A Pot To Call My Own

It seems like only yesterday that I planted these Geraniums, the first of this year’s seeds to be started early — and here they are, all grown up and ready to be moved into individual pots.  The truth is I am always caught off guard each year.  I know this day has to come – and then all at once, all of the sprouts have their first set of true leaves, an indication that I’ve got a lot of transplanting to do. 

Step 1:  I moisten a batch of seed starting mix, which is a little lighter and airier than potting soil and so roots do not have to work as hard to develop and grow.  Keeping the mixture moist not only creates a damp environment for the transplant, but it also keeps down the dust factor for your lungs.  I then fill the cell packs with the mixture.  Using a pencil or the tongue depressor plant label, I make some room for the transplant, deep enough so the roots can grow downward.

Step 2: I then ease the seedling from it’s starting pot.  This can be a little tricky.  I use the plant label as a shovel to help bring out the seedling.  In a starting pot that is more densely packed, I usually unpot the whole thing, resting the potless soil and seedlings on the potting bench.  I am then able to pry out each individual seedling, working from the perimeter to the middle, without disurbing the roots of the neighboring plants.

Step 3: At this stage, be very careful in how you handle the seedling.  I do not hold the plant by its stem or by the first set of true leaves.  Everything is still a little delicate — kind of like the soft spot on a baby’s head — and I wouldn’t want to crush any of  the developing plant cells.  Instead, the only thing I handle are the cotyledon leaves, the “baby leaves,” since these will eventually die as the plant continues to grow.

Step 4: With my plant label “tool,” I place the seedling into it’s new pot.  My goal is to help the roots into the hole’s depth, rather than bunching up near the surface.  I think this helps the overall health of the plant, especially as it continues to mature and is ultimately planted in the garden.  Deeper root development helps to prevent the plant from drying out in arid conditions.

Step 5:  Finally, I place the pot in a tray of water for bottom watering.  At this stage, I do not want to compact the soil mixture too much with watering from above, since that would hinder healthy root development.


Now that the Geraniums are transplanted, all I have left are Amaranth, Impatiens, Salvia, Candytuft . . . Hmmmm . . . Do you suppose this is why Joe scratches his head in disbelief each year? 

18 thoughts on “A Pot To Call My Own

  1. how sweetly delicate a transplanting! Lucky geraniums! Well written with detail and explanation, so informative ….( um, maybe step 3 has a few words missing at very end of step?)..thanks for a great blog again….

    • Lilith, glad you enjoyed the post. If truth be told, starting seeds and nurturing them along is my favorite part of gardening. Hope all is well in your part of the world.

  2. I wouldn’t even think to grow geraniums from seed, but you make it look almost effortless! I think this would be a very rewarding growing project! My veggie seeds are all popping up and looking good! I also planted a few flowers…you have inspired me! I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do next! Debra

    • If you have a source of warmth, then Geranium seeds are easy. They’re large enough to handle — but they must be started about 10 weeks prior to your last frost date.

  3. Very well written tutorial and very delicate handling of tender sprouts. Great pictorial guide as well. Folks often don’t realize how fragile tiny seedlings are and the need for gentle hands. My winter sown sprouts (40+ milk jugs so far) are still too small for transplanting–I’ve only seen cotyledons up to this point but it won’t be long before I’m filling pots with potting soil for their graduation.

  4. I made the ‘stoopid’ mistake of stuffing way too may antirrhinum seeds in pots & it almost killed me having to pot them up…grrr. That said…there is HUGE satisfaction when the little dears are still alive the following day despite the rough handling.
    I’ve put Candytuft & Calendular (my favs) straight in to the garden this year. I just have to hope Mr TG doesn’t stomp on them or think they’re weeds…I feel a ‘complete garden ban’ coming on….
    Keep up the good work Kevin & can’t wait to see them in bloom x

    • I know that “grrrrr” feeling very, very well. In fact, there will be a time this year, because there is a time every year, when I will become absolutely delirious with the overwhelming amount of plants to get in the ground. In the long run, it’s worth it — but getting there can be maddening. Good luck on that all-out garden ban. 🙂

  5. Your geraniums are doing wonderful Kevin. Mine are yellowing a little for some reason. I hope they are not damping off. Are you starting any vegetables? I do a few little containers of tomatoes, green peppers and cucumbers and that is all I plant any more. I have got to get those seeds started. Have a wonderful weekend.

    • It’s definitely a little unnerving when the seedlings don’t do so well. Hopefully, you’ll be able to salvage them. As for vegetables, I avoid them. I always feel that when I have grown them, I have nothing all summer long — and then boom, everything ripens all at once. Someday. . . 🙂

  6. Your geraniums are lovely. I like that you can already see the colour on their leaves. I remember you saying they were easy to germinate and now I see easy to transplant as well.

    • I do find them very easy. The seeds are easy to handle, and when it’s time to plant them in their own pot, they are easy to handle. Hopefully, you’ll be able to give them a try.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the tutorial. If truth be told, planting the seeds and transplanting are my favorite part of gardening. I go out into the shed, turn on some music, and I’m in my own little world — far away from the daily stresses. The nerve-wracking time will come when I have to plant everything outside.

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