How to successfully transplant when the soil is a bit wet!

How to successfully transplant when the soil is a bit wet!

And our family garden is COMPLETE! The last of the transplants are all tucked in!

After we transplanted the cold tolerant crops out of the hay bale cold frame enclosure (it's what we use for hardening plants off), we decided to move all the heat lovers into the greenhouse. We were expecting more challenging weather and cool temperatures. The peppers and tomatoes were not lovin' the cool temps outside. We clearly needed to hold them a bit longer before planting outdoors. Back to the greenhouse they went.

Bale enclosure for hardening off seedlings at Prairie Road Organic Seed
We’ve been holding those transplants in the greenhouse for what feels like forever! They’ve been growing like weeds and really outgrowing their containers. They needed out!! And we were more than happy to get it done!

Transplanting TIMEFRAME
We transplant late in the day, usually after 5 pm when the sun is not so strong. A cloudy day is a good option too but even then-- late in the day is always a better bet 'cuz a cloudy day can turn to sun!

But it’s WET
When we transplanted our cold tolerant crops we used the plant auger to prepare the ground. But with as much rainfall as we’ve had recently, a plant auger wasn't a good idea 'cuz it can smear the soil, destroying the structure and creating hard clods. When the soil is wetter than ideal, we like to use a small potato fork rather than a spade or even a small trowel.

Transplanting into wetter soil at Prairie Road Organic Seed
Think of the smeared surface as a wall, making it harder for roots to get through. Consider the smearing and compacting effect as you drive the trowel into the ground and then press it back to lift the trowel out of the ground. As you’re pressing backwards, the soil behind the trowel is being compacted. Smearing and compacting the soil are the most destructive of good soil tilth.

The reason for a fork vs. even a small trowel is less slicing through the soil with a solid surface— less surface = less smearing. A fork reduces that effect with much smaller surfaces slicing into the ground. Using a fork leaves the soil a lot more loose.

Turn + Turn AGAIN
Our ‘fork method’ is to dig in, lift, and turn the soil upside down.  Then stab the fork back in and turn again.  This lifting and turning helps break up the soil, leaving it loose and ready for transplanting. You can watch Dan do do this in our latest YouTube video!

Scoop, insert, let fall
To transplant, just dig your hand in, scoop and lift the soil toward you.  As you pull and lift, follow right behind your hand with the seedling to insert your transplant. Then just let the soil fall back in around the rootball. Gently rake your fingers through the soil around the seedling to even out the surface for watering.

Transplanting peppers at Prairie Road Organic Seed

Do NOT firm or pat the soil around the plant.  When you water the seedling in, the soil will settle in around the rootball nicely. Firming it with you hand may damage the root ball and cause compaction, making it harder for the water to penetrate. This is especially true if the soil is wetter than ideal. Remember to let the water do the settling.

Transplanting tomatoes at Prairie Road Organic Seed
Once you've watered a seedling in, do not touch or work the wet soil. Remember what we've been talking about-- smearing and compaction. If you watered a seedling in, it's IN THERE.  Do not mess with it or try to move it.

How MUCH water
We water with a 12-16 ounce can per seedling.  If your soil is already wet, opt for the 12 ounce can or less. If your planting conditions are on the drier side, use 16 ounces of water.

Again you can watch our transplanting methods here, on our latest YouTube video.

How OFTEN to water
We transplant late in the day and water right after transplanting. We water again the next morning anywhere from 12-18 hours after transplant, using the same amount of water per seedling, 12 to 16 ounces.  

We don’t water again, unless we are in a drought situation. Our deep mulch system helps shield the soil from the scorching sun and conserves moisture.

If you keep your plants well watered, their root system may not go down as deep. There are advantages to intermittent watering vs. a constant feed of water. Intermittent watering encourages a more robust root system, growing deep into the soil profile to find water. A strong root system will make your plants more drought tolerant.

Let your plants tell you when they need more water. During a hot spell, plants will naturally wilt in the heat of the day. However, they recover quickly as the sun’s power wanes late in the day. Wilting is just a coping mechanism. However, if your plants are not fully recovering by the next morning, they're telling you it's getting too dry and they need more water.

Wishing you blue skies and sunshine ☀️ with an occasional rainbow🌈 to appear above the clouds🌦.

Our best to you,
Theresa & Dan