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Planting time has arrived, and the seedlings you grew so carefully
inside, then hardened off gradually outside, are ready to go into the
field or garden. Your goal is to keep them growing rapidly through the
transition. That entails avoiding transplant shock, providing the right
kind of fertilization, and having irrigation set up so you can water
from Day 1.
The phrase "transplant shock" refers to the setback
in growth that plants experience when moving from one environment to
another or from having their roots damaged by a move. Transplant shock
happens to all plants, but most vegetables are able to recover quickly
if handled carefully. Here are some strategies for minimizing transplant
shock in your seedlings:
- Transplant when your plants are
the appropriate size. They should be planted out when they have enough
roots to hold the root ball together so they come out of the plug flat
easily, but before the roots start to circle or emerge from the bottom
of the cell. Old transplants may have reached a reproductive rather than
vegetative stage of growth, evidenced by flowering in the cell tray.
They will produce earlier, but overall yield will be reduced. Getting
them into the ground (if weather permits) before they flower will allow
the roots to resume growth and keep them growing vegetatively for a
while longer, resulting in stronger plants and better performance all
- Water plants thoroughly before taking them to the field.
Don't let them dry out during planting! Keep the trays in the shade
until you need them.
- Make planting holes, drop in the
seedlings, and cover them up as quickly as possible to minimize the time
the roots are exposed to air. The general rule is to cover the top of
the root ball, to prevent the lighter growing medium around the roots
from drying out. If your plants are in peat pots, be sure the top rim of
the pot is covered with field soil to prevent the pot from wicking
water away from the roots. As with any general rule, there are
exceptions. For nightshade crops (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) the root
ball can be buried a little deeper. These plants have the ability to
develop adventitious roots from the stem, and by planting them slightly
deeper this root formation is stimulated. The roots help to anchor the
plant and prevent it from lodging (falling over due to the weight of the
fruit). Conversely, lettuce and chicories (endive, escarole, and
radicchio) are better planted so the top of the root ball is above the
surrounding soil surface. This allows for better air circulation
resulting in a reduced likelihood of bottom rot.
- Water the
plants, either by hand or by running irrigation right away. Even if the
soil is moist, transplants should still be watered in to settle them
into their holes and increase the root-to-soil contact.
- Add a
dilute water-soluble fertilizer to the watering-in solution. Do not use
high-nitrogen fertilizers because they can burn the roots. A dilute,
high-phosphorous fertilizer is preferable at transplant. We recommend Neptune's
Harvest Fish Fertilizer (2-4-1), which is approved for
certified-organic farms, or SeaCom
PGR Seaweed Concentrate (0-4-4).
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from JSS Advantage May 2010