But it’s one of those tasks that turns out to be very simple, you just need to remember the cardinal rule: lift by the seed leaf, not the stem.
My autumn sowing of annual flowers was successful and I pushed my luck in a sowing of antirrihnums in late October, but they germinated and have produced first true leaves. Last weekend, when it was too wet and soggy to do anything else, I found myself in the greenhouse ready to do a bit of transplanting .
The boy has a new camera and I had the ‘honour’ to be his first model. The hands are mine, the photos his!
First thing is to mix up some compost; I find seedling compost too heavy so I mix MPC with JI seedling compost, some vermiculite and a sprinkle of fish, blood and bone. When that’s nicely mixed together, add to a tray – I’m using 24 plug tray (all of these have been in use for at least 10 years) – and smooth down. I use my hands, others use a piece of wood cut to size.
Next up is to remove the seedlings from their pot. The seedlings are ready to transplant when they have their first set of true leaves. Through trial and error, I find it works best to take a section of seedlings at a time rather than try to remove them all from the pot at the same time – it results in too many crush fatalities. I use a plastic plant label as a dibber, you could use an old fork or similar.
The next task is to separate the individual seedlings. There may be casualties but by holding the plant by the seed leaf (cotyledon) and using the dibber to gently wrangle the individual seedlings apart, you get this.
Now you are ready to start filling up the plus tray. Using either a finger or dibber, make a hole in the compost, larger than the seedling root ball so you are able to just drop into the hole and gently fill in with compost – don’t press down, the stem is too fragile.
When you have transplanted as many seedlings as you need and/or the tray is full, place it in a tray of water to allow to compost to soak through.
I also covered the tray with a propagator lid to protect against any frosty nights.
If you’ve done it right, your hands will look like this…
What other top tips would you share with newbies so it’s less daunting?
It’s a bit of a cheat but many seedlings you can prick out before they grow their first true leaf, just with a slightly higher casualty rate. This is useful if you didn’t sow thinly enough. Be generous with lettuce and brassicas showings as you normally get hundreds of seeds and the ones left over can be used in salads!