Top Tips for Successful Transplanting

by Tusha Yakovleva

IMG_3750Transplanting, as opposed to direct sowing, gives some varieties a head-start on spring growing (and therefore spring harvesting) and in our climate, is a necessity for long-season, heat-loving plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. This gardening step is best done with care and focus, as the (literal) uprooting stresses young plants. Below is our best advice for successful transplanting: Planning: Before plants go in the ground, beds need to be prepped and a plan, however rough, should be outlined. Healthy spacing in between each plant in a row and between each row is essential for producing healthy harvests (and even more important for growing healthy seeds). Although it’s tempting to squeeze in as many plants in one bed as possible, especially if you have already grown them for weeks indoors, overcrowding will make it difficult for the plant to reach maturity and form full fruits, roots, blooms, or leaves. Tight spacing also means disease and pests have a greater chance of spreading, using the ‘green highway’ formed by plants touching one another. Plants planted too close will also compete with each other for available nutrients in the soil. So, to avoid these issue, space out your crops generously. Consider what size and shape your plant will be at its peak growth. Many charts are available for desired spacing of each crop (and seed packs include such suggestions too), but for general rules, keep in mind:

  • Vegetables harvested for roots need two inches to one foot between them. The spacing is dictated by the size of the root at harvest. A radish or carrot, for instance, doesn’t need more than a couple of inches. A rutabaga, however, is another story.
  • Leafy greens are okay with four to eight inches of space, with heading lettuces and longer growing varieties like kale, chard, and collards needing more room.
  • Larger, bushy vegetables like corn, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, or broccoli need one to two feet of space. Bush beans, however, do okay snuggled up at about six inches apart.
  • Cucurbits - viney sprawlers like cucumbers, melons, and squash need two to three feet at the least.
  • To produce more food in a small space, planting in succession is a healthy and productive alternative to overcrowding!

Planting: Once your rows are laid out and seedlings spaced, it’s time to plant. Our best transplanting tips can be condensed to five essential points:

  • Only transplant properly hardened off seedlings.
  • Transplant only on cloudy days or on late afternoons of sunny days.
  • Prepare your bed through first.
  • Transplant gently.
  • Consider the cutworm.

To read what each one means and why it’s important, see our Transplanting and Troubleshooting 101 article, which goes over every step in detail. Want to know more about transplanting? Read how we move our tomatoes and onions into their permanent homes: