How To Care For Your Seedlings

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Gardening can be a little confusing, there’s so much to learn when your just starting out but it gets easier once you know some simple tips.

Don’t worry, no green thumb required.

So, you’ve planned out your growing areas? Oh you haven’t?,  ok, you better start there.

 Plan out where your gonna grow, what you want to grow as well as, plan ahead tasks you need to remember with our FREE guide to planning your first family garden.

Choose your seeds, order them in or visit the garden centre.

Now decide what your going your seeds in. We prefer recycling containers from around the house like soda bottles, loo rolls and turning used paper into paper pots to grow in. This post has a load of different ways to reuse household items to help you start your seeds.This post will also give you ideas for sowing your seeds.

But if you’ve sown your seeds what next??

Wanna Know How To Care For your Seedlings ?

This part trips a lot of people up but don’t worry it’s not hard and you don’t need a green thumb here either!

It’s Now Time To Learn How To Prick Out, Transplant And Harden Off Your Seedlings

Eh, what now?

Stay with me and we will go through it step by step.

How To Care For Your Seedlings By Pricking Them Out

This sounds a bit like an ancient torture method but ‘Pricking Out’ simply means separating out the groups of seedlings that you’ve grown in a seed tray or pot and transferring them into their own pots of compost to give them more room to grow.

Pricking out starts as soon as the seedlings are big enough to handle and the roots start to need more space.

Sow seedlings for Autumn and get a quick crop. Or grow over winter varieties for next Spring

How To Know When To Prick Out Your Seedlings

As most seedlings grow, they produce 2 oval shaped leaves which are called seed leaves. 

After the seed leaves appear, the next pair of leaves to appear are called the true leaves. When you lift your seedlings up, remember to lift using the seed leaves.

Before you begin, it’s important to water the plants this helps the roots to slide apart easier so you don’t do damage to your tiny plants.

Pricking out your seeds gives them space to grow

It’s also a good idea to prepare pots, trays or where ever your transfering your seedlings to  with good quality multipurpose compost so you can complete this process quickly so your seedlings don’t dry out.

So, How To Care For Your Seedlings By Pricking Them Out

Carefully take a stick, pencil, label or anything long and sturdy. Gently push this down the side of the pot your seedlings are in.  

Pricking out seedlings gives them room to grow

Use the stick as a lever to gently push upwards to disturb the soil and bring your plant to the surface, roots and all

‘Tease’ small sections of seedlings out of your pot, gently lay them on your worksurface while you gently separate them from each.

* Pricking Out Tip *

Try to keep as much of the original potting mix around the roots as you can. Don’t do this with the whole pot at once because the seedlings will dry out while their roots are bare.

Seedlings need room to grow to their full size and need pricking out

Make holes in the potting mix of with your new pot or tray with your stick, your finger, or something similar.

Lift each seedling carefully. The best way to do this is to take hold of the seed leaf in one hand and use your stick to support the weight from underneath as you move them into the new home you’ve made.

Never ever handle them by their new leaves, or their delicate stems as this can damage the plant and stop it growing well.

Encourge the  roots right down into the hole and gently cover the roots with a little more compost and press it down gently so the roots are in direct connection with the soil and they’re planted the same depth as in the first pot.

However, if you are planting vegetables like tomatoes, or brassicas like brussel sprouts, cabbage or broccoli, you can bury some of the stems up to the first pair of real leaves.

Seed sowing tips

Check out our complete guide to starting a family vegetable garden

This will help to encourage support new roots to form on the stem making the plant anchor in the soil better and have more roots to feed the plant with, usually resulting in stronger sturdier plants.

What to do next

Once you’ve finished pricking out the seedlings from each pot. Take some time to water the seedlings. We use a milt jug with a few holes hammered into the lid to water most of our seedlings.

If your seedling look a little deflated, don’t worry the will recover quickly now they have better soil, no competition from ther plants and water water everywhere.

Gently tease apart clumps of seedlings for potting on

Choosing Recycled Seedling Containers

In our veg garden we try to reuse and recycle as much as we can. Instead of buying in a aload of trays, pots and planters ever year, we give a new life to our rubbish. We reuse fruit containers, toilet roll tubes, paper pots and even soda bottles and tin cans and inso much more place of pots and trays. They can be reused all season and then recycled at the end. That means you don’t have to stand in the cold scrubbing.

For small plants like salad leaves we use egg cartons, and small paper pots These plants grow quickly and will be planted out in a matter of weeks. There’s no root disturbance either. Because they are in compostable paper pots the whole thing can be planted in the soil.

Recycling ideas to try in the garden

If you’ve grown in an egg carton, simple rip the segments off and plant seperately making sure to water well.

What about deep rooted seedlings

For larger seedlings we use grape containers, yogurt pots, noodle pots, crops tubes etc. These are good for a lot of seedlings. Plants like broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower grow well in these and prefer to grow individually in pots.

Pumpkin, courgettes, and sunflowers and corn will grow better in these.

Reduce plastic and sow seeds like courgette seeds

They will grow strongly in these and appreciate the longer root room of something like a noodle pot. The larger pot means you can get the plants to a larger size before planting out which helps avoid slugs and snails eating your tiny seedlings.

Some of these plants may need to be potted on a few more times before they can be planted into their final position. For this I.use cut off soda bottles and larger paper pots.

Winter gardening doesn't have to be expensive, use recycled objects like these loo roll tubes to sow seeds in.

Sometimes I eventually have to resort to large pots to keep my plants thriving but for this I reuse the same plastic pots year after year.

Some plants need a longer root space, peas and beans for these I use toilet roll tubes and soda bottles with the top 3rd cut off that we collect over the winter.

Larger seedlings are best grown on in pots rather than plugs before transplanting

Learn how to care for your seedlings is fundamental to produce healthy vegetable garden plants in your Vegetble garden.

