You’ll start the process by putting the starts outside in a shady spot for a few hours, preferably in the afternoon when temperatures are the warmest and in an area protected from the wind.

Leave the plants outside for progressively longer increments and expose them to a bit more direct sunlight each day. By the end of the hardening-off period, the plants will be ready to stay outside as long as the evening temperatures remain above freezing.

Man pours topsoil into a wooden backyard container garden

Before planting, you should experiment with the garden layout to ensure you’ll like the end result and that the plants will have sufficient space to grow. It is also a good idea to pre-dig the planting holes to the appropriate size and place any needed amendments in the hole.

When planting, handle the plant delicately to reduce the risk of damage. In most cases, the easiest way to get a plant out of a container is to squeeze the sides of the container to loosen up the soil, place your hand on top of the container at the soil line, and flip the container upside down to encourage the plant to come out.

Place the plant in the pre-dug hole, keeping the soil line the same (except in some instances, such as transplanting tomatoes, which can be planted deeper). Fill in the hole with soil as needed and water in your plants, ensuring you use the “low and slow” method, so the water soaks further into the soil, encouraging the roots to grow deeper and more robust.

Transplanting of vegetable seedlings into black soil in the raised beds

Tips for Your Raised Bed:

  • Choose the Right Location: Select a sunny spot for your raised bed garden, ensuring it receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Adequate sunlight is crucial for plant growth and productivity.
  • Quality Soil Mix: Invest in a high-quality soil mix for your raised beds. A blend of topsoil, compost, and organic matter creates a fertile and well-draining foundation for your plants.
  • Proper Plant Spacing: Follow recommended plant spacing guidelines to prevent overcrowding. Crowded plants can lead to poor air circulation and increased susceptibility to diseases.
  • Crop Rotation: Implement a crop rotation plan to maintain soil health and reduce the risk of pests and diseases. Avoid planting the same type of crop in the same spot year after year.
  • Companion Planting: Embrace companion planting to benefit your garden. Certain plant combinations can deter pests, enhance pollination, and improve overall plant health. Explore companion planting charts to find the best pairings.
  • Watering Strategies: Water your raised bed garden consistently to keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Consider installing a drip irrigation system for efficient and precise watering.