Today, I transplanted my Tom Thumb butterhead lettuce sprouts in my greenhouse. After a dismal initial rate of sprouting, they surprised me by coming up looking very frilly and healthy, with multiple sprouts per egg-carton-section-soil-pod. I began the usual delicate operation of thinning closely spaced seedlings by snipping carefully with fine pointed scissors. I also had to wear my reading glasses…
Then, I decided to leave 2-3 seedlings in each soil-pod, just in case they didn’t all handle transplanting well. I chose the stoutest looking sprouts, growing low to the soil. Even if a sprout was on the edge of the soil-pod, it would end up near the middle of the new pot once transplanted. I had most recently watered the egg-carton-soil-pods the prior night, so the soil was not too mushy nor crumbly-dry when I got to the transplanting early this afternoon. I found that the thoroughly wet cardboard egg carton had disintegrated, so that it tore away from the soil-pods very easily.
Using the same bagged soil that I planted the seeds in, I prepared a bowl of moistened soil. I am in the habit of filling the seedling pots while they are sitting inside of the bowl full of moistened soil, to keep my counter cleaner. That way the soil that I inevitably spill over the side of the new pot just lands in the bowl. When I picked up the original soil-pod with it’s sprouts, a few roots were dangling out of the bottom. These I just let lay gently down in the depression that I had created for the soil-pod. There is no need to try to dig a hole precisely the right depth for the delicate roots. They are likely to be broken attempting that. Once in the soil, they will find their way to growing down into the new soil.
After placing the soil-pod in the partially soil-filled pot, I filled in with more soil carefully around it. The sprouts are still small enough that it would be easy to accidentally cover them up, but there needs to be enough soil so that the original soil-pod is nestled securely in the new soil, with the top of the soil-pod the same height as the rest of the soil. The soil should be slightly tamped down, but it will settle a bit more with the first watering. This I did with the misting nozzle, trying to be patient enough so that they got enough water, but without flattening the seedlings.
Since each head of lettuce is only supposed to be about the size of a baseball, I realize that my potential crop could likely be eaten in one day, but I am not discouraged. Instead, I think, “Should I be planting another wave of sprouts right now?!” It may be freezing white outside, but there is some vibrant green in my greenhouse!