The best word to describe the June temperatures this year in the Northwest is “chilly.” Because of this we have hesitated to plant our tender seedlings in the garden. It is finally time to do so, or we won’t have any garden tomatoes, peppers, squash or melons before the fall rains! So, I spent half of the day yesterday transplanting tomatoes into the ground. When I finally went back inside, I was covered from head to toe with dirt. What a glorious time I had in the garden!

After working hard in the garden don’t you love to return again the following day to look at the results of your hard work? There is a sense of satisfaction that just feels great. This morning I felt that same urge and when I strolled past the rows, I felt excited to see those healthy seedlings now in a place where they will flourish and produce.

My return visits have not always been happy however. During my first years growing a garden, I would always return warily the next day with water hose in tow out of concern for the seedlings. Amid the warm sunshine and crumbly soil, several seedlings would invariably be wilted and suffering for want of water. Recovery from the shock of being transplanted required us to provide the newly planted seedlings with special care for the first three to five days. Sadly, some didn’t survive despite all our efforts. I have since learned a technique that has eliminated these issues, and today the Midnight Gardener and I are going to share it with you, along with all the steps we follow jump-starting our transplanted seedlings.

Before transplanting, the garden bed must first be prepared. To do this, we remove any weeds, add a half inch or so of rich compost, loosen and aerate the soil with a broadfork (a potato fork takes a bit more effort but is also effective), form the bed with a rake, and finally plan the layout of the seedlings.

Additionally, you will need a few supplies:

Steps for Transplanting Seedlings and “Mudding In”

  1. Put on your gloves!
  2. Prepare the liquid fertilizer according to product instructions. (We mix two tablespoons of concentrate with a gallon of water in the empty milk jug.)
  3. For each seedling, use a trowel to make a hole in the designated location that is roughly one and a half the diameter of the seedling pot.
  4. Remove about four inches of soil from the hole, placing it to the side of the hole or in a bucket.
  5. Add one-half cup of complete organic fertilizer to the hole. Use the trowel to mix the fertilizer into the soil at the bottom of the hole, loosening and blending it down to another 4 or so inches. Smooth the soil in the hole and shape it to receive the root ball of the seedling.
  6. Without damaging the roots, loosen the seedling from the pot by pressing up on the bottom of the pot. Invert the seedling and it should separate from the pot. Gently place the seedling in the hole.
  7. Before filling the hole with soil, carefully add 2-3 cups of liquid fertilizer to the hole without washing soil from the roots.
  8. Before the water is absorbed, quickly push the soil at the side of the hole back around the roots, forming a muddy silt that completely coats the rootball. This technique is called “mudding in” and is beneficial as it reduces the potential for air pockets around the roots and it provides sufficient moisture to prevent seedling wilt during those first crucial days.
  9. Press the soil around the seedling firming it gently. Too much force will compact the mud and damage the roots. Form the soil around the plant in a way that will support the seedling and capture irrigation.

This technique will ensure your seedlings have the nutrition they need for healthy, rapid growth

Some photos – from seeds to seedlings to garden row

Seeds planted


Seedlings indoors under lights


Baby plants


Reaching their full potential in pots


Planted in the ground


Now we will be watching them grow all summer, until we are able to harvest in the fall.

What questions or comments do you have?

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