Transplant Shock

emgardenerMay 4, 2011

Looking for a good conversation and knowledge about transplant shock.

This year I have several vegetable containers with different types of mixes for comparison:

A. Freshly collected composted leaf mulch.

B. Old leaf mulch from last years containers, mixed 50:50 with uncomposted dry leaves.

C. Composted bark fines & turface

In mixes B & C the pepper & eggplant transplants wilt a lot in the sun & heat. Upper 70s with 4 hours of direct sunlight. I water a little every day and check the mix around the plants. Lack of water isn't a problem. Neither is over-fertilization (did fertilize sparingly)

In mix 1, the plants don't wilt. Mix 1 is very "peat-like".

Also the leftover transplants still in the plastic 6-pack from the nursery, do not wilt at all (and are kept well watered).

I have 2 speculations on why:

Speculation 1:

In the peat like mix, the roots form better connections from the transplant mix (peat & perlite) to the container mix. Whereas in the other 2 are faster draining mixes and the boundary between the transplant mix and container mix has more "air pockets" so the roots don't connect as well yet. However the transplant mix is kept wet, so I'm not sure this is a good explanation on the difference.

Speculation 2:

There is something in the composted leaf mulch (taken directly off the ground under a pine tree) that helps the plant overcome transplant shock? Mycelium (sp?) or something?

What has been other people's experience with transplant shock in containers?

Any scientific explanations/studies of what causes transplant shock?

Any new insights on how to reduce it beyond the normal shading and keep watered routine?

Thanks for any responses.

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What has been other people's experience with transplant shock in containers?

Any scientific explanations/studies of what causes transplant shock?

These two I can answer for you.

B-1 (kelp) will help with that and to help the plant stay healthy. Even "Super-Thrive" works but I dont ust it. I use cold pressed kelp.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 9:49PM
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Personally, I find the more durable, inorganic mediums to be better overall for containerized growing... mainly because it's next to impossible to duplicate and maintain the balance of exact conditions found in a garden environment. I save the organic methods for the garden, and I go with a more inorganic approach where the confines of a container are concerned.

With that said, I've found that reducing transplant shock is as easy as ensuring that the newly potted plant is kept warm and protected from any winds and direct sun... until such time as the plant perks up and shows signs of new growth, which indicates new root growth.

I've also found that products such as Superthrive are basically snake oil. While they may provide a little something if the roots are soaked in it for a bit prior to planting, I haven't found any significant differences between plants that have been soaked, and plants that have not.

In watching different people re-pot plants, or pot up plants, it appears to me that one mistake made quite often, besides using a soil that's too fine and heavy, is tamping down the medium too much when potting, thereby collapsing needed air pockets.

When I re-pot or pot up a plant, I first place a bit of medium in the pot to cover the drainage holes, then I suspend the plant at the level I want it to sit. I then add soil, making sure there are no large spaces under or around the roots. I try to leave a lip for watering, of about a half inch, or so... though this isn't necessary when using something like the Gritty Mix... and then I gently tap the side of the pot to settle the soil. I then water it in, making sure I see effluent escape the drainage holes.

Post potting, I find a protected location where the soil will be warm and the plant isn't sitting in direct sun or where wind can inflict damage. I ensure the soil doesn't dry out, checking the plant often to see how it's doing.

My success rate for re-potting and potting up is excellent. Very few plants require more coddling than I mention above, and very few show overt signs of transplant shock. The one thing we have no control over is the genetic strength or weakness of an individual plant, so sometimes, the weaker members of a species simply won't survive the stress of transplanting, regardless of what we do. It can't be helped.

Keeping the environment the newly potted plant is in at a decent humidity rate also helps lessen any issues.

These have been my observations of transplanting, potting, and soil use. I hope something I've written is helpful to others, or at least gives pause for more thought on the issues.

Happy Gardening!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 10:47AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Some info from Linda Chalker-Scott about vitamin B-1 and transplant shock. She has another article that hits hard in the dame fashion against Superthrive as well.

Transplant shock occurs as a result of the plants inability to reorganize quickly and adjust to the stress of being moved from one environment to another. It takes some time for chemical messengers to circulate within the plant and cue the plant to fix what's broken. For example, trees recently root pruned might sulk for 1-3 weeks before the chemical messengers/growth regulators that 'tell'/stimulate the plant to replace lost rootage return to levels that no longer inhibit top growth.

Transplant shock is simply the state the plant enters while it reorganizes it's systems and adapts to it's new surroundings. Mother nature gave plants roots so they would remain stable & in the same place for life, but to serve our purposes, we think it better to trump Mother Nature's work, with some consequence. ;-)

Reduce 'transplant shock' by making the plant's new home as culturally favorable as possible and by making sure the plant's energy reserves are abundant when you transplant.


