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How Do I Plant Vegetable Seedlings?

By D. Grey
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are many different techniques for successfully planting vegetable seedlings. For example, growing vegetable seedlings indoors before transplanting them to an outdoor environment may offer many advantages, depending on the type of vegetable. Seedlings get a head start indoors, especially in cold locations with limited vegetable growing seasons. The plants start producing vegetables earlier when transplanted outside rather than directly planted outdoors. Seedlings may have special requirements for care, depending on the type.

Selecting the right container is the first step. There are many commercially available containers, pots, and trays marketed for growing vegetable seedlings. Paper or foam cups can also be used as long as adequate drainage is ensured. If containers are not new, it is recommended that you clean them thoroughly and apply a bleach solution to eliminate any potential plant diseases. Containers should be filled with 2 or 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) of moistened seedling mix.

Small seeds can be sown evenly in rows of eight to ten seeds per inch. The potting mix is then usually added. If individual containers are used, it is possible to add the potting mix first, then two to three seeds close to the surface. The seeds should be lightly pressed and covered with potting mix. Once seedlings emerge and have a set of true leaves, they can be carefully moved into individual containers prior to transplanting outside.

When thinning and transplanting vegetable seedlings, it is important to select healthy plants and to separate them carefully from the other plants. When examining the seedlings, note that the first two leaves are the seed leaves. If found alone, these first leaves are not an indication of maturity or health, whereas the second set of leaves, the first true leaves, signal readiness for transplanting. Seedlings should be placed in their new home carefully, so as not to damage the roots, and should be placed at an adequate depth to cover the roots. They should then be watered regularly.

Before transplanting outdoors, vegetable seedlings should be exposed to the outside environment and conditions slowly for better adjustment. A shaded and wind-protected area will help harden the plants. After a few days, they can be transplanted into the garden. A good time for this is a cloudy or otherwise not very hot day. When seedlings are small, they need more care, such as frequent watering, until they become established in their environment.

How one plants a vegetable garden is best left to individual preferences. Some vegetables, such as squash, cucumbers, or pumpkins will require more space, and flourish in uneven or hilly ground. Bed planting or row planting may also be appropriate, depending on the vegetable type and amount.

To have a successful vegetable garden, it may be a good idea to familiarize oneself with various topics, such as soil conditions and how it can effect plants, watering properly, and adequate spacing. Requirements will always differ depending on the vegetable, and many hobbyist gardeners choose to grow vegetables that will flourish in a similar environment.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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