Every day as I’d sit and program in my office, I’d look at the plants as they slowly outgrew their containers. I knew I needed to transplant them even two weeks ago, it just seemed like such a big job. And it was. It took up about 4 hours to get everything transplanted and the lights set up, but it had to be done. Just look at these poor tomatoes trying to grow in the tiny starter pots.
I really didn’t want to transplant everything twice, I would’ve preferred to wait till I could transplant directly to the garden, so next year I’m going to have to start them later, or give them less hours under the lights, or something.
Without further ado, let me take you on our transplant adventure.
How to Transplant Your Tomatoes (or whatever else)
We mainly transplanted tomatoes and peppers, but we did transplant the couple of cucumbers that hadn’t been moved before.
The cheapest easiest containers I could find were disposable plastic cups, so that’s what we used. I found it easiest to fill the cup 1/2 full with dirt at an angle.
The next step is to get the plant out of the starter pots. This was the trickiest step and the one I couldn’t take a photo of since my hands were always full and dirty while doing it. My starter pots were in the 3×3 squares seen in the first picture above. What I would do is, prop the starter pot on its side and work my way across the top row and on down. For each plant I’d gently squeeze the tops and sides on the back of it’s pot and then gently push in the bottom. These 3×3 pots are pretty thin plastic so it’s easy to push them. The main issue to watch out for is if the roots have started growing through the drain holes, then you have to be careful not to break them off.
Once the plant was loosened slightly, I would simultaneously pull on the base of the stem while pushing on the bottom of the pot. In most cases I would get a nice intact clump of dirt and roots. A couple of the most poorly rooted plants broke doing it this way, so it’s not risk free, but it was the best way I could figure out.
This is the second round of transplanting we’ve done (we did the squash a few weeks ago) and we found that if the roots and dirt were most likely to come out together with dirt that is just slightly moist. I recommend waiting about a day after watering to make the process easiest.
Once the roots and dirt block are out, slide it down to the bottom of the cup.
Add more dirt and gently pat it into place, and you’re done!
Making Light of the Situation
Here are the plants when they we were about 1/2 way done with transplanting. I don’t have a greenhouse or anything like that and the shelving unit setup that worked so well for starting the plants was getting too short. So what do I do?
The correct answer of course is to jerry-rig something. I split the starting shelves into two pieces, and used bricks to stabilize them. Initially I tried just hanging the lights on ropes between the two shelving pieces, but that would’ve tipped the shelves over, even with the bricks. So I extended our ladder across the gap, and helped support the lights from that.
It seems like I should really have 4 more lights hanging over the plants. I’m not going to buy 4 more lights right now though. We’ll have to get by with rotating the plants every few days, and pulling them outside to get light and harden off. Since the plants are in the garage it will be a little easier to harden them off. I’ll just leave the garage door open a little each day for a few days, and then start hauling the plants outside for a few hours each day. After that they should be pretty well hardened off and I’ll just need to figure out exactly when to put them in the garden.
The plants look like they want a lot more room than they’ve got, but at least they’re not in the tiny starter pots anymore!