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Moving Seedlings From Trays To Raised Garden Beds

When starting plants from seed, using seed trays to help nurture & protect delicate seedlings in their early growth is very helpful. Of course, this is a temporary home for the seedlings & they will need to be transplanted into your garden where they can grow fully & flourish.

Tray Size

There are many tray options, some of the most common ones have 1.5″ wide cells for seedlings, & some can be as large as 2.5″. Larger cells allow for more root space for plant development, meaning the seedling can stay in the tray longer. Smaller cells let you start more seedlings in less space, but they of course have less room for roots so they need to be transplanted sooner. As a general guide, after your seeds germinate they can grow in smaller (1.5″ cell trays) for about 2-3 weeks, in larger 2″ trays they can grow in them for about 3-4 weeks before needing to be transplanted. 

Hardening Off

When it’s nearing time to transplant seedlings, if your seedlings weren’t started & growing outside already, you want to go through a process called hardening off. Hardening off is the process of progressively bringing seedlings outside so they can acclimate to direct sunlight, wind, & fluctuating temperatures. Bring the seedlings outside for a few hours the first day, then back inside, then a little longer the next day, & repeat for about a few days to a week until you eventually leave them outside permanently. Only do this if your climate is right for the plant though. Snow & tomatoes won’t mix, no matter how much you try 🙂


When it’s time to transplant, wet your seedling tray soil & your garden’s soil. This makes the soil stickier. It holds together better when removing the seedling from the tray & when making a hole in the soil in your garden bed for the plant to go into.

Gently push up from the bottom of the seed tray to pop the seedling out. Be delicate & do your best to keep all of the roots intact & the seedling undamaged.

Place the seedlings into the holes you dug in your garden bed & backfill soil around them, gently pushing down to make sure there aren’t air pockets around the roots.

Then, water them consistently making sure the top few inches of soil stay moist for the roots to establish themselves. Once established (you can see visible growth) you can cut back water to a standard schedule. A general guide for this is to ensure your soil keeps some moisture 2″ below the surface.

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