How To Prick Out Seedlings

We often want to fit as many plants as possible in our garden. But transplanting can be a challenge. That's why I prick out seedlings in my kitchen garden.

Close-up of plants, pricking out.

It's time to transplant my garden mignonette. I could of course put them outside right away, but I want to wait a bit longer. I'm writing about how you can prick out seedlings today!


Creating healthy seedlings can be a bit stressful. I do it a lot, with both vegetables and flowers. Since I mostly grow in mulched beds, I prefer my plants to be a bit on the larger side. Small plants can get completely smothered by the mulch and are more sensitive to pests too.

I use mainly two methods to transplant my plants. The most common one is probably to just put the tiny seedlings in new, individual pots where they can grow until it's time to plant them outside.

The other method is called pricking out, a very clever and space-efficient way to transplant. Pricking out saves a lot of time while also giving the plants some extra room around the roots before we take them outside.


Read more: Why Should I Transplant Potato Plants?


Prick out seedlings.

Around twenty plants live in this little clump of soil, and it's time to transplant.


En hand håller en planta.

I prune all of the summer flowers before transplanting them. This way, new little side shoots will form and the plants grow nice and bushy.


Pricking out

I often do a broadcast-sowing with the seeds close together in a small or larger trough. This works great for lettuce, cabbage, onion, zinnia, marigold and sun flowers. It's time to transplant when the trough starts to get crowded.

What is pricking out all about then? Well, it basically means putting the plants one by one slightly further apart than before in little holes that you make with a stick (or your finger.)

You can also use a larger trough or plastic crate if you don't have a suitable seedling tray with holes in the bottom around. Fill it with soil. Use nutrient-rich soil that the plants can thrive in!

Carefully pull the plant from the soil in the first spot, make a little hole in your new trough and put the plant there. Fill the entire trough with plants an inch or so apart. Most of the plants you grow can be planted a bit deeper than before, so that they can grow sturdy and a bit more compact.


More about transplanting: Transplanting potted tomatoes


Prick out seedlings, green plants.

Garden mignonette and giant verbena are going to grow a bit larger here in this trough before I plant them outside.


This way, you only have to deal with one single trough filled with plants instead of a number of pots everywhere. You can leave your seedlings here for a long while too! But don't forget to add some extra fertilizer now and then, especially if you want to wait a while before planting.


More about growing greens: Growing your own vegetables - For beginners


This method works really well for most greens and flowers, except for any vines. They will of course get tangled very easily. For example Indian cress, sweet pea and cup-and-saucer vine. But most other plants do just fine. And it's just so much easier to deal with the seedlings like this, rather than keeping track of pot after pot.


Prick out seedlings, close-up of green plants.

I'm growing toothpickweed here before I plant it in my beds outside. Try to prick out seedlings too!


En frigolitlåda med små plantor i.

Here is a late sowing of zinnia in a styrofoam box. I wonder if we get any flowers on them...


Ett svart tråg med gröna växter i.

Marigold, I'm still thinking about where I want to put the seedlings.


Now I have plenty of extra vegetables and flowers that I plan on using to fill up any holes in my beds. I'm going to have a lot of space in a few weeks after harvesting entire beds of potatoes, onions, garlic and snow peas. By then, I need to have some more plants around if I want a long growing season! I hope you try to prick out seedlings too.

Watch the video below to see how I propagate strawberries with a similar method.


Good luck pricking out seedlings!

/Sara Bäckmo

05. October 2020

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *