The longer you’ve lived in one place, the harder it is to uproot yourself and find a new home somewhere else. This is as true for plants as it is for people. The good news is you won’t have to hire movers to carefully and successfully transplant your plants. All you’ll need is a little patience and the handy tips laid out here.
Though not always easy, gardening is the essence of what comes naturally. In a collection of seeds that will fit in one hand lies the potential for bushels of flowers and food – unlocked simply by following Mother Nature’s example. Seed propagating is an exercise in building an ideal garden from the ground up.
Why Start with Seeds?
Cuttings, bulbs, and transplants are all perfectly acceptable ways to build your garden. But seed propagation gives you some distinct advantages.
- Cost: Seeds are the least expensive option by far. Whether you’re purchasing seeds or harvesting them yourself, you can obtain seeds for dozens of plants for the same cost as you would spend on one small transplant or one market product of that plant from the store.
- Continuance: With the idea of sustainability on the rise, seed harvesting has taken off. It allows you to encourage your garden’s natural continuance from one year to the next, promoting more natural, viable biodiversity. Many communities even have organized seed swaps, so saving your garden’s seeds can allow you to reach out to other gardeners either to try something new or to share a strain you’re particularly proud of.
- Control: Pride is a big part of gardening. Growing thriving, high-yield plants provides a unique sense of satisfaction. When you are responsible for a larger part of the plant’s life, from seed on up, more credit is absolutely due. And when you tie this concept to the continuance of seed harvesting, you have even more control over how your garden will look next year, selecting the best seeds from the best fruit on the best plant.
When to Start Seeds?
Though many seeds require six to eight weeks of indoor growing before being transplanted, this will require some research. A seed packet should tell you exactly when to plant and under what conditions, but if you’re harvesting the seeds yourself, a quick online search of the specific plant or a call to your local nursery should yield the same information. For prime growth and production, be sure not to start the seeds too early or too late.
Harvesting & Storing Seeds
If you decide to collect your own seeds, do so once the plant is fully ripe but before the seedpod falls to the ground. Store the seeds in a clean container in a cool, dry environment. Envelopes make wonderful seed containers because they close easily, breathe slightly, and can be written on so that you can record the plant variety and the date they were harvested on.
Many seeds need to be presoaked a few hours before planting, either indoors or out. Immediately following the presoak, the seed should be planted. If the seed is covered in a particularly hard coat, the coat may need to be broken with a knife, sandpaper, or pliers prior to presoaking. Consult a guide or local nursery if you suspect this to be the case for your plant variety.
Outdoor vs Indoor Sowing
Though not all seeds can tolerate outdoor starting, planting outdoors can save time and money, since you need less equipment and won’t have to eventually transplant the seedling. Indoor planting, on the other hand, reduces the number of Mother Nature’s variables, like temperature and moisture; however, you can slightly reduce those obstacles with the use of cold frames. If growing indoors, seeds should be started in a combination of peat moss, sand, vermiculate, and perlite, rather than straight soil. More than sunlight, seeds need the correct amount of warmth and moisture to germinate. Once seedlings have sprouted, be sure to thin the plants out the required amount to avoid competition for nutrients and to ensure strong, productive plants.
When to Transplant
It may not be good advice to go poke a hibernating bear, but that’s the perfect time to safely move your plants. After the initial hard freeze and before new growth begins, plants effectively hibernate, or go dormant, storing their energy deep within rather than trying to produce it. Transplanting outside this dormancy window can interrupt that production cycle, distressing and eventually killing the plant. Anytime during that window, however, the plant can be safely transplanted as long as the soil is not frozen.
Disrupting the Root System
Pulling a plant from the ground is so distressing, in part, because a substantial portion of the root system can be severed when the plant is moved. Potted plants don’t have quite this same difficulty since their roots are all contained within the potted soil, so they can be transplanted any time of the year, as long as the roots are not severed when the plant is lifted out.
Removing the Plant
Like people, most plants are creatures of habit, and giving them some familiarity throughout the moving process helps orient them to their new home. Marking the plant on its north side before the move allows you to keep its orientation consistent afterward, so when the plant wakes from its dormancy, it will already be trained to daylight cycles. Dig down and around the root ball – ten inches deep is sufficient for many plants – being careful not to injure the plant. Then gently tip the plant to one side and lift it from the ground. Although many plants are easier to move if you gently remove some of the excess soil, evergreens actually recover better if you allow plenty of the soil to remain.
Making sure your plant’s new home is the right size is another key factor in successful transplanting. The new hole should be about 50 percent wider than the root system, giving the plant plenty of room to grow and spread out. However, one major mistake in unsuccessful transplants is digging too deep. In general, the root collar should not be buried more than an inch below the new soil surface; going deeper than this can deprive the roots of essential oxygen. As you add new soil around the root ball, stop periodically to lightly pack the soil, ensuring proper support that won’t easily wash away. Finally, water the plant thoroughly after filling in the hole; but if the root system is particularly large, consider adding water both when the hole is halfway filled with soil and then again once the hole has all been all filled in.
Timing Out Your Garden
Removing debris, like dead leaves and old mulch
Seed Propagation-some seedlings need several weeks of indoor care before transplanting, check seed packets to determine which to start indoors first.
April – May
Turn over new soil, blending in compost and fertilizer as you go, to make planting easier and even out the soil nutrients.
Planting Time! Depending on what you want to grow and where you live, you’ll need to start this at different times.
May – August
Making sure that your beds have plenty of mulch and your plants have plenty of water will ensure your plants continue to convert that sunlight efficiently into food and keep them from burning to a crisp.
September – October
As summer annuals start to wither, you can remove those plants past their peak, substituting them with autumn annuals like chrysanthemums and marigolds.
Now is also the time to plant bulbs that bloom in the spring, first preparing the soil with compost for extra warmth and nutrients. If there are withered and unhealthy branches on trees or shrubbery, waiting until autumn to cut them back will help avoid damaging the plant.
October – November
Be sure to cover any transplants with clean straw once they are dormant, providing them extra insulation during the cold months.
Before freezing weather sets in, be sure to empty out your hoses and bring all equipment in to extend their life. This also allows you to check each item for wear and required maintenance.
December – February
After you’ve reaped, you and your soil need a season to rest and store up energy for the next long growing season ahead.
Other than simply continuing to add to your compost pile, feel free to curl up indoors wrapped in a warm blanket while you peruse seed catalogs and dream about what you want to try your hand at next year.