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New gardener: basic planting questions

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New gardener: basic planting questions

Post  michelle_wv on 4/27/2010, 11:12 am

I have Zero previous gardening experience, hence my stupid questions below. I read The All New SFG, but am a little confused. Please help!

I planted INSIDE in VERMICULITE broccoli, lettuces, & swiss chard 8 days ago & they have @ 1" sprouts. I have several sprouts per container. Do I now transplant the seedlings to a bigger container (ie, a 4 pack)? Or do I just let them grow in the vermiculite container that I started them in? If I look at the "Spring Indoor Seed Starting Schedule" do I use the SEED plant date - plants ready for transplanting = the # of days I grow them inside (& the date I then transplant them outside)? Mel specifies only for certain crops that you first transplant them into 4 packs. Do all indoor seedlings go from vermic. to 4 packs w/ mel's mix first?

For the plants I do transplant to 4 packs containing Mel's Mix, if the 4 packs are made of peat can I just put the whole peat pot into the Mel's Mix in my SFG outside? ..

MELONS: I'm starting them inside today in paper cups. Are the paper cups to be filled with vermic. or mel's mix?

Here in WV FROST is predicted for tonight : / YIKES! I don't have anything outside yet though. I was planning on planting my carrot seeds outside today, & some other stuff that can be planted before the last frost date, but I may wait until tomorrow where it's supposed to start warming up a bit again.

Thanks.. I'm sure I'll have more questions later. Michelle


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Re: New gardener: basic planting questions

Post  Retired Member 1 on 4/27/2010, 11:24 am

Welcome to the wonderful world of SFG! Everyone does thing differently, so you'll probably get some conflicting advice. This is what I do.

If I start something in pure vermiculite, then I transplant each to an individual pot with Mel's mix when they have two true leaves. The first leaves that come on are seed leaves -- wait until the true leaves appear before transplanting. Swiss chard does not transplant well so I seed them directly into the ground. Don't be surprised if you lose them. It's nothing you did, but the nature of that particular plant.

I seed hard to transplant things like melons and cukes in their own pot with Mel's mix only. Except that I add a bit extra vermiculite for water retention, but most don't.

Yes, you plant the peat pot directly into the garden. I gently tear the corners off to expose the roots as I believe it helps them grow quicker.

If you are growing in peat pots, don't let them dry out. You can tell that by their going lighter. Keep them dark brown for optimal growth.

There are no stupid questions -- frankly, I believe it's stupid not to ask questions. So fire away and we'll do the best we can to help.

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Re: New gardener: basic planting questions

Post  Retired Member 1 on 4/27/2010, 11:29 am

Meant to add that a really nifty Spring planting guide can be found at:

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Re: New gardener: basic planting questions

Post  martha on 5/5/2010, 10:37 pm

Hey, Michelle - how are things going?


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thanks for asking

Post  michelle_wv on 5/9/2010, 1:29 pm

Hi martha: thanks so much for checking on me ! I'm hanging in there, but FULL OF SELF DOUBT & second guessing everything ! I'm trying to just chill out & enjoy the process, but I'm so unsure of everything since I've never done anything like this before. I'm still growing several things inside that I haven't transplanted outside yet & am unsure how you know when to transplant them outside. Do you have to wait until they have their true leaves on most stuff? Do you have to grow them inside for a certain # of weeks? Or if they're a couple inches tall is it time?

I have most of my 16 squares full & my hubby's building me another 4x4x6 box today (we live on a hill in WV so I'm gardening in the boxes on my large deck which is really convenient). the tall stuff I'm growing out back just off of the patio & will attach the nylon netting to the deck. The melons & squash take up 2 squares per plant so I'm having hubby dig some more squares for me today so they'll be ready to transplant.

As things start to sprout I'm getting really excited. Thanks again for checking up on me, that's very nice ! ~Michelle


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Re: New gardener: basic planting questions

Post  quiltbea on 5/9/2010, 8:08 pm

Its not the size of the plant that matters, its the weather outside.
When you pass the last frost date you can put out all your transplants if you like.

Cool-weather crops like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower can be transplanted outdoors up to 4 and 5 weeks before the last frost date in your area. I think your area is safe in WVA. Mine is in Maine.

They should be 'hardened off' before transplanting. Put the cellpacks or pots outside for an hour the 1st day, then 2 or 3 the next day, and 4 or 5 the next day so that your seedlings get used to the sunshine. If its really sunny, you can put them in the shade or put a shadecloth cage/tent over them. Bring them in at nite.

