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Transplanting a heritage raspberry. Photo: <a href="">Susy Morris</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Transplanting a heritage raspberry. Photo: Susy Morris, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Wetter, warmer weather perfect for most transplants

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It's been hot, or cold, and mostly dry and windy for most of this spring. None of those conditions is ideal for transplanting vegetables or flowers. But this week's weather looks more hospitable for tender transplants. In their weekly conversation, Martha Foley and Cornell Cooperative Extension horticulturist Amy Ivy review what to look for when you shop for transplants, and what to do when planting.

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Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

Summary of this week's gardening conversation:

After last week's unexpected frost the weather appears to be growing warmer, but you still must be cautious when transplanting.

The most common plants bought for transplant are tomatoes or peppers, because they take such a long time to grow. Our growing season is too short for gardeners to start them from seeds, unless you start them indoors or under shelter.

“Because this season is short, a lot of people want to try to get a head start and get the biggest plant they possibly can, thinking that will give them the biggest head start, but this isn’t necessarily so,” says Amy Ivy. “I know we are all anxious because our season is short, but if you take a plant that wants nice warm weather, and it is still cold, it won’t kill the plant, but the heat-loving plants will languish.”

You should not buy really tall and flowered plants in little pots or containers because they are likely to be under stress. A sturdy plant in a large pot is much less likely to be stressed. Look for a plant with lots of bushy leaves, not tall and spindly. Sturdy, vigorous, healthy-looking growth is most important. When the plant is stressed it switches to survival mode and attempts to make seed for the next generation. This is not a good sign.

Flowering plants should also be stocky, and short. “I try to go for ones that are just barely open, as opposed to ones that are full flower,” says Ivy. Greenhouses also know that less mature flowers are best, but because consumers want to see the flower color when buying, growers also know that sales will be better if the flowers have already bloomed.

Transplant success mainly has to do with the size of root balls. When you pull the plants out of the cells, the roots may be tangled together; you should to break them apart to separate the individual plants. This may seem harsh, and it is stressful to the plant, but if you don’t do it, the roots will not be encouraged to branch out. The roots should quickly recover and you will have a much healthier plant.

Things that peak early, such as hanging baskets, may not be able to sustain themselves later on in the season. Maker sure you have a back-up basket if you bought one recently. If you are looking for plants that are good to transplant right now—broccoli, lettuce, or any other cool season plant will work.

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