Whether you’re ready to plant your homegrown seedlings in your urban farm or the ones you bought at a local garden center, the basic steps are the same:
In the days leading up to planting, let your seedlings spend some time outside so they can harden off.
Hardening off means getting your seedlings accustomed to the outdoors before transplanting them into the garden or container. They’ll experience less transplant shock and will be more likely to survive.
To harden off plants, place your seedlings outdoors in a protected location for one to two hours on the first day; then bring them indoors. Each day thereafter, place them outside for longer periods of time each day. After seven days, you can leave them outdoors overnight. Always protect them from frost if the nights get chilly.
Dig a hole twice as wide as the pot and as deep as the transplant is in the pot.
Carefully remove the plant from the pot.
Turn the pot upside down, holding your hand over the soil surface and around the seedling. Gently tap the bottom of the pot so the root ball slides out into your palm. You may have to gently squeeze the pot or run a knife around the inside edge if the seedling doesn’t pop out easily.
Note: If you’re using biodegradable peat or cow pots, you don’t have to remove the plant; you can plant the pot in the soil, too.
Place the transplant deep enough in the soil that it’s at the same depth as it was in the pot.
Some plants, such as tomatoes, are exceptions to this rule. You can plant them deeper in the soil because they form roots along their stems.
Refill the space around the plant with soil.
Use the soil you removed from the hole to fill back in around the roots of the transplant, pressing gently to firm the soil. Double-check that the planting depth is correct (see the preceding step).
Water the soil around the transplant to saturate the soil. If the water runs off before soaking into the soil around the roots, build a small berm (or shelf) of soil around the transplant to contain the water in the plant’s root zone.