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Transplanting of seedlings should be done as soon as the seedlings produce their first true leaf. The earliest "leaves" to appear are the cotyledons or seed leaves; their shape is normally simple and different from that of the true or normal leaves of the plant. The true leaves appear from between the cotyledons and can easily be recognized by their more characteristic shape, which varies according to the kind of plant.
This first transplanting must be done carefully, because the seedlings are easily damaged by mishandling. Young and tender, they cannot yet be moved outdoors. Set them into boxes or pans filled with a light, fertile soil. This soil may be similar to that used for seed sowing, but somewhat coarser. You should enrich it by adding peat or leaf-mould, at the rate of one part to every three of soil. (Well-dried and broken-up cow or sheep manure can be used in place of peat.) Superphosphate and lime should be added at the rate of 60ml. and 24ml respectively to each bushel of the mixture. (A bushel can be measured by using a container 55cm by 25cm by 25 cm An equivalent would be five 4 litre buckets.)
To transplant, use a small pointed stick or dibber in one hand to make the hole in the soil - pick up the seedling with the other hand-by a leaf, not by its stem- and position it carefully. Then gently firm the soil round the roots with the dibber. A small V-notched label can
be used to lift up and place very small and rather delicate seedlings. Space them evenly, allowing 2 in. between seedlings and 3 in. between rows.
To ensure that the operation checks seedling growth as little as possible, always transplant into damp soil and do the work in the greenhouse or in a warm workroom.
Let seedlings continue to grow in their pans or boxes under the same conditions similar to those at time of transplantation, but gradually accustom them to more and more air until they are ready to withstand outside conditions.
Most seedling plants can grow in boxes until the leaves touch. At this stage it is wise either to pot them singly or to transplant them outside.