Whether to Plant or Transplant
"To plant or to transplant—that is the question!
It is far better to have planted and failed than to have never
planted at all."
This is a quote from some "seedy" (bad pun!) gardener
of olden days that is still applicable for growers in the 20th
century. Every spring many gardeners become confused about whether
a vegetable crop should be planted from seed or transplanted.
Using transplants insure a reliable plant population and will
usually produce earlier than crops planted from seed. The main
disadvantage of transplants is cost per plant.
Because of the cost involved, only certain vegetable crops
should be transplanted. Whether or not a crop should be transplanted
or seeded directly into the garden depends on (1) cost of seed
(2) plant population needed (3) earliness of crop maturity desired
and (4) convenience.
Vegetables that should always be transplanted in the spring
include eggplant, onions, pepper, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
All other vegetables should be seeded directly into the garden
area and are not economically transplanted. Timing and the variety
selected will determine the success or failure of directly seeded
crops, as well as of transplanted vegetables.
Beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, chard, collards, kohlrabi,
lettuce, onion plants, parsley, potatoes, sugar snap peas, radishes,
spinach and turnips should be planted as soon as possible. Even
though the soil temperature is still cold (below 70 degrees
F.), these cold weather champions will thrive. Mother Nature
is smart. She has created certain vegetables that will tolerate
frosts. Luckily, she has coupled this frost tolerance with the
ability to germinate and grow in cold soils. The vegetables
which are considered very hardy and that can be planted 4 to
6 weeks before the frost?free date are broccoli, carrots, cauliflower,
collards, kohlrabi, lettuce, onion plants, potatoes, sugar snap
peas, radishes, spinach and turnips. Seeds of these vegetables
germinate and grow at an optimum rate in soil temperatures of
45 degrees F.
Vegetables that are considered hardy, but not as hardy as
those previously mentioned, are beets, Swiss chard, mustard,
parsnip and parsley. These vegetables enjoy soil temperatures
of 50 degrees F. and should be planted 2 to 4 weeks before the
Snap beans, okra, New Zealand spinach, squash, sweet corn
and tomatoes are not cold hardy and should be planted on or
after the predicted frost-free date. Certain crops such as lima
beans, eggplant, peppers, sweet potatoes, cucumbers and melons
require hot weather and should only be planted a week or more
after the frost?free date. Seeds of these cold susceptible crops
also require a soil temperature of 70 degrees F. and above before
optimum seed germination will occur. Brussels Sprouts and garlic
should not be planted or transplanted in the spring.
Success in seeding vegetable crops depends on several factors
such as seed vigor, soil moisture, planting technique and soil
fertility. New, viable seed should be used to insure a good
plant population. Seeds need to absorb moisture before growth
can begin. In order to insure adequate soil moisture during
periods of dry weather, water prior to planting seed. When planting,
be careful not to cover the seed with too much soil. Generally
a seed is planted 2-1/2 times as deep as it is wide so large
seed such as beans, corn, cantaloupe, okra, peas, pumpkin, squash
and watermelon can be planted two inches deep. Smaller seed
of broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, lettuce, mustard, parsley,
radishes, spinach and turnips are planted only 1/4 inch deep
by gently raking seeds into the soil. Soil fertility, and especially
the availability of phosphorus, is very important. The use of
high phosphorus, starter solutions and/or placing a line of
super phosphate fertilizer (one tablespoon per linear foot or
row) one inch below planted seeds have increased vegetable yields
Producing Larger Transplants
To Insure Vegetable-Growing Success
In Adverse Growing Seasons
Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. I can't
do anything about taxes but I can certainly help with the death
situation, especially when it involves plant-death.
More plants are killed in the spring than any other time of
the year. Gardeners with good intentions buy seed with the fanciful
idea of growing their own transplants. However, the basic ingredient
for success is always omitted. The ingredient is sunlight and
a lot of it. For optimum growth, transplants need a full sun
situation (at least 8 hours of sun daily). Most novice growers
use a sunny window that receives, maybe, 4 hours of sun daily.
Then gardeners wonder why plants resemble the stringy sprouts
used in Chinese food rather than being stocky transplants. Remember
that transplants produced commercially are grown in a greenhouse
where they receive exposure to sunlight all day long.
Once you realize the hardships of producing your own transplants,
you may want to buy a commercially grown transplant. Purchase
good transplants of varieties recommended by the county Extension
service. Soils should NEVER be worked when too wet or you will
create dirt clods you can grow old with. Yet transplants of
tomatoes, peppers and eggplants should be established now so
that they can be blooming profusely when the optimum fruit setting
conditions occur. So, how can you grow plants when your garden
is not ready to plant? Buy plants with the intention of producing
bi-transplants. A bi-transplant is a regular transplant that
will be planted twice instead of once). Purchase transplants
with the idea of planting them in pots instead of the soil.
A plant in a pot has the distinct advantage of being portable.
This means that you can react when the weather forecaster says
the low temperature will be 35 degrees F. You know from experience
that the actual temperature will more than likely be either
25 degrees or 45 degrees so now you can move your portable plant
into a protected location. If the colder temperature occurs,
you and your plants can sit by the fire while those who transplanted
directly into the garden too early are soiling every blanket
in the house and suffering frostbite on their bent-over backs
while attempting to protect exposed plants. Even if they succeed,
the effort will not prevent the growth-retarding effects of
cold soil and abusive treatment.
The potted plant will be expanding its root system at a faster
rate than those in the soil because the potting soil will be
warmer and more porous. Never use garden soil in a container.
Instead, purchase a well-draining potting mix. Since the mix
contains no fertilizer elements, mix in the right amounts of
slow-release fertilizer pellets such as Osmocote before planting
in a gallon-size container. Add a water-soluble fertilizer to
the water each time the plants are moistened. DO NOT OVERWATER,
or you will kill these precious transplants. Keep the plants
in full sunlight situation to avoid stretching or spindly growth.
Transplanting of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants can safely
occur in mid- to late-March or whenever the soil dries. REMEMBER:
Protect potted transplants from virus-spreading insects and
wind damage by covering with Grow?Web, Plant Guard or Plant