Did you ever think this day would come? You've prepared, patiently waited, cared for and nurtured your seeds until finally they've burst through the surface. It's as exciting as giving birth! Only less painful. Less commitment, less money, less grey hair…
And nearly as joyful! We have sprouts! Did you hear?
The whole neighborhood can hear your happy dance, but relish the moment and dance away—you've hit your first milestone. A big one, too, because as you may have noticed, not all your seeds germinated. Like babies, they're all different and some fare better than others. It's a fact of life. But rather than simmer in sorrow let's rejoice in the little green pumpkins (term of endearment) we do have and focus on how to best keep them healthy and happy.
If you started them indoors, it's your job to see they get to a decent size before transplanting. Depending on how long you must wait until it's warm enough outside, you may need to transplant them into a larger container (larger the container, larger the plant can grow) while still indoors.
Just as if you were doing so outside, gingerly remove the entire root ball of dirt—go easy on that stem!—and transfer the seedling into the awaiting container of light potting soil and water until moist. Take caution when handling these tiny plants as any harm done to their stem at this point may prove irreparable. Tearing a leaf, on the other hand, is a fixable offense. The plant will simply grow another!
Your plants will appreciate a gradual introduction to the heat and sunlight too, a process known as "hardening off." Try moving them to the patio, or a side of your home where there's only morning sun (afternoon will work, too!). This will help them adjust to their new surroundings before being thrust into the real world of the garden.
Once you're ready to move them fully into the garden, simply follow the same transplanting procedure mentioned above, but this time, you'll want to have dug a hole twice the size of the current root ball (give em a little space to grow) in soil that will hold its moisture, yet drain well. Gently pat them in and follow with a good soaking. Add mulch around their base, leaving an open area close to their stem, allowing for easy water entry.
While we'll talk about feeding your plants in more detail next week, consider giving them a healthy dose of phosphorous, giving their roots a boost on the growing season. The main nutrients in any fertilizer are listed on the package, with the larger numbers representing N-P-K, or nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium. Pssst…which means you want to see a BIG number in the middle.
Enjoy this time with your new babies and rejoice in your early success. You've come a long way baby, and you're not finished yet. Next comes the feeding, the weeding, the caring, and cooing—didn't I tell you they were like babies?
For more gardening tips, check out my website at BloominThyme.com.