It is important for every home gardener to know when and how to re-pot their seedlings.
Every beginner gardener will at some point endeavour starting seeds indoors. Indoor seed starting will jump start your garden season. The tips in this post will give you gardening 101 to know when is the right time and what you need to know on how to pot up your seedlings.
When you start seeds indoors, the seeds nestle in the soil in an ideal climate for them to germinate. In the right conditions, the seeds sends a plant shoot to the light. This stem also produce the plants first leafs, but not the “true leaves”. The first leaves will be followed by the plant’s first “true leaves”. The plants first “true leaves” are visibly different than the first, and will look similar to the plants real leaf structures.
Seedlings establish root systems over the next few days, which can quickly fill the pot or container they are growing in. That is why you should know when and how to pot up (or repot) the seedlings, so that they can continue to grow and become strong mature plants.
Grab your notebook, and jot down these tips to know when and how to re-pot your seedlings.
When to re-pot your seedlings
Knowing when to re-pot your seedlings is very easy. Two things to look for is: true leaves and emerging root systems.
Once your seedlings has sprouted its first leaves (usually two at the start), look for when the plant to shoots up its first “true” leaves. You will know when you see true leaves, because they generally look different than the first leaves. They are called the “true leaves” because they are the plant’s very first “real” leaves. The leaves will have the same appearance as the mature plant will have, only the leaves will be much smaller. Think of them as baby leaves that will grow big leaves as the plant matures.
Another sign that it is time to pot up your seedlings is when their root systems begin to creep out. If you are using a good container, there will be drainage holes. These drainage holes can act as escape routes for the roots. The plants root system naturally grow downward as the plan matures, they follow open spaces. I use the drainage holes to gauge how dense the root system has become. When I see the root system overlapping, I know it is time for a pot up. It will become very obvious when the roots are growing out of the drainage holes around the base of the container.
How to re-pot your seedlings
Choosing the right container to repot your seedling
Start by find a larger pot or container than the one the seedlings are currently housed in. The pot should not be too much larger than the plant’s current home. You want the root system to be easily watered with a light watering, so that you need not drench the soil with water too wet the seedlings roots.
Evaluate the soil before separating the roots
In the next few steps, you will be extracting the small plant from it the soil. It is important to evaluate the soil surrounding the seedling. Do this to ensure that when you pull the seedling from the soil, the roots won’t tear from dried soil clumps. Ideally, you want your soil to be moist so that the seedlings and its roots can slip out of the soil without much effort.
How to transplant the seedling
Seedlings are tougher than we like to think. So, do not be afraid to hurt the plant, although you want to work gently.
- I loosen the soil around the seedling to soften the dirt holding the root system. Loosen more of the soil area than you think necessary, because root systems are usually farther spread than what meets the eye.
2. Once the soil is loosened, pick up a clump of soil around the seedlings. Lightly brush as much loose soil from the seedling and its root system. It is good for some soil to hold around the root systems because that keeps them in tact. Transplant extra soil around the roots with with the seedling. I like to think of it as if I’m bringing some of its former home to its new home.
3. Next, gauge the width and length of the root system. Press a similar size hole into the new pot. I use my fingers to make a hole and spin them in a circular motion to make the gap bigger.
4. Lower the seedling carefully into the hole. Feel free to stop and make the hole bigger if you need to, but it is also okay if the root system folds together. You can be guaranteed, it will find a new path downward.
5. Lightly press the soil around the base the seedling down for the new soil and root systems to make good contact with its new home.
6. Confirm good contact has been made by lightly watering the seedling in. This will marry the two soils and the seedling’s root system.
Home gardeners potting up tips
- Do not choose a pot that is too big, else your seedling will “swim” in his new house and the roots may not get adequate watering
- Water your seedling a few days prior to the pot-up, so that the soil is moist for the root system to slip out easily
- Loosen the soil around the seedling before extracting the seedling
- Transplant some of the soil with the seedling to its new home
Once you have done it a few times, your fingers will get the hang of it. Now you know when it is the right time and how to re-pot your seedlings.
You do not need to purchase any new pots or containers to pot up your seedling. You can get creative with things you would have around the house.
With that said, if you know that you will growing seedlings indoors often, then it is worth while to invest in pots of various sizes.
I invested in great quality pots and seedling trays from Bootstrap Farmer, and I am so pleased with them. They are sturdy and make starting seedlings indoor a joy.
I struggled through a few years of handmade pots from brown paper. I also used poor quality pots that broke being close up with other pots.. Let’s just say, it was a great day when I heard of Bootstrap Farmer. I am always willing to invest in something that will last. Instead of joining the masses, buying things that will very soon end in the landfill.
Watch how we re-pot our seedlings
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