Hopefully you have stored your seedlings in the best possible way to ensure they are happy. Having raised a young plant from a seed, usually indoors or in a controlled environment, sooner or later the time comes to transfer your seedling to the soil. Several different factors can mean the difference between a successful planting and a failure.

Plant on an overcast day

While this may be counter-intuitive for some, transferring your seedling to the ground on a beautiful, clear day can create problems. It’s not the sunlight that harms the plant; as you may know, plants need sunlight to thrive. Instead, it’s the temperature extremes that can damage your seedling. When the day is cloudy, there’s less of a difference between the daytime and nighttime temperatures the new seedling will experience.

It may not seem like much of a difference to you, but to your young plant, that small difference can be life-threatening. Also, choose a time when the high and low temperature is closer together; the smaller the difference between the two, the better the chance that your seedling will thrive.

Protect your seedlings from the elements

While a healthy plant can withstand the wind, your seedling hasn’t had a chance to experience it before planting. Having been raised in a protected environment, your plant hasn’t “toughened up” yet. If you can’t avoid planting your seedlings on a windy day, set up some sort of windbreak to protect the plants until they can find their footing. West Coast Seeds gives a great overview on how to protect your seedlings.

Don’t let your seedlings drown

While plants need water to grow, if the ground is too wet, your seedlings can drown if planted there. An excess of water in the soil can prevent your plants from getting air to their roots and cool the soil to a level that’s too low to allow your seedlings to thrive. If the ground is soaked, wait a day or two for things to dry out before planting.

Lions and tigers and birds, oh my!

Okay, while lions and tigers may not pose a threat to your seedlings once they’re transplanted to the soil outside, birds and other pests can do serious damage to a young plant in their search for food. There are some natural ways to deter pests from your seedlings. While a more mature plant could survive the attention of these creatures with little problem, a freshly transplanted seedling needs time to establish itself without interference. Protect your plants from pests to help them survive. You could try bird netting or other methods. For some ideas click here.

Keep an eye on them

While you may be tempted by a perfect day for planting, don’t use that day to transplant seedlings to their new home outdoors if you’re not going to be able to pay attention to them for the next few days. Everything from water levels to insects can quickly bring a newly-planted seedling to the point of dying; keeping an eye on new plants is the only way to do all you can to help them grow into the plants they can be.

If you transplant your seedlings, no matter when you choose, don’t be alarmed if it takes a week or two for them to start to show growth. The shock of being moved from their cozy home into the great outdoors will most likely suffer a setback of seven to fourteen days until regular growth resumes. For more information on helping your seedlings  Grow Organic has some good tips.

For many young people, it’s a shock when they finally leave the nest and strike out on their own in the world, and plants are no exception. They need a watchful eye, a little help to get started, and most importantly, the right timing for the move to make sure they have the best chance possible to not only survive but thrive.

Jessica Meier

Jessica Meier

Garden fairy / mother of 2... also, I like to cook :)

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