How Food Grows: Transplanting

Part 5: Transplanting

By now, you’ve become attached to your seedlings and it’s understandable to be a little worried about putting them out into the world. Have faith that they’re going to thrive, as long as you handle your little plants with the care they need. Once set up for success, they’ll do the hard work from here.


  • Check the spacing: Consider how big the plant is going to become and make sure you know how much space to leave between seedlings and between rows. For containers, make sure the container you’re using is large enough.
  • For spacing information on any veg, check out the GIY Veg Directory:
  • Transplant your seedlings into wherever you’re going to grow them to full size.
  • Water your seedlings in advance to keep them firm during transplanting. A day before is ideal, but a couple of hours ahead of transplanting is OK.
  • Remove the seedling carefully by loosening the edges of the module tray or pot. Don’t disturb the plant’s roots.
  • Make a hole the same depth of your seedling and place it in.
  • Fill the hole with the soil and firm the plant in, making sure it’s compact and secure.
  • Show us your transplanted veg on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @EnergiaGIG

Top Tips

  • To know if your seedling is ready for transplanting, check above the soil for strong stems, four or five leaves and a seedling that now looks like the plant it is going to become.
  • Check below the surface to see if roots are starting to poke out through the holes of your module tray.
  • When the seedling is removed, the roots should be established but not wrapped repeatedly around one another. This is called being pot-bound, and your seedling may struggle if it has reached this point.
  • If you have multiple seedlings in one module tray cell or pot, break up the seedlings carefully without damaging the roots.
  • If you need to hold a seedling in place, hold a leaf gently. Don’t touch the stem.
  • Hardening off is a commonly used term in food growing. This means bringing seedling outside for a few hours each day to acclimatise it to outdoor conditions before going out full time. This is more relevant earlier in the year, but can be considered in summer if temperatures are forecast to go below 10 degrees Celsius.
  • An alternative to hardening off is to cover young seedlings with a horticultural fleece which can be purchased at garden centres.

Helpful Resources is grateful for the support of our Growth Fund partners Social Innovation Fund Ireland and The Department of Rural & Community Development, whose funding has enabled us to promote and disseminate this online course, engaging thousands of people in How Food Grows.​