How To Prick Out Seedlings

How to transplant seedlings

Follow the easy steps in this guide to transplant seedlings, giving them room to grow.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
To do
To do

Do not To do in January

Do not To do in February

Do To do in March

Do To do in April

Do To do in May

Do not To do in June

Do not To do in July

Do not To do in August

Do not To do in September

Do not To do in October

Do not To do in November

Do not To do in December

It’s important to transplant seedlings of flowers and vegetables once they have their first true leaves (these are the first set of leaves that resemble the parent plant). This will give them enough space to grow healthily, and will also allow them to benefit from the extra feed in the compost. If you don’t prick out seedlings, they can succumb to a disease called damping off, causing them to collapse.  It’s possible to avoid the need to prick out seedlings by sowing seeds singly in modular trays, but these take up more space in propagators or on windowsills.

Aim to transplant 12 seedlings into a half-sized seed tray. Use a dibber to mark out the spacing, with three plants across the width and four down the length of the tray. It is better to transplant large seedlings into their own individual pots.

Flower and vegetable seedlings need to be transplanted once they have their first true leaves.

Monty Don explains how to tell when it’s time to prick out seedlings, what to move them into, and how to lift these fragile plants without damaging them, in this video guide.

More advice on how to transplant seedlings:

Follow the advice in this easy guide to transplant your seedlings, below:

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You Will Need

  • Seed dibber, pencil or another similar implement to lever out seedlings
  • Seed tray or small pots
  • Multi-purpose or bedding compost

Step 1

gently-lever-up-the-seedlings-with-a-dibber-2

Gently lift one seedling at a time using a dibber to lever out as many of the roots as possible. Always hold seedlings by a leaf, not the stem, as this is easily crushed, which would kill the seedling.

Step 2

transfer-each-seedling-to-an-awaiting-seed-tray-or-small-pot-2

Transplant the seedlings to individual pots or new seed trays, which should be ready and waiting alongside. Filled with multi-purpose compost, the surface should be level and gently firmed.

Step 3

lower-the-seedlings-into-a-hole-and-firm-it-in-carefully-2

Make a hole with the dibber and lower the seedling into it, almost to the base of the leaves. Firm it in carefully, ensuring the seedling is upright, well spaced from its neighbours and in a straight row.

Step 4

soaking-the-newly-planted-seedlings-with-a-watering-can-2

Soak the newly transplanted seedlings using tepid water from a watering can with a fine rose, so as not to disturb them. Label with the plant’s name and place it on a greenhouse bench or a bright windowsill to grow on.

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Caring for your seedlings

Place the seed tray in a warm, well-lit spot, keep the compost damp, and check plants regularly for aphids. As the seedlings grow, pinch out the tips of vigorous or leggy plants to make them bushier.