Some plants are highly sensitive to root disturbance, like cukes and eggplant and the melons. Its best to peel the pot away from the root ball to plant it without hurting the roots. If you use peat pots, be sure to peel down the top edges so that they are under the soil when planted or they will wick the water away from your transplant. Also remove the bottom of the peat pot so the roots can grow. I would cut the pot in at least 4 slits so the roots can push thru as they require more room.

Some things you can start in 2" pots and not have to transplant them to a larger pot, like melon, cukes. You need start them only a couple of weeks before going outdoors or just sow the seed directly in the soil outdoors. When they germinate (pop up out of the soil) save the stronger seedling and cut away the other with a scissors to not disturb the youngster. Some things you can just start in a 4" pot, like 3 or 4 seeds of summer squash and zucchini, and thin to 1 with scissors.

Always be gentle when transplanting. If disturbed enough, the plant can be set back in its growth.

I start tomatoes in smaller 2" cells and when they get their 1st true leaves (the 1st 2 are sprouting leaves and not true leaves). The next 2 leaves that grow above those are the 'true' leaves. Then I transplant those into 4" pots burying the seedling right up to its true leaves so that roots can grow out from the rest of the stem below. Nip off the sprouting leaves before you bury it. When the 4" pot goes outside to be transplanted, again bury the plant deeper. Remove the lower 4 leaves or so and bury that part under the soil so more roots can grow to make your tomato plant stronger.

Tip about broccoli. Don't start too early because if broccoli gets rootbound, it will produce tiny heads. Too much cold water does the same. Transplant when it is about 3" high. Set them an inch deeper than they were in their pot.

Tip about cabbage: They can be planted in the garden when they have 3-5 leaves, but less than 7. They should be shaded 2 days before being exposed to direct sunlight. Bury transplant up to its lowest true leaves at about an inch above the soil, the lower ones underground. Roots are very shallow so mulch heavily instead of cultivating to remove weeds.

Hot weather crop seedlings can be put outside a week AFTER the last frost date, like eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, melons, squash, zucchini, cukes.

Find the soil temperature listing and copy it. Get an inexpensive soil thermometer to test the soil temp before planting. Most crops require a min. temp to be happy.

Lettuce likes to germinate in light so don't hide it in a dark corner or cover it away from light. Its a good crop to start outdoors in the shade of a cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower. You will harvest it before the other crop matures and the larger crop will provide needed shade for the lettuce.

Keep that book handy and refer to it often. It'll help you over the first stumbling blocks of being a SFGardener.

Good luck and enjoy the learning experience.


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Sowing and transplanting seedlings

Post  BertieFox on 5/10/2010, 4:09 am

The general principle is that small seeds have very few 'reserves' and so should be transplanted into a compost mix as soon as possible if 'sprouted' in pure vermiculite, while larger seeds, like melons or beans, have good 'reserves' and can be allowed to fully open their leaves and form a reasonable root ball before being transplanted.
In general I prick on my seeds as soon as possible, when the seed leaves have opened and it is is possible to lift them out carefully. I use a small screwdriver or the sharpened end of a pencil.
The compost mix should be low in nutrients/fertiliser while the seedlings are small but stronger once they are larger.
You can overcome problems with things like Swiss Chard and beets if you do the moving early, and even radish can be transplanted, though you might get a few with twisted roots. (but who'd want to transplant radish!)


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Re: New gardener: basic planting questions

Post  mckr3441 on 5/10/2010, 8:04 am

Michelleto the forum! And thank you for asking these very basic questions about transplanting. They are questions whose answers I cannot review enough times. I always think I'm transplanting correctly but then someone gives an answer that explains the errors of my ways!

This year I started many things much too early. I guess I was just way too eager for spring and with the freeze that was predicted for last night, I don't think "spring" has come yet at my house .

Some of my flower seedlings that I took from the V. and put into peat pots w/Mel's Mix are long tall and leggy! I still can't put them out. But when I do I think I will try burying them deep like Quiltbea suggests. I sure can't lose anything by doing that except maybe some time. I have lots of seeds to try direct planting (which I probably should have done in the first place!) My veggies seem to be doing better. I like my broccoli.

BertieFox, to you, too. Thank you for your explanation of seed reserves and how that affects transplanting.

I can build boxes; mix Mel's Mix; properly place boxes and successfully grow purchased transplants. But oh, the agony of transplanting seeds and seedlings! With the help of this board, I will learn and do better!

Thank you everyone!



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Re: New gardener: basic planting questions

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