Planting out seedlings


Today I planted out the seedlings our neighbour gave us. They are kohlrabi, coriander and beetroot.

Yesterday I prepared the soil by putting 2 buckets of fresh compost in and then mixing it into the existing soil. I watered it in and watched. The ground became heavy looking to me so I put in a few scoops of river sand, mixed that in and left it over night. The soil looked perfect this morning. Not sure how good my visual assessment is, but it’s all I’ve got at this point.

Of course after everything is planted I realised I forgot to add water crystals. Doh. Next time I rework the soil I guess.

I have a problem with seedlings. Each plant comes with its own instructions about planting, spacing and thinning out, but in my experience, the thinning can disturb the roots of neighbour plants and do more harm than good. This is magnified when planting out seedlings. In the past I’ve experimented with separating seedlings that come in punnets from the store. I’ve also left some in the clumps they arrive in. Without exception, the plants that weren’t separated have done better.

But today I had a tray packed to overflowing with seedlings. No way could I stick them in the ground that way. So I tried a variety of approaches. Firstly I slid my hand under a cluster of seedlings and tried to wiggle them free. The coriander actually separated pretty well this way so they are planted out almost individually. Some beetroot and kohlrabi seedlings fell free from their neighbours and so are planted in this manner as well.

Where the seedlings were more clingy, I worked them from the leaves and stems trying to, if not totally separate, at least spread them out a bit. The kohlrabi responded well to this. I suspect the seedlings are closer together than is optimal, but I am sure I minimised root damage by not forcing them apart.

Finally I kept clusters together both because it got too hard and because I wanted to see the results. There are a couple of beetroot clusters that fall into this category. Since they are a root plant, I’m not sure what the impact will be. I expect to watch “survival of the fittest” in action.

Today should be perfect lunar planting for the kohlrabi. A week ago would have been better for the coriander but still, the moon is waxing. The poor beetroot should have been held back for another couple of weeks but they’ve been in their seedling tray too long and were massively distrubed when I got the other plants out so I really didn’t feel waiting would benefit the fragile little things. I have no idea what phase of the moon the seeds were put in the seedling trays (I am sure Frank, our neighbour, wouldn’t consult the lunar calendar) but I can honestly say all look to be thriving. Any losses now are my doing (gulp). 

On a totally different topic – that sad little lychee seed was dug up again over night. In the ginger bed there were a few holes, one about 6 inches deep. Frank and I discussed netting or something else to deter whatever is feasting in there but a) with the tall ginger spikes (which the beast obviously doesn’t like) it would be difficult and b) with the lack of rain I figure whoever the critter is might just be desperate and I’d hate to think he starves because I’m selfish. At this point the harm he’s doing is going to be minimal. He did go at the roots of some of the basil but I have so much of that he can have a bit. He’s not eating (only occasionally knocking over) the ginger. The rhubarb is totally gone so it’s too late to save it. Not even a tiny piece of the crown. It couldn’t have decomposed that quickly, I’m sure it (2 sets of 2 actually) was eaten.

Update 4 May 2011: The kohlrabi is starting to look pretty good. The beetroot is not growing (and some are dying). One good coriander, the others not so great. I think the big problem was the rain. LOTS of it right after planting and not much sun since.


About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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