Some growers begin transplanting a few days after germination, but it is generally better to start the work in three or four weeks from sowing, or when the true leaves are forming. If many plants are to be pricked out, the work should be started promptly and completed as soon as possible, in order to prevent the plants from becoming spindly.
If flats are to be used, the work may proceed as follows : Place about inch of partly rotted manure in the bottom- of the flat and fill with soil. See that the soil is firm over the entire box and especially in the corners and along the sides. With a leveling strip remove the surplus soil and leave the surface smooth. The holes may be made with a machine (Figure 37), or by the use of the transplanting board (Figure 36). When the board is used it should rest firmly on the soil over the entire surface; hold the board in place with one hand, and with the other punch the holes with the dibber shown in Figure 36. A boy will soon learn to do this work very rapidly. If the soil is in proper condition and the board and the dibber are used skillfully, every hole will remain open when the board is removed.
The seedlings should be watered at least 24 hours before being transplanted, so the tops will be dry and the work of transplanting be greatly facilitated. The soil will be moist enough for the plants to be removed without serious mutilation of the roots. The plants should be handled carefully and kept in orderly arrangement in order to save time in dropping. The flat which has been previously dibbled is placed lengthwise on the bench or the table. A bunch of plants is held in an orderly position in the left hand near the holes while the other hand drops a good plant into each hole, beginning at the left end of the far row, and leaning it against the side of the hole toward the side of the flat farthest from the worker. The plants are dropped in the same manner in each row of holes, all the plants leaning in the same direction. The observance of these details is of importance for speedy work. Boys and girls soon learn to drop the plants very rapidly, but it is better to have experienced workmen set the plants. This operation may be done very rapidly with thumbs and fingers or with the index of one hand and a small dibber in the other. Many gardeners make the hole with a small dibber, drop the plant and secure it at once. This is unquestionably the best plan when plants are 3 or more inches high, but the board method just described is much better for small plants when a large force of unskilled laborers is at work; it insures straight rows and a uniform number of plants in every flat.