Transplanting hydroponic seedlings can be an unnerving process the first time you do it.
I feel so protective of the fragile plants with all their exposed roots. They’re in a vulnerable state that isn’t natural for plants.
So, here we aim to ease any anxiety you may have about transplanting your tender, young hydroponic seedlings.
We’ll help you understand the process and show you what to look for when the time is right.
Let’s dive right into that reservoir!
How to Know When Hydroponic Seedlings Are Ready to Transplant
There are numerous indicators that will let you know when it’s time to transplant your hydro seedlings.
- Wait until plants have developed their second set of true leaves, they’ll be strong enough to handle the transplant at this point. Seedlings are still feeding off nutrients from the seed when developing their cotyledon and the first set of true leaves.
- Seedlings should be 4-6 inches tall before transplanting them.
- Once there are roots emerging from the container or plug, it’s time to transplant your seedlings. Some containers are larger than others and seedlings can remain there for a longer time before it’s necessary to move them to the next stage.
When all of these conditions are met, there’s no reason to wait any longer.
Let’s touch on some of the possible destinations for your seedlings and how to get them in there safely and on to prosperity.
Make sure everything is set up and ready in your system before starting the transplanting process.Read here how to start seeds for hydroponics and sprout seeds hydroponically.
- If the seedling is in a container, carefully remove it by flipping it upside down. Tap it until the seedling slides out.
- Gently loosen the soil from around the roots.
- Hold the root mass and dip it into a bucket of water without getting the stem wet. Slowly swish it around to remove all the media from the roots.
- Remove the seedling and using a watering can pour water over the root system, removing any big clumps of media. Don’t worry about cleaning off every last bit of soil, it’s not worth damaging the roots over.
- Fill a netted pot ⅓ of the way up with a soilless medium. Distribute the roots over the medium in the pot and add more over the roots and around the stem to hold the seedling in place.
Transplant Seedlings into a Hydroponic Tower
Hydroponic towers are prefabricated kits that provide numerous pockets for growing plants hydroponically.
They come in all shapes and sizes. Typically the tower consists of a tall tube that can house many plants in a confined space. Air pumps aeroponically deliver water and nutrients to plants’ roots in a closed system. A few advantages of the tower are saving space, little maintenance and less water usage.
If seedlings are in containers, gently remove them and transplant them directly into the tower. Add extra medium if necessary to fill the space and hold seedlings in place.
Seedlings in plugs can be transplanted right into the open slots in the tower. Add extra medium if needed.
Gradually harden off your seedlings if they will be moving from indoors to an outside environment. Some large seeds that sprout and grow quickly, like cucumber, beans and squash, can be planted into the tower straight away.
Transplanting Hydroponic Seedlings into Soil
There are many reasons why you might want to start seedlings hydroponically and then transplant them into the soil.
- Helps to get a headstart on the spring growing season.
- Avoids the mess of soil and other media.
- Large plants in hydroponic systems might be taking up too much space inside.
- To pot up plants for sale.
Transplanting seedlings from a hydroponic environment to soil must be handled with care so the plant can withstand the shock, survive, get acclimated to its new home and ultimately thrive.
- One week before transplanting, gradually decrease the amount of water your seedlings receive. Roots will grow longer, reaching for the water, which will help them when transplanted into soil. Roots will also toughen up with less water exposure, preparing them for the drier and more restrictive conditions of soil.
- Get some 4-6 inch pots and a loose potting mix or a soilless medium, like peat or coco coir. The light medium will let the roots slowly adjust without too much resistance.
- Moisten the medium and fill up the pots ¾ of the way. Dig out a hole in the center of the pot providing enough space for the roots to fit comfortably. Prepare all the pots ahead of time before starting to move the transplants.
- If the seedling has a lot of foliage, consider snipping off a few leaves to minimize the stress of sustaining so much vegetative growth.
- Carefully place the roots into the hole. Fill up the container the rest of the way with medium. Lightly tamp down around the base of the stem.
- Mist the medium immediately after transplanting. A diluted amount of fertilizer can be added to the water.
- Gradually harden off plants to acclimate them to the sun and other outdoor elements. Once seedlings are established in their new pots, they can be up-potted or transplanted outdoors into the garden.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are some advantages of hydroponics?
Hydroponics can potentially have higher yields in smaller spaces than conventional gardening. The plants grow and mature more quickly and the use of pesticides and herbicides is minimized due to less pest pressure and no weeds.
What are some disadvantages of hydroponics?
The setup can be expensive compared to planting outdoors in a garden. Hydroponic systems require constant care and are dependent on electricity. Diseases can spread through the water, rapidly affecting the plants.
What causes unhealthy hydroponic plants?
Nutrient levels and steady temperature have to be maintained for plants to stay healthy.
Is hydroponically grown lettuce better than soil grown?
The differences are mostly negligible. But weight and nutrient content may be higher in field-grown lettuce.
Do hydroponic setups consume a lot of electricity?
Air pumps, lights and fans definitely contribute to a higher utility bill. The money spent on energy can be justified by producing healthy food and passing some of the cost on to the consumer.
What are the most profitable hydroponically grown crops?
Plenty of crops are grown hydroponically among the most profitable are: Peppers, tomatoes, basil, lettuce, strawberries, cucumbers and cannabis.