Epic Spring Planting Series: Tips for Transplanting

Planting season is my second-favorite time of year, trailing closely behind early to mid-summer when everything starts to bloom and thrive and produce harvest.   There is nothing more relaxing or joyful to me than nurturing all of my plants individually, inspecting them for bugs and diseases, spending quality time with each and every one of them.  Whispering encouragement and well-wishes to them.  Caressing their petals and stalks in total awe and adoration.  Weird AF, I already know.

Red Giant mustard was one of the first crops I grew in mass abundance my first year growing on farms in Detroit. It holds a very dear, special place in my heart. And you guys, those COLORS.


Good Stuff to Know:  Organic Remedies for 20 Common Garden Pests: Mindfulness + Compassion

Affiliate links are present in this post which means if you click on a link and buy something, I’ll get like 4 cents for it, at no extra cost to you!

If you missed my first segment of the Epic Spring Planting Series: Tips for Planting with Seeds, I recommend taking a few minutes to read that post once you’re finished with this one.  Thing is, we plant with seeds AND transplants – and learning how each crop prefers to grow (seed vs. transplant), and WHEN to plant them, are two major keys to a successful growing season.  


This beautiful rooftop garden was made possible in part by transplants. Seeds played a main part too (basil, sunflowers and sweet alyssum).


I realize planting can be totally confusing and I boldly blame the internet for it.  There’s too much info out there for us to digest and a lot of it is really shitty advice, there’s just no other way to put it.  So to help you out with your own decision making in the garden, I’ve written a free (!!!) Garden Planting + Successioning Guide for Climate Change (Download form below) that you can trust with your whole heart.

In this awesome guide, I document 97 (NINETY-SEVEN!) fruits, vegetables and culinary + medicinal herbs, and provide flexible, ballpark dates for direct seeding, transplanting and succession planting throughout the growing season.  All of this information I’m providing has been informed by my experiences growing ALL of these plants in over 150 different gardens.  I’ve grown some show-stopping gardens overflowing with fresh produce, and in other places, I’ve committed veggie genocide… and a lot of that had to do with my timing and my own ignorance to the changing climate we’re all facing.

Anyway, my Garden Planting + Successioning Guide for Climate Change will remove all your doubts, fears, and horrible gardening advice you’ve read on the internet from your brain, so if you’ve ever questioned WHEN to put that tomato or pepper plant in the ground…. I’ve got you covered, mama.

Scroll down for my 5 best, tried and true tips for putting transplants in the ground!


Download my planting + successioning guide for FREE Now!

FREE Garden Planting and Successioning Guide for Climate Change | How to Succession Plant your garden, featuring 97 fruits, vegetables and culinary and medicinal herbs to with dates for spring, summer and succession planting! | Heirloom Soul

After clicking the link below, go check your email.  You’ll receive the guide in PDF form.


1.  Learn How to Identify a Healthy Transplant

The health of your plants, and the success of your garden in the long run, heavily depends on what your transplant went through early in life.  Was it deprived of water or sunlight at any given point?  Was it grown in a dirty greenhouse with diseases leftover from last year?  Was it transported under particularly harsh conditions?  

If you’re buying your transplant at a nursery (this is totally okay and nothing to be ashamed of by the way), clearly you don’t know what conditions the plant has undergone.  That’s okay though, because there are several things you can look for when choosing a healthy plant.

Here I’m shopping at Gethsemane Garden Center in Chicago where they have started getting real testy with their transplants. These lettuces and spinach were larger than I’d hoped to buy, but I made due with seeking out the smallest ones of the bunch.


A healthy transplant will have lots of dark green leafy growth in a “bushy” habit – the opposite of “leggy” which is literally an industry term for plants that have been scrambling and reaching for sunlight so their stems are extra long and they have minimal leafy growth. 