Here is a link that might be useful: More on B-1 & 't-shock'

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 11:11AM
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Again I use a full line of synthetic fertilizer but I do use cold pressed kelp to spray on leaves.

I typed in B-1 in search engine and the 2nd thing down said this....

"B1 can assist at any time in a plant's life with root regeneration where the root system has been damaged or stressed through high salinity, pathogens such as pythium, nutrient deficiencies and toxicities, high fruit loading etc but only if the foliage of the plant is unable to produce sufficient supplies for this purpose. Use of B1 is seen as a 'back up' or 'insurance policy' as it is difficult to determine if a plant which has come under stress is capable of producing sufficient B1 to send down to the root system to assist in cell development. Use of Vitamin B1 in plants is the same as in humans - it is most useful where a deficiency exists for some reason. B1 is best applied as a seed soak to speed up germination (root growth), or as a foliar spray."

But then I looked some more and sure enough I found.

"Some "root stimulator" products contain a rooting hormone and fertilizer along with vitamin B1. These materials may increase rooting and growth, not the vitamin B1."

You learn somthing new everyday :)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 3:05PM
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I can't recall the source, but I ran into information not long ago indicating that root toners can actually be detrimental to helping new root growth form on cuttings. To be honest, I've rooted cuttings with and without using a rooting hormone powder or liquid, and I've not noticed a huge difference there, either. So, it appears to me as though the gardening industry is more interested in making a profit than in making good gardeners out of their customers. Just the soil offerings on the store shelves should show us that much.

In today's world, most unfortunately, avarice has replaced ethical business practices and honesty. Any good marketing blitz can psych people into buying almost anything, whether they need it or not, whether it's a viable product or not. The gardening industry is not immune to this drive for the most profit.

But, once a gardener spends the time to learn what's actually happening beneath the soil surface, and they learn what the basic requirements of the plant world are, they can easily wade through a garden center to find what they need... leaving behind all the brightly packaged items they don't need!

And the internet, itself, can be a curious thing... for every article written, there's usually another written in opposition. And nothing on the internet is vetted, meaning anyone can write an article and post it, whether it's correct or not... through a blog, a forum, through their own website, or where ever they want, really... so locating the truth about some issues can be more difficult than we might think. We have to come prepared to dig deeply, using good old fashioned logical, cognitive thought, problem solving skills, and a good dose of common sense. We have to separate the facts from the fallacies, realizing that opinions are only opinions, and personal experience is only one piece of some puzzles. It helps to take what we read with a large grain of salt and tad bit of skepticism, too.

One way to find out what's truth and what's fiction is to use a product for yourself... except, any advice you give will pertain to how you tested the item and also to your individual environment, which will differ from others.

Another way to learn is to go directly to a trusted source.

How does all this fit in with a conversation on transplant shock? Well, some people recommend Superthrive and similar products, while others don't seem to think they're worth the price tag... who's right and who's wrong?

I think Al said it best, and Al is considered to be a trusted source... "Reduce 'transplant shock' by making the plant's new home as culturally favorable as possible and by making sure the plant's energy reserves are abundant when you transplant." If we follow this simple idea, we won't need any extras to ensure healthy plant growth.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 5:11PM
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Thanks for the responses.

I hadn't heard it takes "3 weeks for the chemicals to respond" issue before.
Also it is good to see the B1 discussion, I had always wondered about it every time I see a bottle in the garden store. I tried it many years ago and didn't see any effect.

Thanks for the link to Linda Chalker, she has some interesting articles.

Back to my plants:

The difference in transplant shock in my plants is so dramatic and unexpected I'm posting some photos:

These peppers are happy as a clam in the hot summer sun.
They are in new leaf mulch mix (described in my Natural vs Synthetic posting).

These peppers aren't very happy and are planted in the rejuvenated leaf mix.

These peppers in the bark/turface mix are downright unhappy.

Here I moved the bark/turface tote next to the new leaf mulch tote for better visual comparison:

Here's the basil in the rejuvenated leaf mix, very unhappy.

I moved the wilting plants under an awning to shade them. Here are photos after being in shade for 1 hour. They all recovered quite nicely. I'll be keeping them in shade for another 1-2 weeks before setting them back out in full sun.

Basil after recovering:

My purpose for doing this is just to share information & observations. I'm not out to prove either "organics" or "synthetics" are better. I've used both for a long time. My bias is to route for the natural approach, but expect the synthetic approach will yield more vegetables (even with the difference in transplant shock). But if the all natural approach yields 80% of the synthetic approach, I'll probably switch to natural container approach in future years. The leaf mix is much, much lighter than the bark/turface mix and is quite a bit lighter than a 5:5:1 mix also. Being on a deck, I do need to make sure weight is kept down.

Cheers and thanks all for all the continued informational sharing.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 6:42PM
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