5 Tips for Transplanting Seedlings to the Garden

You started your seeds indoors months ago, tended to their needs, put them through the process of hardening off, and now it’s time to transplant them into the garden. This is what all the prep, patience, and waiting is for.

Here are a few tips to think over before you move everything out to the garden. They may impact the productivity of your plants!

When to Transplant to the Garden?

There are two parts to this answer: know your last frost date and look to your seed packet.

  1. Know the average last frost date for your area. You can check what your last frost date is here. Be sure to transplant after this date. It does not guarantee the danger of frost has past, but the odds are more favorable.
  2. Look to your seed packet. Some plants are cool weather crops, meaning that they can be transplanted in the early spring. Other plants should be transplanted in late spring. Seed packets should give you all of this information, so follow the instructions there.

1. Harden the Seedlings Off

I mentioned this term earlier, but you may not understand what it means. Hardening off is progressive exposure to the outdoor elements so that seedlings may build up a resistance before transplanting.

One of the biggest mistakes a gardener can make is taking her plants directly from the indoors to the garden without any hardening off. Plants will go into shock and quickly die without this process.

I suggest that you hold off transplanting to the garden for about a week in order to harden the seedlings off first.

I wrote an entire blog post discussing the process if you’d like to read more about it here.

2. Lightly Water the Seedlings Before Transplanting

Give the seedlings a little water before pulling them out of the starting containers. This will bind the soil together and make for a smoother and less shocking transplant.

4. Check the Roots

Sometimes the roots of seedlings can wind up at the bottom of the container, so unwind them if this is the case. We want the roots all sticking out, not wrapped up in a ball.

4. Make the Hole Big Enough

Plant those little seedlings deep enough so that they can withstand wind and rain while they establish a strong root system. My rule of thumb is that the soil should be up to the lowest leaves.

5. Water Regularly

Water the transplants daily (or as the soil dries) so that those new transplants receive plenty of water as they adjust to their new environment.


The process of transplanting is not overly complicated, but knowing a few tips ahead of time can aid in the success of moving your seedlings. I hope that these ideas will inspire confidence as you begin transplanting!

Happy gardening!

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