GARDENERS FACTSHEET NO. 4
TRANSPLANTING VEGETABLE CROPS
Dr. John M. Gerber
Many vegetables do not grow well when seeded
directly into the garden. They may require special care
during the first few weeks following seeding. Vegetables
that are usually transplanted rather than direct seeded
include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, onions, lettuce and
certain members of the cabbage family.
GROWING YOUR OWN
Although growing your own transplants is not
difficult, it does require some skill and practice. Check
Gardeners Factsheet No. 3 for instructions.
PREPARING THE GARDEN
For a small backyard garden, it is easier to purchase a
few healthy transplants (locally known as slips) than trying
to grow your own. However, when you buy living plants,
use the same care you use when you buy fresh produce.
Buy only plants that appear dark green and healthy. Don't
buy diseased or damaged plants. Examine the underside
of the leaves for insects and insect eggs. Leaves with white
tunnels running between the upper and lower leaf surface
are infested with leaf miners. If the plants were grown in
ground beds or seed flats containing field soil, ask if the
soil was fumigated to kill nematodes and other plant pests.
Plants grown in artificial soil or soil-less mix will be free of
Good transplants will have strong, thick stems. Tall,
spindly plants may not withstand the shock of
transplanting. A good tomato transplant should be as wide
as it is tall. If you are not satisfied with the appearance of
the plants, don't buy them. There is probably something
Remove all weeds and debris from last year's
garden. This simple step will help reduce disease and
insect problems considerably. The plot should be
fertilized with either 4 lbs. of 10-10-10 garden fertilizer or
4 bushels of decomposed cow manure per 100 square
feet. The fertilizer should then be turned down to a depth
of 6 inches with a roto-tiller or garden fork. Decomposed
cow manure may also be dug into a hole directly under
each plant. If you use fresh manure, wait at least 4 weeks
If you have had problems with yellowing of young
plants due to our alkaline soil, you may want to add the
trace elements iron, manganese and zinc. These are
available in mixtures such as Peters Soluble Trace
Element Mix or Master Green. They may be applied as a
foliar spray or directly to the soil.
Drenching the soil with an insecticide, such as
diazinon, before or immediately after transplanting may
reduce infestation by soil insects. This is especially
important if manure has been applied or if you have had
insect problems in the past.
If the soil is heavy and poorly drained, the plot should
be banked and the plants put on top of the ridges.
It is critical to cause a little root injury as possible when
setting out young plants. Even minimal damage to delicate
feeder roots may cause a delay in growth which will
decrease the likelihood of success. Plants grown in
individual containers will have much less root injury than
those pulled bare-root from a ground bed.
Most plants can be set in the ground slightly deeper than
they were growing in the container. This will provide extra
support and promote faster root growth.
Tomatoes can be set in much deeper than they were in the
original container. Root growth will be stimulated by
burying the stem up to the second set of leaves.
After setting the plants out, soak the roots with water or a
starter fertilizer solution. Starter solution is a soluble
fertilizer with more phosphorus than other nutrients.
Phosphorus is important for promoting root growth. A
typical starter solution analysis is 10-55-10, 10-52-17 or
15-30-15. If these are not available, a standard 20-20-20
house plant food will suffice. No other fertilizer application
should be made until transplants are firmly established and
beginning to grow.
Pruning transplants to reduce water loss is a very poor
practice. Although pruning may reduce the extent of
wilting after setting out, it will also
reduce the rate of new root growth. When a plant is set
out, food energy stored in the old, large leaves will be
translocated downward to promote root growth. If these
leaves are removed, root growth will be delayed.
Wilting following field setting is a very natural protective
measure against extreme water loss. The wilted plant is
not sick or dying but demonstrating a quite healthy
response to water loss. A plant that wilts during the
hottest part of the day will usually regain vigor in the
evening. Transplanting on cloudy days or in the late
afternoon will help reduce wilting.
SUN VS. SHADE
All vegetables grow best in full sun. Vegetables grown in
shade will require less water but will also be less
productive. It is always better to plant your vegetable
garden in full sun and provide adequate water.
Transplants that were grown in partial shade should be
acclimated to full sun in successive steps. Place them in
partial sun before planting them out in full sun.
Products and suppliers mentioned by name in this publication are used as examples and in no way imply endorsement or recommendation of these
products or suppliers.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914 (as amended), in cooperation with the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, D.S. Padda, Director, College of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service. The College of the Virgin Islands
Cooperative Extension Service is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action organization, providing educational services in the field of agriculture, home
economics, rural development, 4-H youth development and related subjects to all persons regardless of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
VEGETABLES THAT SHOULD BE TRANS- VEGETABLES THAT SHOULD NOT BE
cabbage cauliflower broccoli beans carrots corn
lettuce tomatoes peppers radish okra