If you want to get your transplants off to the fastest possible start, cultivate them often. Cultivating is easy and is one of the more enjoyable gardening practices. All it entails is gently turning the soil around transplants – fluffing it up so it’s less compacted. Cultivating aerates the soil, allowing it to warm up and dry out more quickly. Cold, wet soil is the main cause of stalled transplants. It slows rooting and prevents the uptake of nutrients. Frequent cultivating also keeps weeds to a minimum, which means less competition and more vigorous growth.

Nurseries and garden centers carry many tools, such as hoes and hand forks, for cultivating. But a simple trowel is also a great cultivator. Just push it into the ground an inch or two and twist. You’re cultivating.

Shortly after watering is the best time to cultivate. Just be sure you don’t get too close to the base of plants or you might damage roots. Cultivating is also an ideal time to examine your plants for signs of early insect damage.