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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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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 frost-free date.

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 two fold.

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 Shield.