Thilaka Baskaran guides greenhorns on the art of transferring seedlings from tray to earth
A common question from the beginner is: “How do I know my seedlings are ready for transplant?” If you transplant them before they are ready, they may not survive. On the other hand, if you wait too long, they may get pot-bound. When the seedling emerges, the first two leaves to appear are the cotyledons. These provide food for the seedling in the initial period. True leaves come shortly after. The rule of thumb is when the seedling sports three to four true leaves, it is ready for transplant.
If you are transplanting the seedlings onto the ground and not into a pot, it is better to keep the seedling tray near that spot a couple of days earlier to get them hardened (The process by which a young plant gets used to the outside environment is called hardening). Keep the garden soil moist by watering a couple of hours prior to transplanting. Before you start, keep the required equipment, such as a hand shovel, garden gloves, a small fork and water can, handy. Ensure the seedlings are watered well prior to the transplant. If the seedlings have to be planted in rows, run a line of string between two stakes and mark the planting intervals.
The distance between the plants and between the rows should provide adequate space for mature plants to grow.
Evening is the time for the actual transplanting so that the first few hours are cool. Dig holes where the plant has to go and throw in some cocopeat and vermicompost. Carefully remove the seedling from the container and ease it into these holes, taking care not to pull it by the leaves or the stem. A damaged leaf may grow but if the stem is crushed, the seedling may die. As you ease the plant out, keep the root ball intact along with some of mother soil. This gives the plant a good start and acts as a buffer against transplant shock. Once you have placed the plant in the hole, pat down the soil firmly and form a shallow basin around the base.Water generously. Young transplants may need some protection from harsh sunshine. If shading is not possible, spray a little water frequently the first few days. Don't be alarmed if your plants look droopy the next day. They will soon recover. Check the plant daily for any trouble. As for pests, they can be removed easily if detected early.