• Kate

Activity of the day: Handling Seedlings, or, What to Do Once Stuff Starts Growing (or you buy some)!



Some of the seeds we planted a couple of weeks ago have started growing really well- so now it's time to give them some more space to grow. There are a couple of options for doing this, depending whether you want each plant to have its own space (which you will for things like tomatoes), or if it's OK for clumps of plants to grow together.

Method 1 below explains how to prick out individual seedlings; method 2 explains how to split clumps.


If you're doing this with small people or you're a bit nervous about damaging the plants, it's a good idea to have a first try with some seedlings that don't matter too much to you.


The seedlings above are mixed salad leaves- and there are an awful lot of them- so it doesn't matter if some get broken. Mustard cress, coriander or any other little seedlings that you've ended up with lots of are a good idea to practice on.


If you don't have your own seedlings, trays of baby salad leaves from the supermarket are great for doing this activity- and they'll then keep growing for ages, giving you salad salad for the next few months as long as you keep cutting (and eating) them.


That really precious thing that you've germinated 2 seedlings of: Not such a good idea for a first go.


Method 1: Pricking out individual seedlings


You will need:

  • Containers for your plants (unless you're transplanting outside- but right now the nights are a bit cold for most indoor-grown plants, so be careful with this option for a few more weeks!)

  • A teaspoon per person

  • Compost or soil- supermarkets often have growbags, so you can get compost while doing essential shopping: If possible, try to get peat free. Some garden centres agricultural suppliers online may be able to deliver you large quantities of compost if you can arrange to share safely with neighbours!


Step 1: Prepare the place you're going to put the plants. Remember that containers are best with drainage holes so you don't accidentally waterlog the plants and rot their roots.


Step 2: Water your soil or compost- it's easiest to put little plants into wet soil.


Step 3: Make it easier to access the seedlings- if they're in a deep pot, gently tip them out and put them onto your work surface.



Step 4: Take hold of one of the seed leaves of a seedling- it doesn't matter if these snap off by mistake. NEVER hold the stem. Then, using the handle of a teaspoon, gently dig into the soil by the base of your seedling until the roots are released.



Step 5: Use the handle of the teaspoon to make a hole where you want to plant the seedling, then gently lower the seedling in so the roots are covered. Using a finger or the teaspoon handle, push the compost carefully around the seedling.


If you're doing this with someone who has difficulty with coordination or if you're nervous, doing this first with cuttings (rooted or unrooted) can be a good idea as you use exactly the same principles as for pricking out seedlings, but the cuttings are a bit more robust. These are fuschia cuttings we rooted in an eggcup a week or two ago- the ones still in the eggcup only have teeny roots so we're leaving them there a few more days:



Method 2: Separating clumps of seedlings


For salads like the ones we've been growing, it doesn't matter at all if they grow in clumps of a few plants together. This also applies to trays of baby salad leaves from a shop. Plus, this method needs a lot less coordination and care than pricking out single plants!


Step 1: Water your seedlings and the pots/border you're planting them into well, so the soil is really wet.


Step 2: Gently split your pot or tray of seedlings into clumps of about 4-12 plants, by gently pulling the roots and soil apart.


Step 3: Plant each clump of seedlings into the ground or pot separately, using a spoon or trowel.


These were mixed salad seedlings we put into the greenhouse border before Christmas: We've had more or less enough salad for a family of 6 for the last couple of months. As you can see, the plants are now bolting and trying to flower- which means they'll be less use for salad soon, but on the plus side will give us seeds to grow more plants!



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