How To Care For Your Seedlings As You Transplant Them In the Ground

Once you have raised your baby plants to the point the need to go out into the vegetable patch,  there’s a few steps to take to make sure they’re going to thrive.

Water your seedlings well!

If you’ve grown your babies indoors or in a green house, tunnel or cold frame, you need to get them used to being outdoors in all weather’s.

If you plant them straight in the cold soggy wet soil they will surely shrivel up and rot. Use the hardening off technique below

Healthy hardened off seedlings
Protect your seedlings alittle while the get used to their new surroundings before transplanting in the ground.

Crops that you’ve grown outdoors. like lettuce, onions, leeks and beetroot can go straight into the soil as soon as the ground is ready but before the plants become heavily rooted in their pot.

Getting your plants in the ground as quick as safe to do so also frees up space for the next crop.

If your not sure if the timing is right or you are unsure of the weather, plant out half your seedlings and save the rest for a week or so as a back up plan.

When is it safe to prick out?

It’s best to check that the soil is no longer cold and wet, and has reached around (8ºC).

In spring I usually wait to see the weed seedlings start to grow over the soil before I even think about planting out my seedlings.

Again our Vegetable Garden Planner can help you keep track of when to sow, plant out and even harvest using the sowing calendar and new seed sowing wheel.

I’ve also included a sheet with the first sowing dates to help you work out when is the best time to transplant outdoors. Check out the pack here.

Place plants outdoors for increasingly long periods each day to harden off

How To Care For Your Seedlings By Hardening off your plants-What?

Hardening off is a process of taking your young plants that have been grown indoors, and get them used to being outdoors.

The cells of a plant grown in an indoor environment are softer and less able to cope with outdoor conditions.

Slowly getting them used to being outdoors helps the cells ‘harden’ up so when they’re outdoor all the time they have the strength  to cope with wind, rain and the cooler temperature.

Learning how to care for your seedlings is fundamental to produce healthy vegetable garden plants in your Vegetble garden. From pricking out, hardening off and transplanting..
Click This Image To Get 10% Off From Gardening For Kids

Why not just put them straight in the soil??

If you just took the seedlings from their cosy warms windowsill and put them straight in the cold wet soil with wind and rain etc can weaken the seedlings, causing them stress to the point they can’t take up water and nutrients and become pale, limp and potentially cause them to curl up and die.

How would you feel being warm indoors when it’s snowing outdoors then having to go out in it in a t-shirt, not good.

Hardening off can take anywhere from a week to 14 days To begin, you should wait until any risk of frost is gone and water your plants well before going outdoors.

The wind and cold can sap your seedlings strength and evaporate the water before your plants can drink it up.

So, how to harden off your seedlings

Choose a day where it’s warm and mild. Find a sheltered area in the shade and place your seedlings outdoor for around an hour. After that time bring them back indoors.

Stand plants outdoors in sheltered place to harden off
Stand pots somewhere out of direct sunshine and winds to harden off and get used to the big wide world

Each day, continue this process for an hour or two longer each day for around a week. Once your seedlings are out most of the time, you can leave them out over night on a calm mild night.

If there’s a wind you can put the pots of seedlings into a box to prevent to much evaporation and damage from the wind.

You can also use a light fleece covering to give protection from too much strong sun and wind. Hold down the edge with a few pebbles of milk jugs filled with water.

Strong light from the sun is something else your young seedlings need to get used to.

There’s a lot of invisible light that plants soak up from the sun that we can’t see. It’s good for the plants in the long run but for a seedling experiencing it for the first time it’s like a new born baby sitting down to a 3 course meal.

Too much too soon.

A cloche or cold frame is helpful
A Simple cloche or canopy can give your plants a little protection from the harshness outdoors

If you have the facility, a cold frame, or cold greenhouse can really help provide a half way house to protect your seedlings if outdoor conditions aren’t quite right. You can search some protection for your seedlings here.

A good tip

If you have the space, is to grow a few more plants than you actually need so you can keep a few spares just incase.

Learning how to produce healthy vegetable garden plants in your Vegetable garden. From pricking out, hardening off, transplanting..

How To Care For Your Seedlings ByTransplanting Them

So you have;

  • Planned out your growing needs with our free planning pack,
  • Ordered in your seeds and started sowing them in your chosen containers,
  • Pricked out your fast growing seedlings from their crowded trays and given them their own pot to grow in,
  • Introduced them to the big outdoors and given them the strength to face the elements.

Anything Else You Need To Know On How To Care For Your Seedlings?

allotment crops being transplanted
Plant your seedlings in their final position allowing for their final growth size. Transplanted seedlings may need a little protection on cool nights using fleece.

All that’s left to do here is to make sure the place you want to transplant your seedling to is full of organic matter like compost, and weed free.

Using a trowel dig a hole into your chosen spot which is as deep as the plant was in the previous pot.

* Top Top *

I like to water the bottom of the hole at this point to encourage the roots to go down the way to search for water.

Pop your seedling into the hole and fill up with soil, pressing gently to ensure the plant ends up the same depth as it was in the soil.

starting an allotment plot tips
Be sure to consider the final spacings for each type of plant.

The soil shouldn’t come up the stem any further than it was before. Now simple give your plant a good water to settle the soil around its roots and your done.

For the first few weeks if you’re expecting some rotten weather, you could use a cloche or a sheet of fleece to protect your new plant until it establishes itself and makes new roots.

So, there’s our tips on How To Care For Your Seedlings.

I’d love to here what tips you have for giving your seedlings the 5* treatment so leave a comment below.

Learning how to care for your seedlings is fundamental to produce healthy vegetable garden plants from pricking out, hardening off and transplanting..
How To Grow Healthy Seedlings

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