Dakota Lettuce seedlings ready for transplant at Prairie Road Organic Seed

How to transplant your seedlings into the garden with ease!

We were able to transplant our cold tolerant plants into the garden this week! We transplanted broccoli, kale, cabbage and lettuce. I'm so excited to share with you our method of transplanting our seedlings in the garden with ease!
We harden off the plants by moving them out of the greenhouse into a bale enclosure for 2-3 weeks before transplanting them into the garden. This step is critical to adapting them to the outdoors. The plants are partially protected from both wind and sun. At night the enclosure is covered with sheets of plywood to protect from overnight temperatures.

Bale enclosure for hardening off seedlings prior to transplanting at Prairie Road Organic Seed
Preparing for Transplanting

We use what is called a garden auger to dig the holes for our transplants.  This tool is also called a plant or bulb auger.

DIY plant auger ready for transplanting work at Prairie Road Organic Seed

For those of you who are DIYers, Dan made his using parts from a small auger that had been retired. He cut off a section and welded a bolt to the bottom, to go in the chuck of the drill. Then he welded a metal rod that he had ground into a tip to the other end to help position the auger accurately.
We’ve used an electric drill in the past but have made the switch to a cordless drill. It’s so much easier than worry about dragging cords around the garden, minding any plants that are growing there, and making sure you don’t accidentally hit your cord while drilling. And there is the threat of tripping over the cord! A cordless drill is so much more convenient and safe.

Cordless drill with plant auger attachement at Prairie Road Organic Seed
When and How?

We do all of transplanting late in the day—preferably after 5 pm when the sun isn’t so strong. This gives the plants the most opportunity to recover after transplanting before dealing with full strength sunlight.
We start by writing down everything we're planting on the garden chart to make sure we have an accurate record of what was planted where. Then we measure the proper spacing in the rows to be planted. The broccoli, kale and cabbage is spaced two feet apart and the lettuce at one foot spacing.
David marks the rows and Dan mans the drill. We drill the holes for one crop species at a time, planting into them as we go, so nothing has an opportunity to dry out too much. 
Marking the plant spacing for transplanting at Prairie Road Organic Seed   Augering the holes for transplanting at Prairie Road Organic Seed
We use a lot of up-cycled milk cartons as growing containers. We unbox one container at a time, placing those plants next to the holes. We plant those four transplants with someone following close behind watering them in right away.
Seedlings ready for transplanting at Prairie Road Organic Seed

We plant them into the holes so there’s a slight depression, leaving a ring of soil around each plant to provide some wind protection. When transplanting lettuce, make sure you don’t plant them too deep where soil will wash in on the growing point. That'll stunt their growth.
Dakota lettuce transplant at Prairie Road Organic Seed
 Kale, broccoli and cabbage are not as critical in terms of the growing point. But we like to get them in deep enough to be protected from the winds.
Also, as you are transplanting, move the soil in place gently.  Avoid the urge to firm the soil around the transplant.  You might damage the roots by doing that. Let the water wash the soil in around the roots.
Watering In


We give each plant 12-16 oz of water using a repurposed tin can, bent with a crease for ease of pouring and directing the stream. We pour the water all around the plant, making sure to soak up the root ball while settling the soil in around the roots.

Unboxing seedlings and watering in transplants at Prairie Road Organic Seed
The next morning we give each of the plants another 12-16 ounces before the heat of the day to ensure they have the water they need to get firmly rooted in place. After that we let them fend for themselves, unless you have a particularly dry spring. Then you might have to water again.

Final 'dust mulching'!
Later that afternoon we do what we call ‘dust mulching’ around each of the plants. We move some of the loose dry soil over the ‘wet spot’ from the watering, covering it up.  This prevents the sun from baking it into a hard crust, causing deep crevices and air gaps that can lead to drying out. 
That’s it! Now you're done. Your transplants are tucked in and have everything they need to thrive.

You can join us in our garden while we're transplanting by watching our companion video-- click here! We love sharing with you, our garden friends!
Wishing you every success!
Our best to you,
Theresa & Dan