If you’re stating plants from seed like I am, you  probably reached a crossroads this week.  At my house it’s time to transplant.   So here are the next steps in the seed starting saga:

1) All seedlings won’t be ready at the same time.  Look for a good second set of leaves. 

Ready for transplant--check out my big old finger and the "true" or second set of leaves

Not ready--these tomato seedlings my be taller, but no true tomato leaves yet.

2) Do the dirty work. Clean up some of last years’ four pack with bleach and water, then rinse.   Also clean some more small pots so you start a second round of seeds. 

Transplanting is stressful for baby plants--get them off to a clean start.

3) Working indoors or outside in SHADE, fill your rinsed four packs with moist (not soggy) potting mix.  Press to make sure there are no big air pockets.  Growers mix compresses more than you think. 

Don’t scrimp. Pour on the growers mix and press it in with your thumbs.

4) GENTLY slide your seedings out of the pot and on to their sides.  I try to slide them into the palm of my hand then carefully lay them down. 

Flex the pot in one hand and slide it into the other.  The trick is ALMOST turning it upside down with out crushing the seedlings.

The trick is ALMOST turning the pot upside down without crushing the seedlings.

 5) Now tease the seedlings apart with your fingers. keeping as much soil around the roots as you can.  Sometimes you get a big lump of soil with your roots (a good thing)–sometimes you don’t but that’s OK too. Just get as many roots as you can.

6) Make a hole in the mix with your thumb, then drop the seedlings in.

7) Close the hole with your fingers.   Then water and put your seedling back under the lights. They should really take off in a few days.  And before long it will be time to harden them off.

HARDENING OFF:  Getting your seedlings outside is another transition and transitions are tough on young plants. I like to use some covers–a mini green house with the sides pulled back and my low rent, homemade cold frame.  Both of these keep the plants out of the wind (critical) and raise temps just a few degrees.   You don’t have to have them to harden off, but it helps.  At the least, move you plants to a shady spot out of the wind and direct sunlight and gradually expose them to the elements. 

Lookin good! Baby Plants in the mini greenhouse outside my kitchen door (where I can keep an eye on them)

My homemade cold frame may look shabby, but it's helped me produce some primo plants over the years. What it does best is shade seedlings and keep them out of the wind.

 Good luck with your seedlings.  Let us know how you’re doing.  And happy, happy spring!

P.S.  Don’t forget to make new labels for each of your four packs.  Yea, you think you’ll remember what they are, but things will get mixed up later–trust me.  Take the time now and take this extra step.