Seed Sense #8

Its week 5/6 BLF! What’s going on with your seeds and seedlings?

I’m transplanting! The Kale, Kohlrabi, Chard, and Pac Choi I started on April 6 all have 2 sets of leaves on them and are getting crowded and tangled.

I found these nifty break apart 2.5” containers in a tray of 18 at a local big store. I was going to use them for the seed talk and thought, put them to use! If you do not have any previously used smallish pots on hand or want to purchase anything new, 8oz paper or styrofoam cups will work if you poke drain holes in them. There are DIY newspaper pot instructions on line too. The 18 pots took 1/2 bag of the 12quart size Jiffy seed starting soil. Start by filling the pots with slightly moistened soil. Or dry. It is easier to push the seedlings into the pots if the soil is drier.

Carefully lift the seedlings out of the germinating tray or pots by lifting out from the bottom, scooping them up by the roots with your fingers or a non pointed tool. Separate them, do not handle the plant by the stem.

Only handle by the roots. Lay the plant on the soil surface and gently press the whole plant down into the pot by using your finger to push on the roots. Leave the green leaves at the surface. If you left your soil drier, it will be loose enough to easily press the plants down in the soil. Making an indentation or small planting hole is not necessary and will just cause more stress to the plant by trying to manage it into the hole and cover with soil. This method will get the roots down where they need to be and protect the stem of the plant by not handling it. When sorting your seedlings, try not to leave the sorted plants exposed too long. Cover them up with some soil until you can get them all transplanted. They are stressed enough from this process.


I put 3 – 4 seedlings in a pot to start. (multiples per pot in case of transplant failure and because I have a really hard time with throwing away plants even if it is a tiny seedling ). With greens like what I’m transplanting, you can do this. A plant like Tomatoes need the root space and will not grow well crowded. The same for natives like Asclepias tuberosa, Butterly weed, that has a tap root which requires room for development.

Once you’ve finished transplanting the seedlings, water them with a diluted balanced fertilizer. The soilless medium the plants are in is nutrient deficient. The seedlings are now hungry and will need more than water to sustain their growth and health.

Balanced means the NPK numbers on the fertilizer container are all the same. If you can not find anything like that, a fertilizer with a higher middle number, ( phosphorus ), will work. Just don’t use one with a higher first number. That is nitrogen which encourages green growth and you will want your plant to have blossom and root growth as the emphasis. Return your transplants to the lights. Monitor as before to keep moist, but be careful not to over water. You don’t want the newly transplanted seedlings to dry and wilt, however, moisture is not as critical as it is during the germination stage. Now light takes precedence. If you haven’t set up a fan yet, do so now. This will make your seedlings stronger, prepare them for outside winds and prevent fungal growth in the event you watered too heavily.

Timing the cooler season seeds to be transplanted now allows me to move them outside to a cold frame in a week or two and will make room for more seedlings on the growing table. The Tomatoes, Dill, Parsley and Cosmos I started on May 12 are just starting to show their first set of true leaves and will be ready to transplant at the time the other seedlings are ready for the cold frame. The cold frame is a good way to transition plants from house to hardening them off, to constant outside temps. Plus it will slow down growth until ready to plant in your garden. I have an old fold up cold frame I’ve been using for years. You can recreate one using some boards and clear plastic or old windows. There are numerous DIY ideas for cold frames on the web that utilizes items often found in your basement or garage.

I’m still not seeding in the garden yet. I did finally get compost delivered but the temps are still pretty cold for germinating seeds and the Spinach and Peas I planted April 3 still are not showing. If you haven’t planted your seeds yet, you still can. Just expect longer germination times until the soil hits a consistent 50 degrees.

What’s up next? Checking viability of seeds and why it’s important.