Left with Extra Starts? Try this.

What do I do with all these plants?

If you are anything like me you have extra plant starts. Maybe just a few after you have transplanted everything out. Maybe a lot because, well, I might as well plant this whole packet of flowers at once right? Or perhaps you are starting trees and need to let them grow an extra year before they are ready to go in the ground.

Those extra little starts can be an opportunity. I just can’t seem to bring myself to get rid of them. It feels wasteful. So I have a few ways to get the most from all that time and effort spent to create great plant starts.

Slap and Tickle Method

For all of these strategies, I use the same process to transplant. My mother taught me the Slap and Tickle method of transplanting when I was little, and it is still the best way I have found. Once your up pot has soil in it and is ready to go, make a hole about the size of your transplant. To remove the plant, start by lightly slapping each side of the pot.

Next, turn the plant upside down while holding the main stem between your fingers and the majority soil surface on your palm. Slap the bottom of the pot a few times until the root mass comes loose, and the plant is resting in your hand. Tickle the roots apart a little if they have become root-bound. This action helps the plant to root more successfully in its new container. Place into the larger pot and lightly firm the soil. Water well and protect from the elements until established.

Potting Up

Potting up is the practice of taking small starts from cell trays and transplanting them into slightly larger pots. There are a few different reasons to pot up your plant starts. Some plants have such a long germination period that it makes more sense to start them in small cells to save room, but they will need more space before transplanting. Maybe you started a few weeks early, and now your babies are too big for their pots, but the weather isn’t warm enough to set them out yet.

Tip: When potting up, it is a good idea to go with a container around twice the volume of the current container.

Making Grow Bags

Sometimes there just isn’t enough space in the garden or row to put in all of those gorgeous starts. Grow bags are great for these if you want to get a few more plants to full size. They can also be used to create value added items like a pesto or salsa bag. Plant an extra tomato, a pepper, some green onions and cilantro together in a 7 gallon grow bag. There you have it ready to go, everything you need to make a little salsa with dinner sitting on the porch.

Great Gifts

My favorite thing to do with extra starts is give them away. Especially this last year with interruptions in the food supply system, people were very appreciative of a gift of something they could grow themselves. Not everyone has the space or the skill to start plants but many have a little garden space to put them in. For housewarmings and life events I love to have grow bags of herbs or pollinator flowers around so I always have a beautiful gift to take. This year I made up salad bags, salsa bags, and butterfly garden bags to have on hand for any occasion.

Terrific Trades

Often I don’t start everything I'd like to grow from seed. Maybe someone in my area has types of plants that I want. Offer up what you have on your local Facebook page or Nextdoor. Include what you are looking for. IE. I have way too many cherry tomato plants but didn’t start any slicing types this year so I found someone to trade with. I traded a few extra fig tree starts for bergamot because mine didn’t germinate this year.

There are so many options to choose from when it comes to extra starts. The very last thing to do is compost them. Keep in mind all the time, effort and money that you put into that beautiful start. Don’t let it go to waste. Create something even greater from your start.

Happy Growing.


Tools for the Job

Perfect for flowers, vegetables and herbs. Best part- HANDLES! Durable enough to use season after season. Easy to clean and store.
These plug poppers make quick work of transplanting starts from cell trays. 
Reusable planter option for extra starts. These are so nice for tomatoes. They come in 2 sizes and I love that they have a little height to them.
For up potting starts from cell trays. You really only want to keep seedlings in cell trays up to 8 weeks. These are great for when you need just a little more time before transplant.

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