Starting those specs of Dust

Crowded Seedlings

In starting seeds for the new year, for the tinny ones such as foxgloves and oriental poppies which are like specks of dust the challenge is getting a single seed or two seeds per potting tray cell. This is for someone with younger eyes and much more patience than me.

What typically occurs is mass of seedlings in each of the cells that will require thinning. This can be accomplished by cutting the extras off at the soil and leaving a single strong seedling in each cell but there is another option that I prefer.

When I find that there are too many seedlings in the cells of the flat of six packs, I seeded such as these oriental poppies.




I will transplant these instead of just cutting out the extras. For these numbers seen in each cell I find that I will get enough transplants to fill a new flat of 72 from just one six cell potting tray.

The process is simple and straightforward.

First get your new flat ready by placing the potting cells in to the flat.

Next add your seedling mix to the tray. You can use potting mix but you need to sift it to remove the sticks and larger materials and this also helps to loosen it up. The mix should be slightly moist such that if you poke a hole into it the sides of the hole to not collapse



With the cells filled you want to lightly compact the mix to ensure that the cells are properly filled. Do not overdo this.

I find that lightly lifting and dropping the tray on the surface is enough to settle the mix in the cells




The next step is to create holes in each of the cells to be able to allow the roots to extend down the depth of the cell. I find that a sharpie marker works well and I am going to use it later to label the tray so I have it on hand.




Now you will take one of the overcrowded cells from the flat to transplant.

Remove one set of seedlings in a cell by pushing up on the bottom of the cell to pop the cell from the tray.

The roots will hold it together.



Do not pull on the seedlings since they are not strong enough to avoid pulling the plant from the roots especially the fine feeder roots.


Next to separate the seedlings from each other there are two ways. One is to rinse the soil from the roots but my preferred method is to lightly smash the root ball to loosen it up.


Then I will Lightly tease the seedlings apart from each other.

I find that if I grab one half of the leaves and the other half and pull them as a group the root ball separates easily and further loosens up the mix around the roots of the individual plants.

You will see different amounts of roots and soil on the seedlings. The more soil and roots that are attached the better the seedling will adapt to transplanting. All three of these examples will work.




Take each of the individual seedlings and place them in the holes you have created in the potting mix trying your best to allow the root system to drop to the bottom of the hole.



Next with the seedling in place push the mix gently around the roots.



If needed you can add some extra mix to help fill in.

Take care not to burry the leaves. If this happens you can use a toothpick to help lift the plant up to have the leaves above the mix and push the mix to fill in under the plant if needed.

With the flat filled with the transplanted seedlings (In this case I planted a whole flat from the single six cell pack) your next step is to water them.



This is accomplished by filling the tray with water and not by watering each cell from the top. This helps prevent covering the seedling with the mix and compacting the mix down into the cell.



The mix will absorb the water from the tray and remoisten the mix all the way to the surface.

The next step helps these seedlings survive until their roots reestablish and it will especially help those transplants that did not have the best root system.

Cover the tray with a humidity dome. Instead of these plastic covers I just use clear plastic wrap cut to length to cover the tray. The Standard size is exactly right for covering the tray side to side. I just lay it over the top and do not tuck it in.




The tray is then placed under the lighting you were using to grow the seedlings. It will take about a week for these to start to create their new feeder roots and settle in.

After a week you can remove the plastic wrap.

You will now let the seedlings continue to grow out until ready to transplant out into the garden.

You need to make sure that the light provided is stonge enough to avoid the plants stretching and getting leggy. LED lights a couple of inchs above the plants tops will help prevent this..

Once planted ou tin thr garden you can enjoy the results from your work. You will get some flowers the firs tyear but the years after the plants will produce more and more flowers.



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