How to

How to Transplant Seedlings Into Your Garden

Planting your own vegetables and fruits is a big task for any gardener. You’ve put so much time into caring for your seedlings, so moving them from their little pots into your garden is a significant step that takes care and patience.

Some plants do better than others by sowing the seeds directly into the ground. For those plants that need extra care, like tomatoes and peppers, you need to transplant them. Here’s how to transplant seedlings into your garden so they can continue to grow and produce a yield for your harvest.


1. Know When to Transplant

There’s no exact date for when you should transplant your seedlings. Every plant grows at a different rate. However, the general rule is that when a seedling has about four true leaves, you can plant them out in your garden. Another indicator is if you can see the roots growing out of the pot.

Earlier isn’t always better for plants. You need to ensure that there are no more frosts and that the weather stays relatively consistent. Additionally, your plants will need plenty of sunlight, so make sure that the sun is out enough during the day for your plants.



2. Prepare the Soil

Before transplanting your seedlings, you need to prepare the soil. Over the winter, the soil compacts from snow and cold weather.  Add in compost and mulch to raise the temperature so it won’t shock the seedlings.

While preparing the soil, you can harden off your seedlings. To harden them, bring them outside while they’re still in the pots, and gradually increase their outdoor exposure each day.



3. Create a Smooth Surface

You’ll want to create a smooth surface for your seedlings. Use a rake to smooth out the soil. Make sure not to walk over the soil once prepared so you don’t re-compact it.

After you create a smooth surface, make sure the soil is moist. Soil that’s too dry may damage the roots, making it harder for them to stabilise in the ground. You can soak the soil the day before transplanting.



4. Dig a Hole

dig a hole
Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

Although it may seem like an obvious step, you need to make the hole the correct size for your seedlings. When digging the hole, it should be a little bit bigger than the rootball. Make the hole about as deep as your pot as well.

This allows the roots to expand so they can grasp the soil to support the plant. The hole shouldn’t be so deep that it covers leaves, but it shouldn’t be too shallow that the roots are still exposed.



5. Place the Seedling in the Hole and Tamp It Down

Carefully remove the seedling from the pot. Do this by turning the pot upside down. While you support the plant, gently tap the bottom of the pot to release the seedling. Then, gently place it in the hole and fill the surrounding area with soil.

Once the seedling is in the hole and the hole is filled with soil, tamp it down. This ensures that the seedling remains stable and can stay in contact with the ground.



6. Water the Seedlings

watering can
Photo by David Ballew on Unsplash

Then, immediately give your newly planted seedlings a good soak. This is an essential part of transplanting your seedlings. It keeps the soil hydrated, and it eliminates air pockets.

This step also helps the roots settle and reduces the risk for transplant shock, hindering your plant’s ability to grow. Additionally, it allows nutrients to reach your plants better so they can grow tall and healthy.



7. Add Fertiliser and Spread Mulch

Finally, you can add fertilisers or compost from your compost pile and spread mulch. The fertiliser and compost promote root development and ensures that your plant gets enough nutrients.

If your climate is on the drier side when you transplant, spread mulch. This will help retain moisture, which helps to conserve water for a sustainable garden.

Continue to Protect Your Newly Transplanted Seedlings

Once all of your seedlings are in the ground, it’s up to you to protect and care for them so they can produce fruits or vegetables. If there is cold weather ahead, make plans to cover your plants. Additionally, keep the soil moist until the plants establish. From there, take care of your plants as you normally would!

Jane Marsh

Jane writes on environmental sustainability, agriculture and gardening. She also works as the Editor-in-Chief of

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