I've heard some recommendations on using mix vs peat pods but when I tried this last year I had a big problem with the soil falling apart when I tried to get them out and into larger pots.
What am I doing wrong?
How did you go about getting the transplants out of their pots? If we know what you did we might be able to see where it went wrong.
I switched from the little netted peat pots to a mix a couple of years ago, and yes it does fall apart when transplanting, especially if you are transplanting when they are tiny, since there is very little root growth to bind it together.
It isnt really a problem. I just use a piece of an old venetian blind slat as a mini scoop, so that I touch the seedlings as little as possible, and drop them into a small hole in the potting soil, firm it up and they are good to go. I even re-use the seed starting mix, since it is more expensive than the potting mix.
I often seed in trays and they are so densely planted that I have to scoop up several at a time, then dump them on the table and tease them apart. I dont recall ever losing seedlings at this stage. They can take the abuse.
Several possible contributing factors but as already mentioned it poses no problems for the plants themselves. In fact it helps stimulate new root growth and makes many seedlings easier to transplant deeply as often required. We do hundreds of seedlings transplants a week with little transferred soil on the roots.
It could be your mix - there are many different kinds - or perhaps it was packed firmly enough into the original container. Perhaps it wasn't wet enough.
Otherwise we'd need much more details to help. Size/depth of container, pricking tool used, age/size of the plants, etc. but it isn't a serious concern.
Since it was my first time removing these from the tray I did a combination of gently squeezing the tray from below and pulling the stem of the seedling from above.
Somebody mentioned a pricking tool? Is this similar to the scoop (venetian blind) mentioned by the other gardener?
I think I need to get the soil wetness just right as well, not dry and not wet. The wet soil seems to fall apart.
You did the right thing squeezing the tray. But not on pulling the baby plant. You need to get under it and ease it out - a table fork, pencil or any other small scoop like thing will help. (I'm assuming you have all your seedlings in one tray?) I use modules and then you can put your hand over the soil with the plant between your fingers and invert. As other have said, it doesn't matter too much if some of the mix falls off the roots.
Here is a link that might be useful: Pricking out
Pricking tool can equal a blind slat, sure. They also sell tools specific for the task but I have seen folks use the handle of a dinnerware teaspoon, a wood chopstick, the blade of an old table knife/butterknife, a piece of a wood shim, etc. etc. anything that fits in the space.
And as Flora said do NOT pull on the seedling, especially the stem. Leaves will be replaced but damage the stem and the plant will never recover.
As to wetness - seedlings always need to be well watered before transplanting. It helps prevent transplant shock. So if your mix, even when wet, is falling apart then it wasn't firmly enough packed to begin with.
You still didn't tell us what brand mix you are using. That info would help.
Here is a link that might be useful: U-Tube videos on pricking seedlings