about farming gardening Tips and Tricks

Pricking out, Potting on & Transplanting crops in Agriculture

Written by Dr. Shaun Murphy

Welcome to farmingocean.com , Let’s talk about transplanting.

We’re going to coax those precious seedlings along, we’re going to get them ready to plant outside, and then we’re going to share some tips to help them settle into their new home once they’re there.

Pricking  out in Agriculture

Let’s get on with it, shall we? Pricking out in agriculture is the term for transferring seedlings growing together into their own plugs or pots of potting mix.

Start pricking out as soon as the seedlings are big enough to handle – the sooner the better so they can quickly adapt to their new environment. Fill plug trays or pots with any quality all-purpose potting mix.

Carefully ease the seedlings out of the tray they were growing in, then gently tease them apart. Try to retain as much of the original potting mix around the roots as you can.

Work with small batches of seedlings at any one time so the last seedlings to be pricked out don’t have a chance to dry out.

So now to transfer them to their plugs. Begin by making holes into the potting mix with your finger, or a pencil, or something similar. Lift each seedling carefully, only ever handling them by their leaves and never the delicate stems.

Carefully feed the roots right down into the hole, then gently firm the seedling in. You can bury some of the stems if the seedlings are looking a little leggy and drawn.

This will help to support them. Once you’re done, water the seedlings with a watering can or hose fitted with a rose.

Don’t worry too much if the seedlings get a little flattened – they’ll soon recover. Here are the same lettuce seedlings one week on.

Plugs or Pots?

Trays with smaller plugs suit most salad crops, especially if they will be transplanted promptly within three or four weeks of sowing.

Larger plugs suit bigger, hungrier seedlings, such as those of the cabbage family. They are also great for other vegetables that benefit from growing a little before planting.

People also read: Stunning design for small garden

Onions for example were sown towards the end of winter to get a jump start on the season but won’t be planted out until mid-spring, so the extra space at the roots means there should be enough nutrients in the potting mix to sustain them until they are ready to go out later in spring.

Larger seedlings, or those of tender crops like tomato or pepper that won’t be planted out until after the last frost are best pricked out into individual pots.

They grow fast and may need potting on once again before they are transplanted into their final growing positions. Water seedlings to keep the potting mix moist, but be careful not to overwater.

If you’re growing in a greenhouse, tunnel, or cold frame, ventilate it on mild sunny days. This will help keep the air inside moving and reduce the risk of disease and molds.

Cool-season crops like lettuce, onions, beets, or peas can go straight outside as soon as the ground is ready, meaning that the soil is no longer cold and wet, and has reached around 50ºF / 10ºC.

Plant seedlings out while they are still quite young if outdoor conditions allow – sometimes as soon as three to four weeks after sowing.

Our Garden Planner can help you work out when the best time to transplant outdoors is. Check out the green bars in your Plant List for a range of recommended dates for your location.

Your seedlings tend to establish quicker than those that have become root-bound in their containers. Getting them outside while they’re young will also free up valuable space undercover.

Nevertheless, hold back a few spares under cover if you can just in case. Tender plants like tomatoes need acclimatizing before planting outside – a process called ‘hardening off’.

Position plants in a sheltered spot outside during the day for a short time. Gradually extend the amount of time that plants are outside over the course of a week or two, until they’re staying out all day.

If you’re not able to be around to bring your seedlings back in during the day, another option is to place your seedlings into a cold frame and gradually increase the amount of ventilation by opening vents progressively wider each day.

Make sure to shut them down completely before dark.

How to transplant?

Plant seedlings into prepared soil – that’s soil that has been enriched with well-rotted organic matter such as compost.

Remove the seedlings from their plug trays or pots, then lay them out on the surface ready to plant.

You can use a tape measure or ruler to get the spacing right, but with practice, you’ll be able to space them out by eye.

Use a hand trowel, a dibber (or just your fingers)to make holes in the soil. Drop each seedling into its hole, then firm in around the rootball.

Lankier seedlings can be set into the ground a little deeper, so long as you don’t bury the lowest leaves.

Water the newly planted area to settle the soil around the roots. It’s important that the rootballs are moist before planting.

If they aren’t, soak plugs in a bucket of water until they’re soaked through. At the start of the growing season, new transplants can be helped simply by covering them with row cover (horticultural fleece).

This traps a little of the sun’s warmth and helps to shield seedlings from low temperatures and drying winds.

It also protects them from birds that love tender shoots. Secure the covers in place so they’re snug against the plants, and not flapping about.

Weigh down the edges so the wind can’t get in from the sides and lift the cover off. Remove covers once the weather has warmed up a little more.

Once those seedlings are planted out you really begin to get a sense of the bounty to come! Now you can plant your seedlings in another place for better growth.

This method is always used in paddy crops and also you can use this method in other crops.

Thank you.

About the author

Dr. Shaun Murphy