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  • Writer's pictureMatt Suprunowicz

How to Plant a Seedling

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

How do we plant indoor starters in order for them to mature?


This Lesson Plan is part of the Gardening Module of SustainEd Farms' virtual programming.

Background: Planting a Seedling

Once seedlings have been effectively hardened off, the crops need to be planted outdoors in order for them to mature. To reduce the shock of introducing a plant to new soil, it is important to be mindful of how one handles the plant while transplanting. Once planted, the seedlings will be fully exposed to environmental conditions, which will require continuous maintenance to protect and feed the plants. With a few simple steps, planting seedlings will transform a bare garden bed into a lively plethora of fruits and vegetables!

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to...

  • Plant an indoor start into a garden bed

  • Maintain a transplanted seedling

Academic Vocabulary

cotyledon /ˌkädəˈlēdn/ noun. - the embryonic leaves of a seed-based plant that are the first to emerge and are typically smaller than “true leaves” (mature functioning leaves)

seedling /ˈsēdliNG/ noun. - a young plant


1. Gather your materials. You will need the following supplies:

hardened off seedlings · garden bed · trowel or small shovel

2. Watch the following YouTube video to see a demonstration of how to plant a seedling. Then, follow along with the remainder of the lesson by reading the steps below.

3. After planning your crop sequence, planting seeds, and hardening off the seedlings, it is time to plant a seedling outdoors. Typically, the seed packet will contain information for the ideal times to transplant seedlings outside: the frost tolerance of the plant species will help determine when this is appropriate. Before transplanting, the plant should have developed several (at least 3 or 4) sets of leaves after the cotyledons. Determine which seedlings are ready to be planted outside.

4. On the back of the seed packet, locate the spacing metric for gaps between plants and between rows of the same (or different) plants. Mark spots or set each seedling where you intend to plant it.

5. Using a trowel, dig a circular or square hole in the soil that is about twice as large in volume as the seedling container. Loosen the soil in the bottom of the hole.

6. Loosen the seedling by scrunching or pushing up on the bottom of the container. Invert the container while gently gripping where the stem of the plant meets the soil, and pull the plant out of the container slowly. If you encounter resistance, push on the sides and bottom of the container to loosen the soil.

7. Loosen the bottom roots of the seedling with your fingertips by brushing or knocking any attached soil into the hole you created. This will allow the roots to integrate into the new soil more seamlessly.

8. Place the seedling roots-first into the hole, pressing it lightly into the soil in order to ensure that the roots have full contact with the ground (this will help the plant access water and nutrients). Using the dirt from the hole, fill in the surrounding area of the seedling by distributing the dirt around the plant and up to the cotyledons (or slightly higher -- trim them with scissors in that case). Press on the soil gently to fill in, but avoid too much compaction.

9. Cover the seedling bed with mulch, apply a row cover, and water the seedling(s) as needed -- at least once a day. Remember that the seedlings are vulnerable in this early stage, so be sure to water them consistently and protect them from the environment (heavy precipitation, overexposure to light, dryness, pests, etc.).

Additional Resources:

Download the PDF version of this lesson plan:

How to Plant a Seedling
Download PDF • 1.06MB

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