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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.


Soil temperature has been warming to around 60 degrees lately.  It's time to prepare for putting plants in the ground.  This season, consider increasing the number of crops you transplant.  There are a number of potential advantages to transplanting compared to direct seeding. These include:
-reduced early pest pressure
-healthier crop stands, sooner
-planting flexibility

Transplanting allows you to seed in a location that is either heated or at least sheltered from wind/rain/cold.  These warmer temps give better seed germination and allow you to sow transplants earlier.  After germination, you can select the healthiest seedlings for transplanting.  Doing this will allow you to get a 1-2 week jump on production for the season.

When transplants reach the field they are already better able to compete.  They are healthy, larger than any emerging weeds, can survive more pest damage, and should have ample water.  As long as your starts are watered before transplanting, or during if you have a waterwheel on the transplanter, they can be planted under dry conditions.  This means they can be planted more reliably without 'waiting for rain' to soak in direct seeded crops.

In order to sow transplants, you will need seeding trays.  There are a variety of sizes.  I would recommend 128s for most crops and 200s for small seeded crops (onions, celery, baby lettuce).  Simple drop seeders can be constructed to reduce your labor here.  Small 'clicker' type sowing implements can also be used.  Many seed catalogs have these items for sale.  The quality of the sowing mix is also important.  The major component should have good water holding capacity (coir, peat).  In addition, organic matter (compost, worm castings) and fertility (bone meal, kelp, etc.) will contribute to healthy transplants. 

Don't forget that transplants need to be hardened off (see Spring Planting Considerations post). 

If you do not have transplanting equipment pulled by a tractor, you'll need to come with an alternative idea.  Pulling a string across the length of beds and marking off holes is one option.  Consider making a 'dibbler' or hole punch.  This is an instrument with rotating wheels that will leave a hole in the soil every 12" (wheel size can be adjusted) and saves time.  If transplanting by hand, be sure to tamp down soil around the seedling for optimum root/soil contact.

For earlier harvests, better yield, and higher quality try these transplanting suggestions.

*Some crops are impractical to transplant including carrots, spinach, and cilantro.  A hand powered seeder such as Planet Jr. can be a great advantage here.

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