December 12, 2022
Once the plants have developed the first three to four true leaves, it is time to transplant them to bigger pots. If you let the seedlings stay in seedling trays for too long, they would stop growing. The ideal time to transplant is when the seedlings have developed enough that there will be minimal risk of root shock.
To transplant, carefully dig up the small plants using a butter knife without disturbing the roots. Gently separate the small plants and handle them by their leaves instead of stems. In the new potting mix, make a hole and set the seedling in it such that the leaves and the stem are only slightly above the soil. Firm the soil around the plant and water gently. Keep them in a bright spot where they receive light for 14 to 16 hours a day.
This is also the stage when you can begin fertilizing the plants weekly to monthly depending on the plant type. Vegetable plants cannot think or feel because they obviously lack a brain or a nervous system (well, that we know of). However, plants do have an extraordinary ability to intelligently respond to stimuli in their growing environment. In fact, under extremely stressful conditions, such as too wet conditions, plants may die.
Your vegetable plants obviously need frequent watering, but they will not grow in soggy soil. Make sure there is proper drainage and the soil isn’t too wet, to avoid root rot. When the soil sticks in your hand and you can form it into a ball, it is moist enough. If the soil barely holds together in the palm of your hand, or if the surface looks hard, baked, or cracked, it is probably dry and it’s time to water. If you have rocky soil and you are planting outdoors, till and remove the rocks as rocks interfere with root growth.
Rainwater is the best way to water your veggies because it contains fewer pollutants than tap water and has a pH level that most plants benefit from. Remember, bigger vegetables require deep watering, or the fruits will split. Watering 'deeply' means watering thoroughly, so that the is soaked several inches (7-10 cm.) deep. Deep watering helps to make water more readily available to plants, and it allows for more efficient use of water in the event of prolonged periods without rain.
It’s best to water early in the day, so the foliage dries off by evening. If you can not water in the morning, watering in the evening is fine, too. Just avoid the middle of the day to avoid water loss to evaporation. Sometimes the best time to water is during or immediately after a rainfall, especially if the rain shower amounts only to a half-inch or so of water. The reason for this is that you want to add sufficient water at the same time to ensure penetration down to 5 or 6 inches. If you wait another day or two to water, you will be adding only surface water, which evaporates rapidly.
Another sign is that the plants may wilt and look especially droopy. However, temporary wilting during the heat of midday does not mean that it’s time to water. Some plants go through an obvious midday slump, especially on very hot days, which is an indication of the plant’s natural adaptation to its environment.
Visit your garden again in the early evening and see if the wilted plants have regained some of their rigidity. If they look perkier—no need to water them. Water at the soil level if you can; watering from above causes leaf disease. For a small garden, it’s fine to use a watering can, a watering wand, or a hose with a good nozzle that allows you to water right at the soil level near the plant. If you have more dense plantings or larger plants, lay your hose directly on the ground near the plant so the water goes where it is needed. A good way to direct the water to the plants is to dig a little trench around the plants and allow water to flow into them.
Mulching is a good water-conserving technique for outdoor vegetable gardens that receive little rainfall annually. Organic mulches reduce evaporative moisture losses from the soil surface, and because the soil stays cooler, they also reduce transpiration water losses. Lay a thick layer of mulch down on top of the soil. It suppresses weeds, cools plant roots, and conserves water! Always water the soil and not the leaves to reduce the likelihood of fungal diseases. Vegetative growth refers to the growth of leaves, stems and roots.
To determine if the plant has entered the vegetative stage, differentiate between the seed leaves and true leaves. The first two leaves the seedlings grow are cotyledons. True leaves emerge after several weeks. The vegetative growth starts when at least 4 true leaves appear.
True leaves grow above the cotyledons. Once the plant reaches the vegetative stage, it gets nutrients from the soil. Plant leaves are sugar-producing organs. So the more vegetative growth, the more leaves are created for sugar production.
Vegetative growth has two processes: cell development and cell stretching. Under cell development, more cells are added making the plant larger and cell stretching enables the existing cells to take up more water, making the plant larger. At this stage, you can harvest leafy green vegetables like cabbage, lettuce, and spinach. Damp or moist soil is the plant's requirement to grow well. Let the soil absorb excess water first and then water it. You can stimulate vegetative growth by maintaining a good supply of nitrogen, water, high humidity, and moderate temperatures.
For good vegetative growth, a plant needs primary elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and secondary elements like manganese, zinc, iron, and copper. Physiological processes such as photosynthesis, cell division, transport of sugars, and cell stretching help in vegetative growth. If any of these processes is disturbed, the plant's vegetative growth suffers. Fertilize the plants regularly during the vegetative growth for good produce.