Sunday, 23 October 2011

Tips for transplanting and an invitation to a garden(ing) party

While learning about growing vegetables, you often come across the words 'transplanting' or 'pricking out'. When I first began gardening last year, I didn't trust myself to get anything right- what do you mean I need to pull out a happily growing seedling and trasns-plant it? How on earth....and so on.

But as I had gone on with my beginner's enthusiasm to plant about 25 tomato seeds in my seed tray, you can imagine just how much transplanting was staring me in the face. And when the weather gets right here, it really does get right- things begin to grow at an almost unbelievable rate. If you leave your rapidly growing seedlings in their tiny pots for too long, you are restricting their growth as the roots have nowhere to go. You can usually see them forcing their way through the drainage holes of the little pots. Being constricted, they also come under water stress and hence become more prone to pests and other problems. So yes, you gotta get down to it and somehow work up as much enthusiasm for transplanting as you did for the sowing!

The good thing about having loads of seedlings to transplant it is that after a couple you really get the hang of it and start having some fun, unless of course your knees are screaming with pain....

The best way to go about transplanting:
1- Prepare Have the pots prepared with soil and compost. Have filled watering can to hand.
3- Time Do it in the early morning or late afternoon, always in a bit of shade.
4- Be gentle Never PULL at the stem to get the plant out. Instead, turn the pot over in your hand. Thwack firmly at the bottom until the seedling, along with the soil comes loose.
5- Plonk. Pat. Water. I have never needed to nudge out the roots from the root ball as many gardening sources suggest. I just plonk the whole thing into a hole in the soil of the new pot. Pat down gently and water deeply. That's it. All done!
6- 2 stage or 3?Most books suggest pricking out your seedlings, especially tomatoes, aubergines and peppers in  3 stages. In our weather, I don't see the need for it. I just transplanted my tomato seedlings in 20 ltr Cosmoplast buckets today- their final growing place and hopefully one they like!
7- Don't be stingy on container size The bigger the better. Don't give in to the temptation of buying smaller pots (less money,  plant more etc.). You'll regret it. They dry out very quickly. They blow over with the wind. And they result in smaller plants or less produce than you could have had in a bigger pot.
8- Don't plant too close On average, most plants such as tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers need  at least 12-18" between plants. The more space the better. There are exceptions such as beans that can be planted at 3-6" apart. try and follow the instructions on the seed packet. The spacing obviously doesn't apply to plants in individual containers but see the note about container size above.
8- A note for transplanting tomatoes Take all except the top two leaves off the seedling. Bury all the way up to the leaves. The little 'hair' you see on the main stem of the young plant will send out roots and make your growing plant strong and sturdy. And believe me, with the crazy winds we get here in the UAE, you really need deeply rooted plants.

And do stop for a break or you'll be crashing on the sofa all evening, like me....

We spent almost the entire day outside transplanting today, fitting in a trip to the car wash, library and Lulu in between. Sara is a great little helper to have around. She helped me fill up all the pots with soil, make the trips inside to fill up the watering can and sweep up the terrace once we finished. By then, it was almost 5 and time for a fruit break. So out came the new picnic blanket I found in Tchibo and all the fruit the girls had picked in Lulu.

All this transplanting is of course also in anticipation of the Planting Party on Tuesday, Nov 1 at my place in The Greens, Dubai. A bunch of us are going to swap and sow seeds and seedlings, talk gardening and just have fun sharing tips and advice about growing things in the UAE. Anyone from experienced to complete beginner is welcome. Whether you have a garden or a balcony, come along to find out how to start growing your own vegetables.

See you then.

Happy Gardening!


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  2. hi shumaila. I'm impressed with your work. mashaAllah! Keep it going. You have great trips for beginners like me.

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