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Hardening Plants Plants should be gradually hardened, or toughened, for 2 weeks before planting in open garden. This is done by slowing down their rate of growth to prepare them to withstand such conditions as chilling, drying winds, shortage of water, or high temperatures. Cabbage, lettuce, onion, and many other plants can be hardened to withstand frost; others, such as tomatoes and peppers cannot. Withholding water and lowering temperature are best ways to harden a plant. This may be done in a glass or plastic coldframe. About 10 days before being planted in open ground, young plants in beds or flats are blocked out with a large knife. Blocking, or cutting roots, causes new roots to form quickly near plants, making recovery from transplanting in open easier. Blocking also makes it easier to remove plants from bed or flat with minimum injury. Southern-Grown Plants Vegetable plants grown outdoors in South are shipped to all parts of country. They are grown cheaply and usually withstand shipment and resetting very well. They may not always be as good as home-grown plants, but they save trouble of starting them in house or in a hot-bed. Plants of beets, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, peppers, and tomatoes are extensively grown and shipped; tomato, cabbage, and onion plants make up bulk of shipments. The plants are usually wrapped in bundles of 50 each and shipped by either mail or express. Tomato and pepper plants are packed with a little damp moss around roots, but onion and cabbage plants are usually packed with bare roots. Shipments involving large numbers of bundles are packed in ventilated hampers or slatted crates and usually are sent by motor-truck or rail express. Shipments by air mail and air express are increasing. The disadvantages of using southern-grown plants are occasional delays in obtaining them and possibility of transmitting such diseases as wilt disease of tomato, black rot of cabbage, and disorders caused by nematodes. State-certified plants that have been carefully inspected and found as free of these troubles as can be reasonably determined are available. Southern-grown plants are now offered for sale by most northern seedsmen, by mail-order houses, and often by local hardware and supply houses.
Transplanting The term "transplanting" means shifting of a plant from one soil or culture medium to another. It may refer to shifting of small seedlings from seedbed to other containers where plants will have more space for growth, or it may mean setting of plants in garden row where they are to develop for crop period. Contrary to general belief, transplanting does not in itself stimulate plant or make it grow better; actually growth is temporarily checked, but plant is usually given more space in which to grow. Every effort should be made during transplanting to interrupt growth of plant as little as possible.
Plants started in seed flats, flowerpots, and other containers in house, hotbed, greenhouse, or elsewhere should be shifted as soon as they can be handled to boxes, flowerpots, plant bands, or other containers where they will have more room to develop. If shifted to flats or similar containers, plants should be spaced 2 or more inches apart. This provides room for growth until plants can be moved to their permanent place in garden. Most gardeners prefer to place seedlings singly in flowerpots, paper cups with bottoms pierced for drainage, plant bands, berry boxes, or other containers. When plants are set in garden, containers are carefully removed. Soil for transplanting should be fertile, usually a mixture of rich topsoil and garden compost, with a very light addition of a commercial garden fertilizer.
Moistening seedbed before removing seedlings and care in lifting and separating delicate plants make it possible to shift them with little damage to root system and with only minor checks to their growth. Plants grown singly in separate containers can be moved to garden with almost no disturbance to root system, especially those that are hardened for a week or two before being set outdoors. Plants being hardened should be watered sparingly, but just before they are set out, they should be given a thorough soaking. Plants grown in hotbed or greenhouse without being shifted from seedbed to provide more room and those shipped from South usually have very little soil adhering to roots when they are set in garden. Such plants may require special care if transplanting conditions are not ideal; otherwise, they will die or at least suffer a severe shock that will greatly retard their development. The roots of these plants should be kept covered and not allowed to dry out. Dipping roots in a mixture of clay and water helps greatly in bridging critical transplanting period. Planting when soil is moist also helps. Pouring a half pint to a pint of water, or less for small plants, into hole around plant before it is completely filled is usually necessary. A starter solution made by mixing 1/2 pound of a 4-12-4 or 5-10-5 commercial fertilizer in 4 gallons of water may be used instead of plain water. It is usually beneficial. Finally, freshly set plants should be shaded for a day or two with newspapers.
Plants differ greatly in way they recover from loss of roots and from exposure to new conditions. Small plants of tomatoes, lettuce, beets, cabbage, and related vegetables are easy to transplant. They withstand treatment better than peppers, eggplant, and vine crops. When started indoors and moved to field, vine crops should be seeded directly in berry baskets or containers of same size that can be transferred to garden and removed without disturbing root systems. Beans and sweet corn can be handled in same manner, thereby often gaining a week or two in earliness.
Article by: Tracker Outdoors www.tracker-outdoors.com