How To Transplant New Plants Into The Garden

Yesterday, I transplanted my beautiful pepper plants into the garden. I’m so pleased with how well they’ve grown! Hopefully they’ll like it in the raised bed.

pepper plants growing in trays
pepper plants growing in trays

When I first started gardening, I had no idea how to go about transplanting something. I was so afraid I was going to do it wrong. How do I get the plant out of the container without hurting it? Do I shake off the dirt before planting? How deep do I plant it?

There definitely are a few ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ things you can do. If you are just learning how to raise a garden, here’s what you need to know about transplanting…

Note: The best time to transplant is early morning when the sun is low, ideally when it is cloudy, so your garden plants don’t get sunscald. Late in the evening also works.

When to Transplant Seedlings

Transplanting can be a tricky business. Whether you’re moving a plant to a new location in your garden or transferring it to a pot, there are a few things you should do to ensure the success of the operation.

Generally, it is best to wait until after the last frost has passed. This will help ensure that the roots have a chance to establish themselves before hot weather sets in.

Seedlings that are transplanted too early are more likely to experience transplant shock, which can stunt their growth or even kill them.

In addition, it is important to choose a day when the weather is cool and cloudy. This will minimize stress on the seedlings and help reduce the risk of dehydration.

It’s also important to pay close attention to your individual plants. If you wait too long, your seedlings may become root-bound, which can stunt their growth.

However, if you transplant too early, your seedlings may not have enough roots to support themselves and could succumb to stress.

As a general rule of thumb, it is best to transplant when your seedlings have at least two sets of true leaves.

At this point, they should be large enough to handle without damaging the delicate leaves and stems. If you are transplanting into pots, make sure to choose a size that will give the roots room to grow.

What to Do Before Transplanting

Here are a few tips on what to do before you transplant your seedlings into the garden.

Loosen and Amend the Soil

When you are ready to transplant your seedlings, it is important to loosen and amend the soil first.

This will help the roots to spread out and establish a strong foothold in their new home. To loosen the soil, use a garden spade or tiller to aerate the ground. Then, add some organic matter, such as compost or manure.

There are many other different products that can be used to amend your soil. Perhaps the most important thing to consider is the pH level of the soil.

This can be tested with a simple pH test kit, which can be purchased at most garden stores. Once you know the pH level of your soil, you can choose amendments accordingly.

For example, if your soil is too acidic, you may want to add lime to raise the pH level. Conversely, if your soil is too alkaline, you may want to add sulfur to lower the pH level. In addition to pH levels, you also need to consider the nutrient levels in your soil.

A soil test will provide information on the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash in your soil. Based on these results, you can choose from a variety of organic and synthetic amendments to improve the quality of your soil.

This will help to improve drainage and provide essential nutrients for your plants.

Raise the Temperature of the Soil

Black plastic is an effective way to raise the temperature of the soil before transplanting. When the sun shines on the black plastic, it heats up and transfers that heat to the soil beneath it. This can be beneficial for crops that need a higher soil temperature in order to germinate, such as tomatoes and peppers.

Black plastic can also help to warm the soil earlier in the spring, allowing gardeners to get a jump start on their growing season. To use black plastic to raise the temperature of the soil, simply lay it out over the area where you would like to grow your crops.

Be sure to anchor it down so that it doesn’t blow away in the wind. Leave it in place for several weeks before planting. Once you are ready to plant, simply cut holes in the black plastic and insert your seedlings.

The seedlings will benefit from the extra warmth, and you will be able to achieve a successful harvest.

Avoid Walking on the Soil

Gardeners must take care not to compact the soil when transplanting. Avoid walking on the area where the new plants will go, and lay down some boards or other pathways to walk on if necessary.

If the soil is too compacted, it will not allow roots to penetrate, which will stunt the growth of the plant. Additionally, compacted soil does not hold moisture well, which can lead to drought stress.

Harden Off Your Plants

When you’ve been growing your plants indoors under artificial lights, it’s important to give them time to adjust to being outside in the sun and wind before you transplant them into their permanent outdoor home.

This process is called hardening off, and it helps your plants to acclimate slowly so they don’t experience shock when they’re finally transplanted.

Start by placing your plants outdoors in a shady spot for a couple of hours each day, then gradually increasing the amount of time they spend outdoors and moving them into a more sunny location.

You can do this with all kinds of plants, including vegetable seedlings, fruit trees, perennials, and more.

After a week or two, your plants should be ready to transplant!

transplanted tomato plant with white tip leaves because of shock
transplanted tomato plant with white tip leaves because of shock

Check Soil Moisture

Before transplanting your seedlings, it is important to check the soil moisture levels. If the soil is too dry, the seedlings may not be able to take root properly and could become dehydrated. On the other hand, if the soil is too wet, the roots could rot.

The best way to check soil moisture is to use a moisture meter. Such meters are readily available at garden centers or online.

To use one, simply insert the probes into the soil near the plant. The meter will then give you a reading that will tell you whether the soil is too dry, too wet, or just right.

Armed with this information, you can then decide whether or not to go ahead with transplanting your seedlings.

