Everything You Need for Worry-Free Transplanting

Beginner gardening

Starting your seeds indoors and moving them out to the garden is a fun, rewarding process. Once your seeds have germinated and started to grow into healthy seedlings, you’ll probably start to feel some excitement and think you’re almost there! But what if you haven't transplanted seedlings before? How do you know when they are ready and what you should do?

gardening shovel

How Do I Transplant My Plants into the Garden?

1. Harden off your plants

To get ready to move your plants fully outdoors, start hardening off your plants so they’ll be ready for their new spots in the garden. You’ll start this process once your seedlings have three or four true leaves and right before conditions are ideal for growing that particular type of plant.

2. Prepare the garden

While you wait for your plants to become used to the outdoor environment, you’ve got about two weeks to start preparing your garden for new plants. Make sure the space is clear of weeds and rocks. You may need to test your soil and add any amendments that your soil needs for optimum plant growth. Make sure the soil is moist but not saturated when it’s time to transplant. 

3. Transplant your plants into the garden

It’s best to transplant on a calm, cloudy day, if possible, with mild weather conditions. If the weather simply isn’t cooperating, transplanting in the late afternoon or early evening will work, too. You want to give your plants cooler temperatures and a chance to settle in properly before being exposed to bright morning sunlight. 

person transplanting a seedling outdoors

Which Plants to Transplant & How

Choose the sturdiest, healthiest plants to transplant, and handle them with care. Water plants well about an hour before transplanting. 

When you’re ready, gently remove them from the container, taking care not to harm the roots. Try to handle your plants by the leaves, not the stem. This might seem a little counterintuitive, but the reason for this is that a damaged leaf is much easier for the plant to replace than a stem. 

If your plants are in one container, cut between the roots, so each plant has a distinct root ball. 

Transplant each plant into a hole that is deep enough to easily hold the root ball without crowding or stuffing it into a hole. 

If you’re using peat pots, make sure the hole is deep enough to fully cover the rim of the peat pot to keep the pot from wicking moisture away from the roots. 

When transplanting tomatoes, dig a couple of inches deeper to bury the base of the stem. Two or three sets of true leaves should be above the ground. Cover the roots with soil and water, and fertilize with a starter solution. 

And that’s it! You’ve taken your plants from seed to the garden. Stand back and enjoy the work you’ve done so far. The fun is just beginning! 


Starting Plants Indoors From Seeds - University of Missouri Extension

Transplanting Annuals into the Garden - PennState Extension 
How and When to Transplant Seedlings Into the Garden - Gardening Know How

Written by Teresa Chandler