Signs of an Unhealthy Transplant:

  • – The plant is Yellowy and lacks vibrancy, indicative of nitrogen deficiency – PASS ON IT.
  • – Bugs – this includes fleas, aphids, caterpillars (except beneficial butterfly caterpillars, those would actually be good to take home with you!)
  • – Spots on the leaves – even one spot could turn into a full-blown diseased mess and kill all your plants in your garden (don’t ask me how I know this)
  • – White mildew growing on the plant or soil – same reason as above.
  • – Roots that have overgrown the container – this will usually turn out okay, but the transplant has already undergone stress and might require some extra TLC


2.  Separate Doubles

When seedlings are initially grown, more than one seed is usually always planted so the grower can ensure germination.  Attentive growers thin the extra seedlings out early on, but when you’re buying transplants at a nursery usually they are purchased from wholesale growers and haven’t received the same amount of attention.  As a result, most of the time, more than one plant will be growing in each cell. 

2-for-1 lettuces! Score! I separated these at the root ball and planted them 6 inches apart from one another.

Double transplants are okay – in fact, they will save you money if you play your cards right – but you absolutely need to separate them.  Each plant requires its own root space and above-ground space to splay out and won’t tolerate sharing its space so close to its brother.  If you don’t separate your transplants, you will have two inferior plants as opposed to one or two very healthy, robust plants, I 100% guarantee that.

Simply break apart the two (or even three!) plants with your fingers by breaking apart the root ball.  Don’t worry about hurting them – they’ll be okay.  If they’re too difficult to separate, sacrifice one with your pruners and add his leafy bits back to the garden for the worms to enjoy.

Related Reading:  How to Cover Crop Your Backyard Garden in 4 Steps

3.  Pinch off Blossoms and Premature Fruits

Pinch off all tomato blossoms until the plants are between 12-18 inches tall. That’s my “rule” of thumb, although it takes practice and it totally helps if you whisper to your plants too. 🙂


Every transplant you buy will have blossoms, and sometimes fruits, growing on it.  They must come off!  The simplest way for me to explain this is that when a transplant has blossoms and fruits on it, it has begun to put all its energy into producing fruit when really, it should be putting all its energy into growing big, strong, roots and extra-leafy above-ground growth.   The plant needs to be big and strong enough, from the start, to withstand the future impending doom of bugs and diseases.  And it needs a ton of leafy growth to collect sunlight for photosynthesis.

 I usually pinch 3 entire rounds of blossoms off tomatoes, eggplant and peppers before I let them start making their fruits. 

Removing fruits and blossoms can be incredibly painful for some people.  I’ve literally been accused of killing / aborting people’s future baby fruits and vegetables.  Don’t be those people.

Related Advice:  6 Ways to Increase Food Production in Your Edible Garden


4.  Use Mycorrhizal Fungi Inoculant in the Hole

So here’s a real mind blower:  Your veggie plants don’t actually synthesize and intake nutrients from the soil on their own.  They are fully dependent on the diligent hardworking society of microbes living in the soil and on their foliage – the fungi, bacteria, algae, protozoa and company that make up the Soil Food Web.

To put this simply here, you need to inoculate your transplant holes with mycorrhizal fungi.  


I have a 2-Part Soil Building Series I highly recommend reading:  How to Increase the Biodiversity of Your Soil Food Web, where I talk all about what these soil microbes do.  You will learn how to completely improve your garden, from increasing your soil moisture holding capacity to supercharging your veggies with more nutrients than supermarket produce could ever dream of.


5.  Plant at the Right Time (simpler than you think!)

Everyone’s always in a hurry to plant their gardens come springtime and I think a major reason is because garden centers, SCHEISTER GARDEN CENTERS, yes I’m going there, sell vegetables months too early.  It’s not out of the ordinary for nurseries to put tomatoes and peppers out for sale in March, when really, they’re supposed to be planted no earlier than Mid-May to Early June here in Zone 6b.

[Oh yea, newsflash, it’s still about 3 weeks too early to plant tomatoes and peppers if you’re in Zone 6 or lower!!!  The Garden Planting + Successioning Guide for Climate Change will tell you everything else it’s still too early for, too!]

Anyway, garden centers do this because they make a ton of money off all the plants that died the first time from being planted too early.  Not a bad marketing scheme on their part, but I’m not into wasting time and money, so, I highly recommend taking my advice on planting conservatively.  I can truly say I’ve been there, done that, hundreds of times over.

As always, I hope this was helpful for you in your gardening endeavors.  Please leave a comment if you have any favorite tips for transplanting, or planting in general!  Or stories!  We love stories, here.  Peace, love + plant magic.


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