Create a Smooth, Level Surface

A common gardening mistake is to transplant seedlings or plants without first preparing the surface. This can result in a number of problems, including drainage issues, soil compaction, and difficulty getting the roots to establish themselves.

To avoid these problems, it is important to create a smooth, level surface before transplanting. This can be done by raking the area and removing any large stones or debris.

Once the surface is prepped, it is important to water the area thoroughly before planting. This will help to ensure that the roots have access to moisture as they begin to establish themselves.

How to Transplant: Step by Step

Ready to get started? Once you’ve done all the prepwork above, follow this guide to transplant your seedlings.

Step 1: Take the plant out from the container.

Be very careful when taking the plant out of its container. Don’t pull on the plant. Instead, use a plastic fork or something similar to gently lift the plant up and out from the bottom:

pulling out pepper plant from container with plastic fork
pulling out pepper plant from container with plastic fork

It helps to get the soil wet before removing the plant, so the dirt stays together as you lift it out.

Step 2: Carefully move the plant to the garden.

Do not shake the dirt away from the roots. Leave the root ball alone when transplanting.

If the plant seems to be root-bound, meaning it has a thick mass of roots that seem to be wrapped around itself like a ball, you can gently loosen them up by pulling the roots apart just a little before transplanting.

Step 3: Dig a hole in the soil outside

moving transplanted plant to the garden
moving transplanted plant to the garden

Dig a hole with your shovel in the new spot, just large enough to put the plant in up to its soil line. Tomatoes can be planted deeper because they will grow roots along their stem, but most other plants need to be planted just as deeply as they were in their pots.

If your soil is poor, add some compost to the hole before putting the plant in. Then fill in around the plant using good soil or compost, packing the dirt down firmly to make sure there aren’t air pockets around the roots.

Step 4: Water the transplanted plant.

Water around the newly transplanted plants. Don’t pour water directly over the plants, but just around the base:

watered transplanted pepper plant in raised bed
watered transplanted pepper plant in raised bed

Mulching around your plants will help the soil retain moisture and keep your plants from drying out too quickly. Straw and wood chips work very well.

How to Transplant Into a New Container

One of the best ways to change up the look of your home’s landscaping is to transplant some of your plants into new containers. This can give your porch or patio a whole new look for a fraction of the cost of buying new plants.

Transplanting also allows you to control the size and location of your plants more easily than if they were in the ground.

The first step in transplanting is to choose a container that is large enough to accommodate the roots of your plant. It is also important to make sure that the new pot has drainage holes to prevent the roots from sitting in water.

Once you have chosen a container, fill it with a good quality potting mix. Don’t use garden soil, as this won’t contain the nutrients and drainage your plant needs. Be sure to pack the mix tightly around the roots of the plant.

After you have transplanted your plant, water it well and place it in an area that receives indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight can scorch your transplant plants, even in the early spring.

You may need to water your plant more frequently than if it were in the ground, so be sure to check the soil regularly. With a little care, your transplanted plant should thrive in its new home.

Why Your Plants Are Wilting After Transplanting

One of the most important things to remember when transplanting plants is to water them well afterwards. This is because their root systems have been disturbed and need time to recover and re-establish themselves in the new soil.

Without adequate water, plants will start to wilt as they dehydrate. If you see that your transplanted plants are wilting, give them a good soaking with a hose or watering can and then check on them regularly over the next few days.

You can also make a sugar water solution with some water and a few teaspoons of sugar. Apply this solution to your transplants when you water and it should help them pep back up.

Caring for Your Fresh Transplants

When you put your plants in their new home, it’s important to give them the care they need to thrive in their new environment. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Water your plants immediately after transplanting. This will help them adjust to their new roots and soil.
  • Be sure to water deeply, so that the water reaches the roots of the plant.
  • Avoid fertilizing your plants for the first few weeks, as this can stress them out. Once they’ve had a chance to settle in, you can start fertilizing them according to their needs. Most plants will benefit from an organic fertilizer like compost.
  • Use row covers or shade cloth to protect your plants from temperature extremes or sudden frosts.
  • Apply a layer of mulch to help retain moisture.

Final Thoughts

That’s it! As long as you follow those basic 4 rules, your plants will be off to a great start. Do you have any transplanting advice to add?

6 thoughts on “How To Transplant New Plants Into The Garden”

  1. A great post! I’m still about 6 weeks away before I can plant out any tender plants, up here in Canada. In fact, we’re getting more snow here tomorrow!

  2. You’re so thorough and take nothing for granted when teaching. If you break the roots up a little, it stimulates the roots to grow. Most plants can take being handled, they’re not delicate. I grew one flower, can’t remember what it was, but just touching it to broke the stem. EVER SINGLE ONE OF THEM!!! lol

    I used to design the beds and grow the plants for a country club. I grew about 27,000 flowers for the golf course.

  3. Great advice and your peppers look great! I would like to add that since working in a greenhouse with a close friend of mine who taught me everything about gardening is that the seedlings are tougher than you think. They will survive quite a bit of abuse so don’t think that you will kill it/hurt it or stunt it’s growth too easily. As long as they have the room to grow, good soil, great light and enough water, your plants will continue to grow and yield much fruit/veggies. Have a wonderful day!


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