Planting Seedlings-Handling a Plant Seedling without Damaging It
The best time of day for planting seedlings is late afternoon. This gives them time to get their roots settled in their new home before the sun beats on them. It will be much easier for them to adjust this way.
Mark the spots you intend to plant your seedlings, and dig the hole deep enough to put them at the same or lower level than they are in the pony pack.
If it is a plant with a stem, like a pepper, go a little deeper. If it is a plant with a crown area, like leaf lettuce, plant it just deep enough to cover all of the root.
How to Handle A Plant Seedling
When handling your plant seedlings, take care not to squeeze, squash, bend or break the tender stems. Small seedlings in pony packs are especially vulnerable. If you have a pony pack containing 4, 6 or 8 seedlings, find a plastic picnic knife.
Take this knife and slide it between the soil and the sides of the cells each plant is in.
It's best to do one side of the pony pack at a time, and then lay the pack down so that those plants are at ground level. Be sure the soil is moist before you begin, or it may fall off the roots.
Try sliding the pony pack off the seedlings, leaving them lying on their sides on the ground. You can tap any cells that are being stubborn with your finger, but don't shake the pack.
Hold your fingers over the side that has not had the knife treatment yet to prevent any accidentally falling out. When you've gotten one side out of their cells, lift the pony pack upright. If all else fails, you can cut the cells open with a knife or scissor. Be careful not to cut into the roots.
Moving Your Vegetable Seedlings
Plant these seedlings first, before loosening the other side. Try not to disturb the soil around the roots if you can avoid it. If any do not slip out of the cell, you will have to try pushing on the bottom of the cell to bring the seedling up.
If there are thin roots coming through the bottom and they are matted and preventing the seedling from coming out, cut those roots off at the bottom of the cell. If it is a thick root, try to work it through. Some vegetables have one long tap root, and you don't want to cut into it.
Once you have gotten the seedling mostly out of the cell, take two fingers and place them under the leaves on either side of the stem. Do not try to pick up the plant by the stem, or you will damage it. Use your other hand to gently cup the root ball and then lift the seedling. Take it to the hole you've prepared.
Lay the plant across your hand and examine the root ball. If there are visible roots around the outside of the root ball, and they are wrapped around it, you have more work to do.
While supporting the plant in one hand, use the other hand to gently pry the roots away from the root ball. Spread them out and then set the plant in the planting hole. Try not to disturb the center of the root ball.
Now backfill the hole until the soil is even. Do not push the soil down as this will compact it and make it harder for air and water to penetrate. If the plant wobbles, you might need to firm the soil just enough for the plant to stay upright.
Water the plant as soon as possible. Now you can loosen the other side of the pony pack and repeat the same process.