Transplanting Vegetable Seedlings
When transplanting vegetables to their permanent positions after raising them under glass or in a seed bed, choose plants that are stocky, sturdy and well hardened off.
Check that the soil is moist and firm, and allow time for it to settle after digging.
If possible, wait for mild, still, damp weather. Unless the plants are given protection, they may be stunted by strong winds or hot sunshine.
Planting tender crops
Courgettes, cucumbers, marrows, melons and tomatoes are among plants that will not grow when the soil and the air are cold, so timing is crucial when planting outdoors.
In the south, wait until the second or third week in May if these plants are to be protected by cloches, or until the end of May or early June if planted in the open. In the north, allow at least an extra week or two in both cases.
If the soil is dry, water it thoroughly the day before planting. Water the plants an hour or two before moving them, taking particular care that peat pots get a thorough soaking.
Marrows, cucumbers and melons may suffer a severe check if their roots are disturbed. For this reason they are often grown in peat pots, which can be planted directly in the soil.
If the plants have been raised in plastic or clay pots, tap them out carefully. Hold the pot upside down in the palm of your hand, with the plant projecting downwards between your fingers. Tap the rim of the pot smartly against a solid object, such as a trowel, so that the plant slides out with the soil-ball intact.
Use a trowel to make a hole in the soil about 1in (25 mm) wider than the peat pot or soil-ball. Set the plant in the hole and draw soil round it, firming with the back of the trowel or with your fingers.
Give enough water to help the soil to settle.
Transplanting from a seed bed
Move hardy plants, such as Brussels sprouts, from the seed bed to their permanent positions when about 4in (100 mm) high. The plants should have short stems and spreading leaves. Make sure also that each has an inner growing point of undeveloped leaves.
During a dry spell, water the seed bed thoroughly the day before planting. At the same time, water the planting site.
Use either a trowel or a dibber to make the planting holes.
Lift the plants with a trowel and set each in a hole, planting it slightly deeper than it was in the seed bed. Make sure- there is no cavity below the roots.
Firm each plant by pushing, the trowel or dibber into the ground alongside and levering the soil firmly against the roots. Water the plants in.
To test if you are planting firmly, hold a leaf between finger and thumb and pull. If the leaf tears, the plant is firm enough; but if you pull the plant out of the ground, re-plant it more firmly and test the other plants.
If you are planting more than one row, stagger the plants in adjacent rows to give them more room to grow.
When planting during hot spells, give shade by placing newspaper over the plants for two or three days to help them to get established. Use bricks Or stones to keep the paper in place.
Alternatively, if you have polythene tunnel cloches, use the wire supports and cover them with black polythene. To save time the polythene can be fastened to the wire with clothes pegs.
Birds sometimes pull brassica plants out of the ground after planting. Net the bed if you are not covering the plants with news-paper or black polythene.
After planting brassicas and lettuces, scatter slug pellets over the ground. Sprinkle bromophos or diazinon granules around stems of brassica plants as a precaution against cabbage root fly.
Keep the soil moist, and spray the plants each evening until they are established.
Buying vegetable plants
Generally, it is better to grow your own plants from seed rather than buy the plants from a nursery. You get a better choice of varieties and you are able to produce the plants just at the time you are ready to set them out.
However, if something goes wrong with your own sowing you will have to buy plants. These are the points you should then look for:
Buy sturdy plants with short stems and deep green leaves, indicating that they have been well hardened off.
Choose pots or trays that are already well watered.
Check whether varieties — especially tomatoes — are suitable for indoor or outside planting, and choose to suit your needs.