It is important to keep an eye on the root development of the plants. Seedlings once planted out will not establish themselves if their root system is not strong enough. The best way to check the progress of the roots is to choose several stages of development in the stock and gently knock the plants out. You must support the plant stem and base by placing two fingers around the stem and support the potting mix in your palm. Do not disturb the roots by repeatedly checking the same tube or the plant will suffer and fail.
Seedlings with underdeveloped root systems will suffer planting shock, wilt and cannot be saved. Where roots are slow to develop and the potting mix seems too wet, bottom heat is recommended. Try a ledge that heats up during the day and retains heat overnight. Radiant heat is best as direct warmth may burn and do more harm than good well-developed Root system.
A liquid root stimulant can be watered into the seedling a month before planting out to boost the root mass along.
This root mass is beginning to stabilise the soil around the stem – however, it is still too immature to plant out in the harsh rural conditions.
The roots should fan out from the stem at soil level through to the middle and along the sides of the tube. They should look white and fibrous with good branching otherwise there will not be sufficient support for the foliage as it develops. Do not disturb the roots by repeatedly checking the same tube or the plant will suffer and fail.
Mature seedling ready for planting
One seedling per tube
At the end of the Growing season, you should aim to have only ONE strong plant in each tube.
These seedlings (right) should have been thinned out months ago – this is a very sad sight and useless for planting out.
Ideally the seedling head should be between 15cm and 30cm for trees and shrubs, or smaller for ground covers. However smaller seedlings can be ready if their root system is established enough to support the leaf growth.
Remove weeds and pests
Avoid introducing weeds onto the planting site. Remove any weeds, slugs, millipedes or caterpillars that remain in or around the tubes.
Water the seedlings well
Give the seedlings a good soaking the night before and the morning before planting out on the land.
- Remove very poor seedlings and return empty tubes to the co-ordinator.
- Consolidate seedlings using cardboard dividers to separate varieties.
- Pack empty space with newspaper.
- Box labels are clear and legible as identification for landholders is important and seedlings often look very similar.
- Water the seedlings well for the trip to their new home.
- Usually we take seedlings that are 15 cm or larger.