rainy day schedule means short day out at the farm, but also a great opportunity to do some greenhouse work. learning about seeding and transplants was our objective on this day!
ok, so in the Carrots post, i talked a bit about direct seeding. other crops that benefit from direct seeding include spinach, beets, peas, and beans. but today, eddie taught us about crops that are successful when transplanted from seed trays into the ground (either in the greenhouse, or in the field). so, why grow plants in seed trays, then transplant outside?
growing plants in trays similar to the above picture allows the grower to have more control over the crop. seeds can be sown in a greenhouse, and plants can begin to grow in a suitable environment while outside weather may continue to be too harsh for young plants. seedling starts are good for early in the year, the farmer can get a jump on the season. because each “start” is grown in an individual cell, the farmer can put the plant exactly where s/he wants- no need to thin rows at a later date! and finally, since plants are being transplanted into the field when growth is well underway, young plants have a better chance at competing with, and beating out weeds for soil, water and light resources.
specifically, our task was to transplant young tomato plants from 1″ cell trays, to 4″ cell trays. the tomatoes were outgrowing their small cubes, and needing access to more soil resources, eddie replants the small starts to larger cubes. the tomatoes will eventually be planted in the greenhouse.
we also looked at the differences between cell trays, and open trays. cell trays, like those pictured above, keep each “plug” separate from its neighbor. this allows for very easy transplant, but the disadvantages include soils that are prone to dry out faster, and less soil per cell ensures that the plant uses up soil resources faster and cannot stay in the cell for long. open flats do not have cells; there is much more room for plants and soil nutrients and water are more readily available. however, moving the starts from open trays to plant in the field can disturb roots and stress plants.
what is potting soil? how is it used? well actually, there is no “soil” in potting soil, or potting mix. it is typically made of peat moss or coco fiber, sand and perlite. potting mix is good for, well, pots! it does not work well if your entire garden or raised bed is filled with potting mix. it is best to combine potting mix with mineral top soil. eddie purchases potting mix from Ocean Farms and Organic Gardens- but he has also made his own mix in the past, which he finds works very well, but is time intensive.
so, how do you actually seed the flats? fill the flat with potting mix, don’t pack the mix down. rest a seed on top of the mix, and sprinkle the top of the flat with additional mix. when the seed tray is full, water in the seeds. watering the potting mix for the first time is very important. you want to saturate the mix without disturbing the new seed! a watering wand that lays down a soft, even spray of water is desirable. several rounds of watering (~5) will need to be done to the newly planted seed trays over the next several hours. (eddie really likes the Joshua Roth Bonsai Wand)
finally, check out this handy tool. it drops seeds into seed tray cells. there is a dial on top with numbers that corresponds to the size of a hole- seeds then go through the whole and down the chute.
alright! enjoy sowing your seeds, and transplanting those plugs!