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From Pots to Your Garden

How to transplant bedding plants

Are you one of those gardeners who is much too careful about disturbing roots of bedding plants when transplanting them into the garden?
    If you examine the roots of bedding plants grown in cells or pots, you will note a layer of roots along the outside edge of the root ball. Vigorously growing plants will sometimes have a thick layer of roots surrounding the root ball and are likely to be root-bound. If these root balls are not broken up before being planted in garden soil, there is a good possibility the plants will be stunted or even die of drought if they are not watered almost daily until they finally establish.

Thin Carrots,
Beets, Radishes

We generally sow many more seeds than needed because many seeds such as those of carrots are small and difficult to sow sparingly. Thinning can be done by either pulling or cutting. To minimize damage to remaining seedlings, pull when the seedlings are about one inch tall. Much faster is thinning by cutting using either a shave hook or teaspoon. Grind off the end of a teaspoon to make the edge flat and sharp on a grinding wheel. Dragging the sharpened spoon across the soil between desirable seedlings makes a tedious task simple and provides just the proper spacing to grow healthy-sized carrots, beets and radishes.

    Bedding plants grown in cell-packs and in small pots can become root bound very quickly in greenhouses, especially if the plants have been in their containers too long. Astute buyers knock the plants from their containers and examine their roots before placing them in the shopping cart.
    If there are only a few roots along the outer edge of the root ball, the plant can be transplanted without drastic measures. If you knock the plant from its container and the root ball falls apart, put the plant back on the shelf and move on. However, if you knock the plant from its container and find that the roots are dense and the root ball not easily deformed when squeezed, these plants are root-bound and need to be either pulled apart or cut prior to planting in the garden.
    When planting bedding plants, I automatically tear the bottom part of each root ball before planting. If the root ball cannot be torn, I will use my pocketknife to cut an X through the roots at the bottom. Both tearing and cutting stimulate rapid root growth from the damaged areas.
    When transplanting plants grown in peat pots, I always tear away the top half of the pot to prevent it from appearing above ground after transplanting. A peat pot protruding above ground will wick water out of the root ball. If the peat pot is crusty on the outside, I tear away the entire pot before planting.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.