Many gardeners choose to start their vegetable and flower gardens with seedlings to get a head start on the growing season. Transplanting seedlings to the garden after the danger of frost has passed in your area helps plants produce earlier and often creates bigger healthier plants. But they will suffer some stress from transplanting. You can reduce the stress on your seedlings by providing them with the water they need to recover quickly and resume growing.
Caring for seedlings before transplanting them
Whether you have grown your own seedlings at home or purchased them from the nursery, they will need proper care until you can plant them in the garden. This includes giving them enough water to keep the soil moist but avoiding wet, soggy soil.
How do you water seedlings in domed seed starting trays?
Domed trays are designed for starting seedlings inside the home in the spring. They typically consist of a tray, cells (or peat pots) for planting the seedlings, and a dome cover. They help increase the humidity level around your seedlings and help keep them warm.
You should water them often enough to keep the soil moist but should avoid soggy soil. For very young seedlings, this may mean watering them every few days. As the seedlings get larger, their demand for water increases. Larger seedlings generally need to be watered every day to keep the soil moist.
Is it okay to leave water in the bottom of the seed starting tray?
Most seed starting trays are designed with small pots or cells that sit inside the tray. Water runs through the soil and drains into the tray when you water the seedlings. Whether or not you should allow water to remain in the bottom of the tray depends on how quickly the seedlings reabsorb the water from the tray.
If water remains in the tray for days and the soil in the pots stays soggy, your seedlings may suffer because the oxygen to their roots is cut off, and they cannot carry water and nutrients to the seedlings. However, if your seedlings are growing rapidly and reabsorb the water during the day, leaving water in the bottom of the tray is an efficient way to provide them with the water they need.
Always check the soil in the pots and monitor it closely to determine if leaving water in the bottom of the tray works for your seedlings.
Do pots for seedlings need drainage holes?
Many gardeners start their seedlings in plastic cups or other recycled containers. It is vital that each has drainage holes to allow excess water to drain through the soil. Without drainage holes, the soil in the pot can get waterlogged and choke out oxygen to the seedlings’ roots.
How often do you need to water tiny seedlings?
Seedlings need to be watered when the soil dries out. How quickly the soil dries depends on the amount of soil in the pot and the size and growth rate of the seedlings. Tiny seedlings may need to be watered every two to three days. As they grow and increase in size, their watering needs increase too. Larger seedlings typically need to be watered every day to keep the soil moist.
Watering seedlings after transplanting them to the garden
How much water do seedlings need?
Seedlings need plenty of water for their roots to grow and provide nutrients for the plants. This is especially true when they are first transplanted to the garden. It is vital to keep the soil moist to the root level of the seedlings for the first week or two as they need moisture for new roots to grow and expand into the soil.
How should I apply the water to my seedlings when transplanting them?
Newly transplanted seedlings will wilt quickly if they do not have enough water. The easiest method to ensure your seedlings have enough water is to pour water directly into the planting hole before you plant the seedlings.
- Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball of the seedlings.
- Pour a quart of water into the hole and let it soak into the soil.
- Position the seedling into the hole so that the plant’s crown rests at the soil level and the roots are spread out in the soil.
- Fill in around the roots with soil and pat it down gently to remove air pockets and secure the seedling.
Should you water the seedlings after transplanting them?
Seedlings should be watered immediately after transplanting them, even if you have added water to the planting hole. Use the sprayer on your garden hose to saturate the soil around your seedlings. Use care not to damage the seedlings as you water them.
How often to water seedlings?
Newly planted seedlings need moist soil to thrive. Water them daily in small amounts to keep the soil moist for the first week or two. New growth will appear once the seedlings have established healthy new roots. At this point, you can begin watering the seedlings once or twice a week or whenever the soil feels dry 2 to 3 inches below the surface of the soil.
How do I know if I have added too much water?
If your garden soil drains well, it is unlikely you will overwater your seedlings. However, heavy clay soils can become waterlogged if you water them too much or too frequently. If the soil remains soggy, you are overwatering your seedlings. Always check the soil before watering and develop a routine that keeps the soil moist but not soggy as your seedlings become established.
What should I do if I have overwatered my seedlings?
If you accidentally overwater seedlings that have been transplanted to the garden, simply withhold water and let the soil dry. Unless you have planted them in heavy clay soil that stays soggy for days, the soil should dry in a day or two. Begin watering them again when the soil feels dry to the touch.
The easiest and most efficient way to determine if your seedlings need watering is to check the soil moisture and water them when the soil is dry. The size of the seedlings, the type of pot they are growing in, the growth rate of the seedlings, and environmental factors (like temperature and humidity levels) all affect the amount of water your seedlings need.