Pod to Pot: Transplanting Seedlings to Soil from the AeroGarden Harvest
The AeroGarden seed starting system helps plants sprout much faster than traditional, soil-based sowing. Consistent moisture and bright, broad spectrum light produce strong, stocky seedlings that are ready to transplant in about a week. However, moving seedlings from a hydroponic system to a soil based system requires a transition period to condition the roots for a more challenging life ahead.
Roots that develop in a water based growing system are structurally different from those that grow in soil. Water roots need only to absorb water and nutrients from the surrounding environment, so they grow thin, highly permeable cell walls which are structurally weak. In the soil, roots also provide structural support and a defensive barrier against pests and diseases.
Switching from one environment to the other can lead to transplant shock or even death of mature plants, but young seedlings are amazingly adaptable. The earlier the process begins, the faster the seedlings respond.
The best time to make the move from an AeroGarden seed starting system to soil is when the seedling grows its first set of true leaves. At this stage, roots have penetrated the grow sponges, but they are not yet long and entangled with one another. If the weather still isn't consistently warm and fair by this time in your seedlings' life, you can transfer them to soil in pots and keep them inside until the weather cooperates. This allows you to get them out of the AeroGarden tray before they become too entangled with their roots.
If you end up needing to move your seedlings prior to the weather improving, here are some tips and tricks to help your plants survive.
The only supplies needed for this move are 3-inch or 4-inch natural fiber pots, a waterproof tray to hold the potted seedlings, a pair of sharp scissors or herb pruners, and a high quality potting mix like Miracle-Gro Performance Organics All Purpose Container Mix.
Prepare one of the fiber pots by placing a half-inch layer of potting mix in the bottom.Gently remove a seedling from it’s pod, and use sharp scissors or herb pruners to nip off all but the single strongest seedling.
If the roots are excessively long, trim just enough so they fit into the pot without encircling the bottom. Place the seedling in the center of the pot with the top of the grow sponge at, or slightly below, the rim.
Gently fill around the grow sponge with potting mix and firm it in. Be careful to maintain the position of the sponge in the center and at the proper height.
When potting is complete, place all seedling pots in the waterproof tray and give them a gentle, deep soak. Fiber pots absorb water, so it may be necessary to leave an inch of water in the bottom of the tray for a few minutes. Let them soak up as much as they can before pouring off the excess.
Once the weather is warm enough to start hardening off, place the seedling tray in a shady location outdoors for a bit to begin the process. Otherwise, keep them inside until the weather is favorable. You will have to provide supplemental light until they are ready to go outside. You can do that with a high powered grow light, or potentially your AeroGarden will cast off enough light from the LED grow light hood to support the seedlings. Or place your seedlings near a sunny window.