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?