I was out in the garden yesterday doing a little cleanup in preparation for planting, along with pruning a few of my raspberry bushes, and oh…it felt so right. My head phones were fixed firmly over my ears as I sang along with Chris Collins, I imagine, a touch bit too loudly. As the warm sun beat down on my back, I was lost in happiness in my own little world.
Everything about this time of year gets me excited. For starters, I get to play in the dirt to my heart’s content, and while it can be back breaking, you won’t hear me complain.
I find there is something magnificent about working with the soil; nurturing, tending and watching things grow. It centers me, and brings me to the core of things. I experience a stillness of soul, and recognize I am part of a larger and greater picture. I can’t help but feel closer to God during these times. Maybe that’s why I love it so much.
How to Pot Up Seedlings
This is the third installment of starting plants indoors. If you need a bit of a refresher or are just beginning, be sure to check out How to Start Seeds Indoors before you start, and How to Care For Your Seedlings: Four Essential Elements for Healthy Growth for tips on the care of your seedlings. Both are important foundations for starting plants indoors.
If you started with a soiless mix, as I suggested, the only nutrients your little seedlings receive are from the endosperm of the planted seed. Once the seedling begins to develop true leaves, nutrients from the endosperm are just about used up. At this stage, seedlings will need to be potted up, or a supplemental fertilizer will need to be given. A balanced fertilizer high in nitrogen and potassium should be applied at quarter strength to meet the necessary requirements your seedlings will need for healthy plant and root growth. Using a diluted fertilizer also helps to prevent burning your delicate seedlings. I typically sow seeds a little more densely to begin with, therefore I prefer potting up my seedlings to give them plenty of room for their roots to grow.
3 inch Biodegradable pots – If you time your seed starting correctly, it will only be necessary to pot up once. I use 3″ x 3″ biodegradable pots. By the time my plants near outgrowing these pots, it will be time to plant out.
Potting soil – There are many varieties of potting soil to choose from at the local garden shop . In my experience they are all pretty similar, so choose what works best for your ideals and budget . I use Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix. Keep in mind more expensive doesn’t always equate to better results.
Working with soil can get pretty messy, so choose your work area with this in mind. I cover the area with an old cloth or piece of plastic: making spills less of a headache for clean up. A large basin or large tray works great for catching excess soil when separating your seedlings.
It is important to start with well watered plants prior to transplanting. Dry, brittle soil can cause excess stress and damage to roots.
Fill new pots half full with potting soil and push to the sides of pot leaving a large indentation in the middle.
Gently remove seedling from current container in one of two ways.
Method 1. Place a finger on either side of the stem of your seedling, being careful to hold the soil and not the stem, invert container and gently squeeze sides of the cell to release the root ball and plant into your hand. Taking care not to grab the plant by its stem, turn plant and root ball right side up.
Method 2. Take the end of a small spoon and gently slide it down the inside of seedling container and lightly pry up soil with root ball and plant as one unit.
Once the seedling and root ball has been extracted from the container and, if there is more than one plant, gently tease the seedling apart, being careful to only hold on by the plants leaves and not by the delicate stem. Leaves will grow back, but if the stem is injured the plant will not survive.
Place the seedling in a container where an indentation was created and fill in around the plant with additional potting mix, holding the plant in place gently by its’ leaves until firmly secured with additional soil. Tap container to help settle the soil and add more potting mix if necessary. Water the soil. To decrease chance of shock, keep seedlings out of direct light for the remainder of the day. Return to lighting schedule as normal, the following day.