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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved
There are those that would argue that growing your own transplants is a waste of time and money. High quality starts are readily available at local outlets so why would anyone waste time growing their own?
Buying transplants simply does not fill the need that those with gardening in their blood must satisfy. Some want varieties that are not readily available, while others prefer something that is out of season when they want to plant. Others simply get great pleasure from saying “I did in myself.” Whatever the reason, starting plants is a necessary part of gardening.
Some plants take so long to become productive that transplants are a way to get them established quicker. Since transplants are essential for many crops, learning how to select and use them is important.
It is very important for you to learn to count backwards when you are going to start transplants. For example if you plan to set your tomato transplants out the middle of May, you need to get them started inside during the next week.
Tomatoes need to be about six weeks old when you move them into the garden. If they are very small and are too young, you do not have any advantage over growing them from seed. If you plant them too soon, they grow too large before you set them in the garden.
Giant tomato plants are not always the best choice for production. Buying those with tomatoes already on the vine may seem like a good way to get many early tomatoes. Unfortunately, once tomato plants start setting their fruits, root growth stops. The few tomatoes that are on the plant when you buy it will likely ripen but few new fruits will form.
Growing transplants does take some patience and a basic knowledge of soils and plants. They do not grow well unless their basic needs are provided.
Most seeds need 75-degree temperatures to germinate. Cool temperatures prevent the process and extremely warm temperatures destroy the seedling plants. Use lights, heat cable or other devices to provide adequate heat.
Light is critical for growing all transplants. Poor lighting produces weak stretched plants that will not transplant well. Sunlight is best but artificial light from fluorescent tubes will work. Place them within a few inches of the plants and keep them on for at least sixteen hours per day.
Transplants can reward gardeners with earlier harvests and more successful establishment of difficult plants. Their greatest benefit is often therapeutic as they bring us ever closer to being in our gardens.