Transplanting before true leaves?

amna(6 (MA))March 21, 2009


I was just curious if people transplant seedlings before the appearance of true leaves? Last year I think I waited for true leaves to show up but I need space in the light and warmth to germinate more seeds so I'm moving the germinated peat pellets into potting soil and putting them under tube lights before true leaves have emerged. I was wondering if they're all going to curl up and die. So far I've moved moonflower, cardinal climber and scabiosa seedlings. Hopfully they'll make it?


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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Sure, it's done in the greenhouse all the time. Just not usually recommended for those not used to doing it. Gentle touch, handle by leaves only not stems, and transplant deeper than they were.

But if you are just leaving them in the pellets and filling in with soil then you aren't actually transplanting them so no problems with that at all. Just be sure to remove the netting from the pellets.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 11:39PM
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amna(6 (MA))

Thanks Dave. Did remove the netting but not the pellet. Is there an advantage to doing that? Does it speed up development of the roots?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 12:00AM
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The netting can restrict the roots once the plant starts to get big, so it's a good idea to get rid of it at some point along the way.

Last year we got a watermelon seedling from a friend who used a pellet and left the netting on when he potted up. We didn't know, so we just put it in the ground. No matter how much we coddled it, the poor thing never got over 4 inches. We finally discovered the problem when we dug it up late in the summer. We took the netting off and replanted, but it was too late by then. Poor thing never got a chance.

But since you already took the netting off, you're in good shape.

Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 8:02AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

And yes, also splitting apart and removing at least part of the pellet itself will speed up rooting and plant development. You can do this easily if transplanting before true leaf development or shortly thereafter. But once roots can be seen it's best to just peel off the netting and leave the rest intact.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 9:50AM
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I was wondering about the early transplanting thing also yesterday with my tomatoes. I have a variety that is growing faster than the rest and was worrying about the roots over crowding so I went ahead and did it. It seemed to work out just fine, I just used a fork to prick the seedlings out trying not to break any of them. The little root balls come apart really easy when they are that young.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 11:02AM
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I wish I'd read this before I planted all my seedlings! I didn't remove the netting from anything! They're all in the sprouts, lettuce, spinach and some flowers...should I dig them up??? I SO don't want to dig them up!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 3:42PM
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I wouldn't. Digging up seed is like picking fly crap out of pepper. Plus you mentioned some cool season plants that could survive frost yet. Maybe work on covering them for now. Anyone?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 12:37AM
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I wondered the same thing. I'm also a newbie and started seeds in the pellets. I haven't transplanted but did pot up some seedlings and left the netting on. The maker of the pellets says nothing about having to remove the netting and they show seedlings being transplanted with it on. Trying to remove the netting once the roots have grown through it is more likely to tear the tender roots but the netting itself also tears easily. I had assumed that as the roots grow and get stronger they would simply tear through the netting and it would be no problem.

I suspect that you may do more harm than good if you try to dig up those seedlings now to remove the netting - disturbing the newly transplanted seedlings as well as trying to remove the netting without tearing roots. You might lose more by trying to save them.

As for me - I'm just taking things as they come and chalking new lessons up as a learning experience for the next crop. But whatever is done, is done and I'll just watch and see what happens, it's a new experiment!

Good luck with those seedlings and report back what happened.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 9:31AM
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Seedlings outgrow the peat pellets quite quickly. I always remove the netting when transplanting/potting up. Some plants would have a very hard time breaking through it and might even die. I see no harm in transplanting when they're 1 & 1/2-2 inches tall before true leaves. At that point, they're probably close to outgrowing the pellet anyways. I like to put my plants in 16 oz clear plastic cups. That way I can see what's going on in the soil mixture and they also have a good size medium to grow in before final hardening off & plating outside. I did this about a week ago with most of my seedlings that hadn't already been transplanted & they are already showing roots on the side of the cups. =)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 12:58PM
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jessicavanderhoff(7 Md)

I think whether it's ok to transplant baby plants before first true leaves might depend on how much the particular transplanting method is going to disrupt the plant. I transplant at all different times-- the day the seed sprouts, when it just has its seed leaves, etc, depending on when I can find some time in my schefdule. My method is very gentle-- I take the netting off the jiffy pellet, and using my finger, dig a pellet-sized indentation in the potting soil in the new container, drop the pellet in, and gently pile some soil around the sides and top. My guess is that there is virtually no shock to the seedling this way, and that's why they survive even though they're fragile. I actually like doing it that way-- you don't have to risk ripping off any roots that have come through the netting. My results have been very good-- never lost a plant this way. So my advice is that it would be fine to transplant before first true leaves, if you're very gentle. If you'll excuse me, I've gotten the sudden irresistible urge to start some cauliflower :-)

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 5:53PM
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I agree jessica. For my last half of pellets, I decided after putting the pellet in the hole, i'd very gently break it up a tiny bit, then water thoroughly. That way, the roots can hopefully grow out of the pellet quicker.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 6:45PM
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amna(6 (MA))

Just wanted to say that things are looking good so far. What I ended up doing was holding the peat pellet in a container with some water until 1/2 - 2/3 of the pellet dissolved, plopping down the seedling with the remainder of the well hydrated pellet into a cup with well moistened potting soil and filling in with more soil. The other trick I found that works really well is to hydrate the pellets and then remove the netting even before sowing the seeds. The pellets hold their shape pretty well and the netting becomes a non-issue. Hopefully the roots will grow big and strong :-)


    Bookmark   March 29, 2009 at 11:22AM
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I never use those pallets. But planting in seeding soil mix is what I prefer for small seeds and my own mix for bigger ones.
Before separating and transplanting ALWAY ALWAY water them real well. The degree of difficulty depends on how the growths are spaced and how "touchy" they are. But having them soaked real wet is a plus. First they drink second they can come apart easily.
After transplanting(in such a way that are up to their seed leaves in new pot or garden) water them real gently and see how they look. If crooked or fallen down, put more soil around them and gently pack and rewater. If your seeds were planted in a peat moss/perlite mixture they would easily become separated when watered before separating them. with normal garden soil it would be a bit difficult.
But again, you have to have some surgical talent (LOL) If they can transplant hearts you can transplant plants.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 7:12AM
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I know the peat pellet discussion has gone off topic, but have you all seen this?

Here is a link that might be useful: peat pellets

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 9:39AM
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jusme_newby(5b North-Central MO)

As to cutting the netting away from the pellets, why couldn't one take a sharp knife, such as an Xacto, expose just one small area of the netting's side and slice through the netting and repack soil around the area? I don't think it is totally necessary to REMOVE all of the netting, just give roots a free place to go. Sort of like popping a balloon. It certainly would be easier than unearthing all your plants and teasing all of the roots after removing the netting it would seem to me...but then, that's jusme.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 12:22PM
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jessicavanderhoff(7 Md)

I saw that!! I had exactly the same experience with a pumpkin plant last year. Dug it up and the roots had been trapped in that stupid netting. I still like them, but I peel off the netting when I pot up. I wonder if we should email the Jiffy people and tell them to change their directions.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 2:05PM
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