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