Greenhouses provide a wide selection of flower seedlings.
image by mrmac04: morguefile
Greenhouses and nurseries provide a wealth of potted plants and flowers ready to be planted in the soil, allowing you to get a jump on spring. Available in flats or peat pots, colorful annuals already in bloom make it easy to add early spring color to your garden or yard. Transplanting them to the garden requires a little soil preparation and time, but the results are well worth the effort involved.
Select a location that matches the light requirements of the plant. Check the plant identification tag for light or exposure needs. This is noted as direct sun, partial shade or shade. Direct sun refers to six or more hours of direct sunlight. Partial shade refers to areas that receive filtered light or dappled light throughout the day or less than four hours of direct sunlight a day. Shady areas do not receive direct sunlight.
Prepare the soil by tilling to a depth of 6 inches to 8 inches. Remove any stones or roots and amend the soil with organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure to improve the texture of the soil and to promote good drainage. Observe any special growing requirements of the plant. Most thrive in well-drained soil high in organic matter, but some prefer either moist or dry soil, specific pH ranges (acid or alkaline) or may prefer a sandier soil. Apply fertilizer and work well into the soil following the recommended application rate on the package. Adjust the soil to match the plant's requirements.
Harden plants off prior to transplanting to the garden. Place them outside in a sheltered area for several hours a day to acclimate them to their new growing environment. Gradually increase the amount of exposure to sun and wind over a week or more to strengthen stalks.
Check for the last expected frost in your area. Tender annuals will not survive even a light frost. Set a planting date several days past the last expected frost.
Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball. Remove the plant from its container. A slight tap to the side loosens plants and allows them to slip free of the pot. Peat pots can be planted in the soil, but will benefit from removing the bottom of the pot. Gently tear the pot away from the plant using care not to disturb the roots.
Place the plant to the original soil level and fill soil in around the roots. Firm down with your hands to remove air pockets and stabilize the plant. Water thoroughly and keep the soil evenly moist for the first week or two while the plant adjusts to its new environment.
Follow recommendations for watering the plant. Most thrive in soil watered thoroughly and allowed to dry slightly between waterings, but individual preferences vary. Always check the requirements of your specific plant.