Pricking Out and Potting Up

SEE HOW HAPPY our Winter Crops are! We sowed trays of mizuna, red mustard and other leafy crops just after our September workshop and they all sprang up. We’re now halfway through pricking out the seedlings and potting them up so they get good strong root systems before we plant them out.

Kitchen Gardeners, half the seedlings still need potting up! Everything you need is currently in the garden. Those who don’t know how to do it, read on…



How to prick out and pot up seedlings

INSTEAD OF THINNING OUT your seedlings (pulling some out to give the others space), you can prick them out of the seed tray and put each one straight into a pot. That way we get a plant from every seedling that comes up.

You’ll see for these pics I used a recycled polystyrene tray instead as we’re running low on pots. It needs to be something deep enough to give the roots a bit of room. Here’s what to do:

1. Fill your pot or container with compost – but not right to the top or it will overflow when you water it – and make a little hollow to receive the seedling. At the moment we have multipurpose compost and seed compost (see below). Use the multipurpose – the stuff in the yellow bag.


2. Holding the seedling GENTLY by a leaf, use a blunt pencil or something similar (plant label did the trick) to tease the roots out of the compost. Don’t touch the stem.


…if you get some soil with the roots, so much the better, but it might fall away. See those bits still clinging to the roots? They contain colonies of microbes that help the seedling take in soil nutrients. The more of them it keeps the better.


3. Not to worry: as long as the roots and stem aren’t damaged, it will be fine. The seedling should go straight from the tray to the prepared compost with zero time for the roots (and microbes) to dry out. Lower the roots into the hole, fill in and press gently down around the seedling.


If your seedling is long and spindly, bury it halfway up the stem so it can send more roots out sideways. (A note of caution: if you try this with older plants they may rot).

When you’ve done a few, water them.

4. Finally, label! Actually we don’t have enough labels to do every pot, but label at least one, and keep the pots grouped by type (as in the first photo). That way we’ll know what we’ve got when we come to share out our Winter Crops.

That’s it.

Zoë Petersen






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