Repotting seedlings 101

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In late spring, I am a repotting queen! I use plug flats and cell packs to start my vegetable, flower, and herb seeds – they’re extremely efficient in terms of space – but, they don’t offer a lot of root room. After 6 to 8 weeks under the grow lights, many of the seedlings need to be repotted into larger containers to ensure continued healthy growth until it’s time to move them into the garden.

You’ll know your seedlings are ready to be repotted when their roots have filled their current containers and their foliage is crowding out the neighbours. Still not sure? Use a butter knife to pop a plant out of its pot and take a peek at the roots. If they’re well developed and encircling the soil ball, it’s time to repot.

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Moving your seedlings to larger containers will help ensure a healthy root system and top-quality transplants for your garden. New containers should be about twice as large as the old ones.


This geranium seedling is ready for repotting. Note the well developed root system.

Repotting 101:

  • Gather all your materials (pots, potting soil, tags, waterproof marker, butter knife) first so that repotting is quick and efficient.
  • Water seedlings before starting. Moist soil will cling to the roots, protecting them from damage and drying out.
  • No tugging! Don’t pull the baby plants from their cell flats or plug trays. Use a butter knife, narrow trowel, or even just a long nail to prick the seedlings from their containers.
  • If there is more than one seedling in your container, gently tease them apart for repotting.
  • Place them in the new pot, lightly tamping the soil.
  • Have a stack of labels ready to go and give each pot a fresh tag. Alternatively, use a waterproof marker to write the name of the plant on the side of the pot.
  • Water with a diluted liquid fertilizer to settle the roots in the new soil and encourage healthy growth.

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Do you have any more repotting tips to add?

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2 Responses to Repotting seedlings 101

  1. Cindi says:

    What transplants are safe to plant out in a tunnel and what should we be seeding in the garden now. With this snow sprinking this morning, i’m confused!

    • Niki Jabbour says:

      Good question! Yes, wasn’t that snow wonderful.. sigh! Anyway, any of the cool and cold season crops can be planted now – direct seeded in your tunnels.. or transplanted, provided they have been hardened off properly. Spinach, kale, lettuce, peas, endive, Asian greens, beets, carrots, etc.. The tunnel is a good idea.. just be sure to vent the ends when the temp outside is above 4 C and it’s sunny.. you don’t want it to get too hot in there! 🙂

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