If you’ve been binge-watching your favorite hospital tv-drama and find yourself daydreaming of performing emergency surgeries and life-saving transplants, we’ve got a low-risk alternative that doesn’t require ten years of University training: transplanting garden plants! Heck, it’s even easier than the board game “Operation.”  

When you transplant garden plants properly, you’ll allow the plants’ roots to spread outward, so they can soak up more nutrients and grow even stronger. But if you do it carelessly, your plants could get stressed out, have stunted growth, or they might even bite the bullet. Luckily, these five tips help make the process easy as pie. 


Follow These Tips for Transplanting Like a Pro

Tap into your emergency doctor mindset, and let’s get to transplanting! Soon you’ll have a big, blooming garden, and it will be hard to resist bragging about your Ph.D. (Pretty Huge Dahlias). 


Dees Nursery-preparing soil for transplanting into garden

Prepare the Soil Properly

Hard, compacted soil that lacks nutrients won’t do much good for your plants. Before you begin transplanting, loosen up the soil with a trowel or shovel at least 12 inches deep, and mix in some fresh compost. You can also use a soil testing kit to determine the pH level and exactly which nutrients are lacking. If your soil is acidic, you can add gardener’s lime to raise the pH. Lowering the pH of alkaline soil takes more time, but you can do it with compost!


Loosen the Root Ball

If your plant’s roots are all tangled in a tight ball, it will be much harder for them to spread. If you lightly tousle the root ball to untangle it, this will make a world of difference. Try not to jumble them up too much—the roots are like the brain of your plant, so you’ll want to treat them delicately. If you’re working with a large plant whose roots are highly matted, you can take a sterilized exact-o knife, make shallow slices all around the root ball, and then loosen them up with your fingers. 


Dees Nursery-transplanting pansy plant

Don’t Plant Too Deeply

Most plants prefer that the top of their root ball sit just slightly below the soil surface. Measure the length of your root ball and try to dig a hole around the same size. Avoid piling soil up around the main stem at all costs—this can create a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, and the base of your plant will begin to rot.


Water Generously for the Next Few Weeks

New transplants need a lot more water than mature, established plants do. Water your plants every few days, but try not to overdo it and oversaturate the soil. If the weather is super warm and the sun evaporates the soil moisture too quickly, you may need to water every day. Watering early in the morning will help prevent your plants from getting dehydrated, and spreading a layer of mulch across the soil can block the sun from overheating the soil.


Dees Nursery-fertilizing garden_

Apply Fertilizer Containing Phosphorus

You know how fertilizers have a three-digit code on the front? That’s called the NPK ratio, and it represents the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the soil. The middle number is phosphorus, which is necessary for your plants to develop their roots. Find a water-soluble formula with phosphorus and mix it according to the instructions on the package. Water the soil around your plant with the fertilizer solution and avoid getting any on the leaves, or else they’ll get burned. 


For an incredible selection of garden plants and all the necessary supplies for transplanting, visit Dees’ Nursery in Oceanside. If you’re new to gardening, our staff will gladly answer any questions and provide recommendations on gorgeous new plants we know you’ll love!