Hardening vegetable saplings for transplanting
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For most farmers and gardeners, there is only one thing more discouraging than the failure of seeds to germinate — and that's the failure of transplanted saplings to survive the process.Young saplings tend to be badly hit, especially when the weather is on the hotter side, and just wilt to death in a couple of days after transplanting.
But this is entirely avoidable if we accept a few basic principles:
The problem is caused primarily because the plant is unable to adapt to a new situation
We need to use the instinct of self preservation (present in almost any living thing) to assist us
We may need to 'protect' the sapling in its early days after the transplanting
“Our experience is that plants that are systematically hardened before transplanting consistently achieve over 90% survival rates.”
Our experience is that plants that are systematically hardened before transplanting consistently achieve over 90% survival rates. The trick is to plan your dates of transplanting, and not just do a transplant when time permits. All transplanting on our farms is done in the late afternoons, so that the plants have time to recover overnight without excessive loss of moisture. But the preparation of the saplings actually begins about a week earlier (ideally).
Here is how it (ideally) goes:
A week before we begin reducing the amount water provided to the saplings (drop by 25% on D-7 and again by 25% on D-5)
Water the saplings on D-2 which is about 48 hours before transplanting (about half of what was being provided before D-7) and don't water again till its almost transplanting time
Just 30 minutes before transplanting, you should water the saplings very well. Ensure that the roots are not damaged by pulling them out gently
If the weather is really warm, its a good idea to set up a shade net (50%) to protect saplings till they have recovered
NOTE: If you can retain the soil around the roots, it helps. Put in a fist-full of compost in the pit where you will transplant. Transplanting is also a good time to treat the saplings with panchagavya* (growth promoter) and trichoderma** (protection against fungal disease).
Lastly, be a little patient and wait for a week before giving up on shocked saplings. Often they will recover even though they look extremely poor for the first few days. Put some dry mulch or leaves around every sapling so leaves don't touch the soil directly. This prevents leaves from rotting and at the same time the roots are protected from direct sun and loss of moisture.
* Treating with Panchagavya: Dip sapling roots in 3% panchagavya for about 3 minutes just before the transplant
** Treating with trichoderma virde: Dip sapling roots in trichoderma solution prepared by putting 1tbsp of the powder in a litre of water. Remember to mulch the beds to protect the beneficial trichoderma fungus from direct sunlight