How to Start and Transplant Vegetables

Transplanting vegetables is a great way to practice “time stacking” which increases yields and reduces or eliminates gaps in harvests.

transplanting vegetablesTo maximize yield in the Growing Dome it is helpful to start some vegetable crops outside of the raised beds in containers, pots or flats while you are still harvesting mature crops from the raised beds. These “starts” can then be transplanted into the raised beds once the mature crops have been exhausted. This is a permaculture technique called “time stacking” and is a great way to reduce or eliminate gaps in harvest from your Growing Dome. Transplanting vegetables can yield a harvest earlier than sowing seeds directly because you can start them before you have bare soil. Not all vegetable plants can be transplanted though, so it is important to plan your garden appropriately, saving space for sowing seeds directly into the beds and starting the appropriate plants in pots or flats. In this quick guide we outline which plants work best for transplanting and which don’t.

Vegetables That Easily Survive Transplanting

Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Chard, Collards, Eggplant*, Lettuce, Peppers*, Strawberries, Tomatoes*
*If planting outside in most temperate climates, these plants will need to be started indoors and then transplanted outside.

Vegetables That Require Care in Transplanting

Carrots, Kale, Kohlrabi, Spinach, Parsley, Mustards
Watermelon (Does better than other melons generally)
Celery (Requires care in transplant, transplanting is recommended where the growing season is long because celery is very slow growing)

Vegetables That are Difficult to Transplant / Not Recommended

Beans, Corn, Cucumbers*, Cantaloupe and other melons*, Okra, Peas, Squash*, Turnips
*Most of these plants will not perish upon transplant, but will experience transplant shock. Transplant shock occurs when moved plants do not put on any growth for a significant period of time after transplant. Although the plants will eventually come out of transplant shock and resume growth, more vigorous plants are often just started from seed. Starting these plants from seed allows them to produce a larger root system, put on more vegetative growth and eventually produce more fruit. Significant savings in cost and effort also comes with direct seeding these crops (transplants are expensive to buy and it takes more time and resources to grow and move your own starts).

Transplanting Vegetables

Can control climate
Season extension
Easy to manage and monitor seedlings intensively
Rapid crop succession in garden
Developed fibrous roots take up a lot of nutrients and moisture
Seed and resource efficiency
Protection of emerging plants from large pests like crickets or pill bugs

Costs including infrastructure, containers and soil
Increased labor and skill needed
Not practical for all crops
More total days of growth
Concentrated density of a lot of seedlings of the same type may increase risk of crop damage and loss due to pests and pathogens
Higher reliance on nonrenewable resources and materials

Direct Sow

Good for tap root crops such as beets and turnips
More effective at larger scale
Often heightens hardiness
Less time to grow
Decreased labor and materials
Variety of seeding techniques to choose from

Subject to weather and growing season
Often needs thinning (some seed waste)
Inconsistent germination
Crop failure risk associated with temperature and weather events
Localized climate challenges
Crop variety limitations

A note about using peat pots for starting plants in dry climates: Although peat pots can be a good resource in certain places (depending on the renewability of the peat resource. Never go for high mountain peat as it’s not sustainable), peat pots used in transplant can cause water retention and capture issues if not removed before placing a young plant in the garden. In a dry climate, peat pots do not decompose quickly and can in fact wick water away from plant roots growing inside. A peat pot also creates a soil texture interface that, depending on watering method, may cause water to go around the plant itself instead of reaching roots.

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