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Planting seedlings

Article by: Ted Rosen  |  Picture by: Ted Rosen
Planting seedlings
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Your indoor seedlings must first be acclimated for about ten days to the outdoors, a process called 'hardening off'. This article lays out the transplanting process step by step, and shows you how to provide extra support for tender seedlings until they stand sturdily on their own.

'Hardening off' seedlings
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If you move seedlings from indoors directly to outdoors without acclimating them, they will go into shock. The acclimation process, called 'hardening off', takes about ten days. For the first 3 or 4 days, put the seedlings outside during the day in a cool, shaded area and bring them back inside by evening. On the 5th day, expose the seedlings to an hour or two of sunlight each day gradually increasing their exposure to direct sun. On the 7th day leave them outside overnight unless there is danger of frost. Pay attention to moisture levels, since the pots can dry out quickly. After 10 days of hardening off, your seedlings will be ready for transplanting in your garden.
Dogs and seedlings do not mix
When hardening off your seedlings outdoors, be sure they are out of reach of dogs, cats or curious toddlers.
Preparing the soil
Before planting your seedlings, make sure you prepare your soil. Soil should be loose and dry or moderately moist. Do not plant in wet soil, it will compact and harden like concrete.
Planting steps
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1. Gingerly grasp the seedling by its stem.
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2. Gently turn over the pot and squeeze the sides to encourage the seedling to drop out. If you use peat pots ignore this step.
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3. Remove the pot.
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4. Dig a hole one and half times deeper than pot.
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5. Place the seedling in the hole so that the top of the root ball is slightly below ground level.
Using peat containers
If you are using a biodegradable peat container, be sure the top edge of the container is entirely buried. Or, tear off any edges protruding from the soil, otherwise it will dry out and not disintegrate keeping surface water away from the plant.
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6. Cover with soil and use your hands to compress the soil around the stem.
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7. Water the seedling, using the low, soft flow for the initial watering. Allow the water to soak in and water again. If it does not rain you will need to water daily for about two weeks as the transplant becomes established. In very sunny weather, you might need to water twice a day for the first 3 to 5 days.
Support tender seedlings
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1. Some seedlings need a little extra support after transplanting until they stand sturdily on their own. Wooden skewers and cotton string work best. First, insert a support stick.
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2. Use a loose figure-eight tie to connect the stick to the stem.
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3. Cross the string over itself between stick and stem and tie a knot.
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4. Tie a second knot.
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5. Tighten the double knot without squeezing the tender stem.
Avoid planting on a sunny day
Try to plant on a cloudy day ideally before rain, or in the evening or early morning to give your seedling more time to acclimate to its new setting before the first shock of bright sun.
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