By George Boyhan
Georgia Extension Service
Transplants can make your garden more successful. And they've been around for a long time, although they haven't always been available in nice, easy-to-handle six-packs.
At first, vegetable transplants were field-grown, pulled, wrapped in bundles bare-root and sold to growers and homeowners. Large numbers of transplants were handled this way both for commercial growers and serious gardeners.
In fact, your local feed-and-seed probably still handles many transplants this way. Most of your cool-season crops -- onions, collards, broccoli, etc. -- are still available this way.
These transplants are great because they're relatively cheap, and you can get them in fairly large quantities for bigger gardens.
Transplants have come a long way, however, and many more are available in small plastic packs of three to 12 plants. These packs are sold separately or in a tray called a flat.
The plants are grown in peat-based media in greenhouses. They used to be available only in the spring and early summer. But more and more can be found at other times of the year and suitable for the particular season.
Transplants have some real advantages over direct seeding. You're guaranteed a perfect stand, since you'll be putting a transplant everywhere you want a plant -- no more skips or overseeding.
Your crop will be ready earlier, too. If you can't wait for that red-ripe tomato, fresh bell pepper or head of cauliflower, with transplants the wait is much shorter.
When seeds germinate, they're very susceptible to diseases and insects, which can be devastating. Transplants are tougher and better able to withstand such onslaughts.
If you're really ambitious, you might want to try growing your own. You can buy ready-made potting soil from many outlets, and flats with the pack inserts are also available. Plant seeds at a depth that's about twice the diameter of the seed.
Larger seeds are easier to handle and would be best for beginners. Watermelon, cantaloupe and squash are good choices.
Don't try everything
Some root crops such as carrots aren't suitable for transplanting. The large taproot can become damaged in the transplanting process.
Corn and potatoes can't be transplanted well, either. With corn, disturbing the roots dramatically affects the plants' growth. And since potatoes are grown from seed pieces (potato pieces), they don't require transplanting.
(George Boyhan is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences)