When to Transplant Vegetable Seedlings
There are several advantages to transplanting vegetable seedlings, which makes it very worthwhile for home gardeners.
Some of the benefits:
- Extend your harvest season by harvesting crops a few weeks sooner from transplants than direct-seeded crops
- Maximize use of garden space, by setting out plants at the optimal spacing, and by having new seedlings ready to fill in an area as soon as a crop is finished
- Get a head start over weeds
- Provide a better growing environment by amending the planting holes with compost, etc
- Transplanted crops are easier to mulch for moisture retention, disease suppression, and weed suppression
Transplanting Chart (for southern Ontario / zone 5)
You'll notice that some crops can be transplanted over a long season. Here is a general breakdown of how it works:
- Crops above to plant several times throughout the season to ensure continuous harvests: lettuce, scallions, beets, fennel, and beans can be planted every 3-4 weeks
- Crops to plant 2 - 3 times in a growing season: plant kale, Swiss chard, broccoli and cabbage in the spring for summer harvests, and then set out new seedlings mid-summer that will mature for fall harvests
- Crops to plant once, to produce throughout the summer (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant), or to grow all summer for one big harvest in the fall (squash and sweet potatoes)
- Crops to plant in succession to compensate for crop loss due to disease: cucumbers, melons and zucchini
Technically, these crops will continue to produce right through the season when they're fully nourished. However, many gardeners and farmers struggle with disease issues with these crops, and find that it's beneficial to plant 1 or 2 more successions so that they have a long enough harvest season.
I'll be posting some info this year about how to keep your plants healthier (that is, more fully nourished) so that they stay productive, but it can take a couple or few seasons to really optimize this process.
SPECIAL NOTE FOR EARLY-SEASON CROPS
In general, the crops that are transplanted in April and early May should be protected from frost. Most of them can handle frost, but will be more productive if they're protected.
This can be accomplished in several ways, depending on the amount of area that you're protecting. More info to come, on simple methods for doing this in your own garden!