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Transplanting Seedlings into the Garden

May 11, 2020
Written by Aaron

By now, if you've been caring diligently for your seedlings, they're likely bursting out of your starter trays or pots! You've watched them grow up, and now it's time for them to graduate into the garden. But you may be wondering how to take the next steps. How do I transplant, and when? Answering these questions is key to success at this pivotal moment. 

Transplanting Overview 

Transplant timing hinges upon our last frost date, which is May 19 in Simcoe. Frost-hardy veggies can be transplanted before then, but tender plants should wait a little longer. Sometimes seedlings can outgrow their trays before their graduation time. Don't worry, that means they're growing well! The solution is simply to move them into a bigger pot.   

How to Repot

Your young ones are ready for a larger home when their roots have filled their containers and their leaves are crowding out their neighbours. The new pot should be twice as large as the old one. 

Begin by watering the seedlings. The damp soil will adhere to the roots and keep them from drying out. Don't tug on the stems. Instead, use a butter knife to carefully lift them from the container or squeeze them out from the base. If a few are intertwined, gently tease them apart. With a pencil or your finger, dig a hole into their new pot or plug tray. Place the seedling, firm the soil around it, and water them all once you finish. The roomier pot will give them a chance to stretch their legs before their big move.  


When to Transplant into the Garden

Historic weather averages tell us when to take the next step. Often, we need to adapt to unusual weather or unique conditions each year, but here is a general guide for our climate.  

April 15 - 25
Frost hardy: asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, lettuce, onions, radishes, peas, spinach, parsnips, early potatoes.

April 25 - May 10
Semi-frost hardy: beets, carrots, cauliflower, celery, late potatoes, early sweet corn.  

May 15 - 25
Semi-frost tender: snap beans, sweet corn, tomatoes. 

May 25 - June 5
Frost tender: cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, pumpkins, squash. 

Hardening Off 

You can gradually expose seedlings to the outdoors in the week ahead of their move. While not absolutely necessary, your veggies, especially the tender crops like tomatoes, will be strengthened by the gradual transition. 

Begin by setting them in a shady spot away from the wind for a few hours each day. Slowly increase their exposure to sunlight and breeze until they spend a whole day and night outside. Make sure to keep them well-watered, as their small pots can quickly desiccate. When the time comes to graduate, they'll be ready to brave the elements. 

How to Transplant into the Garden

Follow these steps for transplanting success:

  1. First, make sure you've loosened and enriched the soil with compost or another organic fertilizer. 
  2. Choose a warm overcast day and plant in the morning or evening. 
  3. Water the seedlings to hydrate their roots. 
  4. Determine the correct garden spacing in advance. 
  5. Gently squeeze the tray around each plug to remove them. Only remove each seedling just before moving to minimize the roots' exposure to air.
  6. Using a trowel or your fingers, make a hole and drop the seedling into it, firming up the soil around it as you plant. Leggier seedlings can be planted a little deeper as long as you don't bury the first leaves. 
  7. Water the newly planted area immediately after finishing.   
  8. They will likely need to be watered daily for a few weeks afterwards. Check the soil moisture and water as needed to prevent them from drying out.  


There are a few more tricks for particular plants like tomatoes and cucumbers. But in general, these are the basics for transitioning your veggies into the ground. If you haven't started your seedlings, check out our selection of starter plants in our online catalogue. If you need more advice, our garden centre would be happy to share more tips for success!

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