What is pricking out seeds and why do you need to do it?

Following last week’s blog on the benefits of sowing your own seeds, I wanted to address the next stage for you – pricking out and transplanting seedlings.

After a seed has been sown, if they are small seeds, it is usual to prick them out into a bigger container to enable the seedling to get bigger before transplanting it. This is to let the root system establish – things like lettuce, bok choi, celery, tomatoes, chilli and the tiny plants.

When the seedling has formed four leaves, it is then strong enough to be transplanted or potted up. This can be done by preparing a deeper tray with potting mix, vermicast or compost. I generally use a mixture of vermicast and spent compost. The reason I use the spent compost is really for a bulker and I add the vermicast for food to grow the plant.

Really, the key to success here is to treat your seedlings as delicately as you can and give them a boost of nutrients prior and post transplanting, to avoid any unnecessary shock.

Top tip: Vermicast and worm wees are excellent health tonics for your plants and can really prevent any negative impacts of transplanting.

I tend to spray all my seedlings with liquid kelp and effective microorganisms when I transplant to give them a good start and also to help them with the shock of being moved.

How to transplant your seedlings

Water your seedlings half an hour before you are going to transplant them. This is done to maximise the plants growth and reduce the stress. It is the same if you buy seedlings from the garden centre. Most of them will arrive quite thirsty and transplanting a dry plant simply starts its life off under stress.

Prepare your tray and water; then make a hole with your finger and gently tease the seedlings apart, avoiding touching the roots. Plop it into the hole down to its first leaves and squeeze the soil around it. When all are transplanted, gently water the soil around them. Try to avoid wetting the leaves as they are very vulnerable at this stage and could suffer from damping off if watered above.

Now is the time to leave your seedling outside to harden off and get adjusted to your climate.

With the bigger seedlings like corn, cucumber, zucchini, beans and pumpkin, I recommend that you wait until three to four leaves have formed and then they are ready to go straight into the garden. Make sure your site is prepared and watered.

Top tip: When transplanting your seedlings be sure to know how big they grow so you can get the correct spacing, especially with the likes of zucchini that grow 1m x 1m.

When transplanting directly into the soil, make sure you plant the seedling down to its’ first leaves, as this will enable stronger roots and less stress for the plants. The deeper the better, as it will create a stronger root system for your plant when the gusty winds come along.

Once planted, mulch your plants heavily to protect from the elements and water at the base every couple of days in their first two weeks of life. Give them love and watch them grow.

Over the next few weeks on the blog, I’m excited to share my recommendations about individual plants and their growing requirements so you’re all set for a super summer!

Happy gardening!

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