Seedlings - General health Soil Improvement and/or preparation transplanting seedlings

Transplanting Seedlings – A Tip to Help them Take Hold More Quickly

I know somewhere I’ve already addressed this tip for transplanting seedlings, but I sure couldn’t find it anywhere.  Maybe I wrote it in a letter to the “special 100 list” last year. It’s a tip that can make a big difference in how quickly your seedlings take hold once they’re in the garden.

For more years than I care to remember (about 32) I always tamped the soil around seedlings when I transplanted them.  I guess every garden book in the world probably tells gardeners to do that. They never go into detail, they just say firm the soil for better root to soil contact.

What I think is not clear is the degree to which the soil needs to be “firmed” for root to soil contact.

The Principle Involved

Knowing the principle of air circulation, which is the reason behind not compacting the soil, and also knowing that compacted soil cuts down on growth and production, I should have figured this out years ago.  But I didn’t.  Dah! (I have a feeling I’m in good company though.)

Try This Approach

Try this approach when transplanting any tiny seedlings or even when you are potting-up tiny seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other warm weather crops.  The same principles apply for larger transplants.

  • Place the seedling in the hole or where you’re going to put it.
  • Place the dirt around it to fully cover the root.
  • Do NOT pack the soil down.
  • If the soil is moist (like just after a nice rain) firm it EVER SO GENTLY.
  • If the soil is dry, sprinkle with light mulch to just cover everything and THEN water with a sprinkling can.  The water will firm the soil enough for good root to soil contact.


This approach helps keep the tiny roots in tact, and also gives the roots the air circulation they need for good growth.

This is basically the same reason we prepare soil deeply to begin with: to allow air circulation within the soil. With oxygen circulating, the beneficial microorganisms in the soil (the soil life) can thrive and do their jobs to help you be successful.

When the soil is compacted and no air can get through, that’s when the bad guys in the soil can thrive.

It’s the very same principle that causes compacted soil to cut down on production of produce by as much as 50%!

Final Thoughts

Give it a try and see what happens. I’d love to hear your story.

Related Posts:

Transplanting Root Crop Seedlings


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  • This is timely advice, Theresa! I plan to transplant some kale this weekend! Thanks so much!

  • That WAS a 100 tip – and a good one. I’ve stopped firming since, and it certainly hasn’t done any harm. I’m sure it has helped, but there are so many other variables at work that I just haven’t noticed especially. It does make sense though. Any advantage I can give my seedlings, I’ll take it! Thank you.

  • I have done this from the beginning! I did not know that there would be a problem otherwise. I followed your instructions on building the bed and this method of transplanting fell in line with that logic. I have never had any trouble with transplants. It’s funny that you point this out as something to consider. I am grateful that sometimes ignorance can work in our favor!

  • Just a quick note to tell you I am here & really enjoy your post..Even though we both live in Virginia..I feel we are a world apart because of locations & weather..LOL. This is the latest I’ve ever (in 44 years) started to put in my garden..Weather here, near the mountains, has been brutal as for rain, snow winds and’s just been a winter to remember..LOL I am like the oak..hard to change and bound to never give up…So..Stay safe my friend and Happy Gardens…Wayne

  • Theresa,
    The celery I started from seed was placed in soil packed too hard, thus it did not take root well among other problems too numerous to mention. Thanks for the affirmation of what happened with the celery.


  • Hey Pat. Glad the timing was good for you!

    Sandra, thanks for telling me I gave that in a tip to the 100 list.

    Farming Bear – Glad you had an inner sense on this point. Great going.

    Wayne, great to hear from you and know you’re still reading!
    It’s been a strange year indeed. Sorry to hear that you had such a brutal winter.
    My wish is that your growing season will be one of the greatest and best!
    Please stay in touch.

    , It’s great that you are able to see examples of what I write about in your own gardening efforts. Shows you are really connecting and will benefit greatly. Thanks for posting this!


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