Transplanting Photo: iStock

When transplanting vegetables to their permanent positions after raising them under glass or in a seedbed, choose plants that are stocky, sturdy and well hardened off. Check that the vegetable bed soil is moist and firm, and allow time for it to settle after digging. If possible, wait for mild, still, fairly overcast weather, and give protection from strong winds or hot sunshine.

When to transplant
In general, a sturdy green plant that has been hardened off will be ready for transplanting. Sow seeds of cucurbits such as cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkins about three to four weeks before the planting-out date. Transplant once the third set of leaves has developed. Tomatoes should be 15–20 cm high before they are transplanted. Sowing seed about five to six weeks before the planting-out date should give ideally sized seedlings, ready for transplant. Root crops transplant very poorly so should be sown directly in the soil.

Planting tender crops
Zucchini, cucumbers, marrows, melons, capsicums and tomatoes are among the plants that will not grow when the soil and the air are cold, so timing is crucial when planting. There is nothing to be gained by planting too early. Both seedlings and directly sown seed will be checked in growth and often recover poorly, if at all. Late frosts can destroy all your efforts, and climate change is altering the timing of such events. On the other hand, do not leave it too late to transplant crops that need cool temperatures, such as lettuce. If they are left too late, lengthening days and increasing daytime temperatures will cause them to initiate flowering and run to seed (bolting) instead of developing fully. If the soil is dry, water it thoroughly the day before planting. Water the plants an hour or two before moving them, taking particular care that fibre pots get a thorough soaking. Marrows, cucumbers and melons may suffer a severe check if their roots are disturbed. For this reason they are often grown in fibre pots, which can be planted directly in the soil. If the plants have been raised in pots, tap them out carefully. Hold the pot upside down in the palm of your hand, with the plant between your fingers. Tap the rim of the pot smartly against a solid object, such as a trowel, so that the plant slides out with the soil ball intact. Always try to keep as much of the root ball as possible intact. Never handle seedlings by their stem, as the seedling may die or the stem, if bruised, will transport water poorly. Make a hole in the soil about 2.5 cm wider than the soil ball or fibre pot. Set the plant in the hole and draw soil around it, firming with the back of the trowel or with your fingers. Give enough water to help the soil settle.

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