If plants are started in a seedbed, they need to be singled out after 3 to 4 weeks. We do this, so the individual plant gets more soil to grow it’s roots in and to reduce competition.
The seedlings should show at least 4 adult leaves and should be 4 to 5 cm high before you transplant them.
Preparing the new beds for the seedlings
Transplanting is best done in the cooler hours of the day, so the root systems are not in danger of drying out.
Prepare some pots (about 5 cm diameter), or multi pot trays by filling them with seed raising mix up to 1 cm under the rim, one for each plant. Compact lightly.
Get yourself a stick or the handle of a spoon or cutlery knife, something that is about 1 cm in diameter. Use it to push into the soil in the centre of the pot to prepare a hole into which you can transplant your seedling. If you use very big pots (bigger than 10 cm diameter) you might be able to put 2, perhaps 3 plants in. The less competition the plants have, the better they will thrive though.
How to separate the seedlings?
The easiest way to single out your seedlings without damaging the root system too much is to actually wash away the soil.
Have a bowl or a bucket of water in reach. Using a spoon, take some of the plants (no more than 5 or 6 in one batch) out. Scoop down deep, so you get the whole root system.
Take this batch of soil with your seedlings in it and very gently submerge your hand into the bowl of water washing away the soil. Now it is fairly easy to separate the plants by gently pulling them apart. This way the roots are also kept nice and moist.
There will always be seedlings that won’t make it. Choose those you deem strongest and discard the really tiny ones or the ones where the roots got pulled off, they wouldn’t survive anyway.
Now place them into the prepared holes, one seedling per small pot or container. Try to get the roots as far down as possible and keep the green part of the plant out of the hole. Push the soil to close the hole and settle the plant in.
Maintenance and hardening
The plants will now start to grow a decent root system in the bigger pots. The soil needs to be kept moist, but not wet.
On days with temperatures higher than 25 °C shelter from the sun, so the soil does never dry out and the plants don’t burn. Also shelter the pots from torrential rains.
The plants are still a bit delicate for the next two weeks, after that they start to become stronger and stronger. They can stay in the sun for longer and also rain will not affect them any more.
Keep on feeding with liquid fertiliser1, teaspoon per litre of water once per week.