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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, February 09, 2019 1:00 am

Transplants help to save time, effort in garden

Ricky Kemery

Q. I am preparing to start vegetable seeds for my garden. As I become a little older, I am realizing how much time and work I spend in the process of growing plants indoors and then transplanting the seedlings out into the garden in my raised beds. It is just me now, so I only grow some peppers, a few tomatoes and a few other vegetables. Do you have any tips?

Answer: Many home gardeners do not grow a ton of veggies anymore in a large “truck garden.” In my opinion, I would grow or purchase as many vegetable transplants as possible to put in your garden areas to save time and effort – two things that become more important as one grows older.

The general rule of thumb is to use transplants of varieties that are more difficult to establish from seed, or varieties that take longer to develop from seed in our area. Our clay soils tend to dry out and crust easily, so unless you are diligent and keep the soil moist after seeding, there is a greater chance of poor or no development. Traditionally, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and eggplant are established as transplants, while larger seeded vegetables such as squash, pumpkin and cucumber are seeded directly into the garden.

I have found that even the large seeded veggies can be transplanted into the garden. One can drill or punch drainage holes into a yogurt container, fill the container with a professional grower's mix and plant the seed. Using transplants does away with the risk of seedlings dying if not keep moist, and reduces the time of establishment.

Small seeded vegetables such as leeks work well if started in a container and then transplanted into the garden. I even have used corn transplants to avoid grazing of the small tender seedlings by critters.

Some vegetables such as carrots and onions are often seeded directly into the garden. However, I have planted organic carrots and onions which have developed roots because I neglected to use them. I have simply planted those directly into the garden where they will continue to develop. I plant potatoes that have developed tubers in the same fashion.

Vegetable transplants are widely available at garden centers in our area. It is some times difficult to find more unusual varieties of vegetables in our area. Organic vegetable transplants are also more difficult to find. There are exceptions. A few local greenhouses and garden centers offer heirloom vegetables, and a few also offer organic transplants. One has to ask if your particular garden center carries these types of transplants.

Many online sources – even traditional seed companies – now offer vegetable transplants of not so common vegetable cultivars. The Pepper Gal and the Chile Woman are two small companies that offer unusual pepper varieties sold as transplants.

Tomato Growers Supply Co. offers some tomato transplants through mail order.

In today's busy world, transplanting vegetables instead of directly seeding vegetables can save time and effort, and the worry of wondering whether any seeds planted will ever bear fruit.

The Plant Medic, written by Ricky Kemery, appears every other Saturday. Kemery retired as the extension educator for horticulture at the Allen County branch of the Purdue Extension Service.