Some of you may remember my earlier entry on Sweet Alyssum. Remember that photo of all the little happy seedlings in four rows of a square flat? Those seedlings are a lot bigger now. All of them have at least two additional leaves, some more. They’re about two inches tall, and hopelessly crowded.
Yesterday and today, I started gently teasing tangled roots apart and transplanting individual seedlings into their own roomy 4-pack cells. Before I started, I watered them with a dilute solution of fish emulsion/seaweed extract in the hopes of reducing their transplant shock. I fed them this solution a week earlier too, which is probably why they grew so enthusiastically.
My methodology for transplanting to the cell packs is straightforward. I start by filling the cells about a third of a way with potting mix. I then add a tiny sprinkling of all-purpose organic fertilizer, and stir it into the soil. As I gently hold a tender seedling with two fingers, I pour potting mix around it with the other hand, firming the soil as I go.
After all four cells contain transplants, I water the pack thoroughly. This is a slow process. Water must be added very gently, or the dry potting mix sloshes out of the cells and the transplants get knocked over and buried. Slowly, slowly I add water, wait until it disappears, add more, wait, prop up any flopping seedlings, add a little more water, until water is coming out of the bottom and the soil in the cells seems thoroughly wet.
I did this for an hour yesterday and another hour today. As I type, 85 — yes, that’s eighty-five — transplanted seedlings are adjusting to their new locales. That’s the good news — if we agree that it’s good that these poor little crowded seedlings now have a chance to grow properly.
The bad news? Actually that’s two-fold. I’m going to have EIGHTY-FIVE Sweet Alyssums to plant among the vegetables (and anywhere else I can find open spots). The second bit of bad news: I only transplanted one and one-third of the four rows in the original flat. I estimate that approximately — ahem — 250-300 more overcrowded seedlings are impatiently waiting their transplanting turn.
What was I thinking? In my defense, I don’t think I’ve ever grown this flower from seed before. I usually buy a few packs at the local garden store. But they weren’t there yet when I asked for them a few weeks ago, and the salesperson couldn’t tell me when they might arrive. So I bought a package of seeds instead, and, well, I went a little nuts with the sowing.
It’s especially easy for me to get carried away like this in late winter/early spring. The allure of a humid greenhouse, rich soil, and green baby plants is irresistible, I confess.
You may wonder what I plan to do with those hundreds of crowded and untransplanted seedlings. For now, while I still have room in the greenhouse, I’m going to leave them as they are. If they are still alive after my already-transplanted seedlings have all found homes, and if I think I might still have a few free spots for more alyssums, I’ll try to gently separate more of them and directly plunk them into the ground. If they live — fabulous! If they don’t, their little plant bodies will contribute to the organic material in the soil.
Any remaining untransplanted seedlings will become compost — a bit of an ignoble end for innocent victims of my excess enthusiasm. But, in one form or another, they will all eventually make it into my garden.