Transplant shock happens to your seedlings when they undergo stress during the transplanting process from indoor growing conditions to the ground and the unpredictable climate outside. Many times it is caused by the roots being “shocked” by the transplanting process, specifically to the tiny root hairs that absorb water. Another cause can be the drastic temperature change from controlled indoor growing conditions to the ground, placed into too small of a hole or in need of water. The same goes for planting in baskets and containers as well.
The stresses can escalate exponentially if left untreated. Transplant shock is common, nearly unavoidable, but ranges from mild to severe and plants that experience it CAN quickly recover. Signs of transplant shock are inhibited growth and reduced vigor. Your plants may appear shriveled or wilted, or they may possibly turn yellow. But all is not lost! You can still aid them back to life!
One of the best ways to avoid it is to check the last frost date of your region—and then double check it. On top of that, we believe it is good to prepare your garden beds by de-weeding and de-stoning it as much as possible and mixing in compost and/or top soil, so you are left with lush, nutritious soil for growth. And most importantly, hardening off your seedlings for at least two weeks before transplanting. Read more about the process of “hardening off”. Lack of hardening off raises the chance for shock and plant death.
There are several steps to solving transplant shock issues. One of them is to cut back some of the foliage to allow more energy to go to the struggling root system. Another is to water heavily because a plant in shock will drink up more water, and to lay straw, mulch, or wood chips around the plant to keep soil moist. But we find the best way to protect your plants at night from experiencing more transplant shock is using plant protector such as a row cover.