Time to Transplant

Last night, I was surprised to see that a few of my seedlings were ready to be transplanted from their tiny germination cells to larger containers – in just a little over two weeks. What an exciting moment! I whipped out my supplies, ready to help my “babies” graduate from the nursery to a big plant cup.

I purchased 16 oz clear plastic cups to use as the interim home for my seedlings – a larger container to grow in while waiting to be transplanted into the garden after the last frost. The cups are clear, letting light in from the side and allowing me to see moisture levels when I water. I can also write on them with a Sharpie pen, identifying the plant inside. I tried the biodegradable pots you can purchase in garden centers, but they get soggy with frequent watering and they’re more expensive than the cups.

A seedling is ready to be moved into a larger container when it grows its first set of secondary leaves (which are the first true leaves). Here are pictures one of the tomatoes and one of the peppers I transplanted last night:

Riesentraube tomato with secondary leaves

Riesentraube tomato with secondary leaves

Fish peppers with secondary leaves

I first added to the cup some potting soil made specifically for seedlings. For the tomato, which is rather leggy, I filled the cup about a quarter of the way – so I’d have room to bury the long stem. For the pepper, I filled the cup about halfway. Then I used a black Sharpie pen to write on the cup the name/variety of the seedling.

To scoop out the plant, I used two wide, wooden craft sticks (the ones that look like tongue depressers). I made sure I grabbed the entire cell’s worth of soil – so that the roots would be protected – and gently transferred the seedling to the cup.


Tomato transplant in process

Tomato transplant in process

I then filled the cup to just below the leaf line and watered well.

Tomato seedling transplanted

Tomato seedling transplanted

As you can see, the long, leggy stem is now totally buried. Tomato stems, once buried, will become roots; so don’t worry about your leggy tomato seedlings. Just bury them, and you’ll have a strong root structure before transplanting them outside.

So far, I’ve transplanted three tomatoes, two peppers, and two artichokes. Although the artichokes didn’t have their secondary leaves yet, the seedlings were so large they were no longer thriving in the small cells. When I lifted them out of the cell to transplant them, I saw a root about 8 or 9 inches long wrapped around the cell! No wonder they were lilting!

With seven transplants under my grow lights now, I’m expecting more to graduate every day.

They grow so fast, don’t they?

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