January 24,2008

By Nick Routledge for the Observer Allotment Blog


Why start your own transplants?

• Do it right, and you will grow transplants stronger than anything you can buy. Your plants won’t have been ‘forced’ to look good for a sale.

• Varieties of plants offered by commercial transplant vendors represent just a tiny fraction of the varieties open to you.

• Grow plants yourself and you know how they have been grown and what has been used on them.

Why transplant?

Growing transplants rather than direct seeding affords certain advantages. Among them:

• Seeds generally need higher temperatures to germinate than plants need to grow. Our soils don’t warm up until it stops raining. By controlling seeding temperatures and by stewarding the ongoing microclimate toward conditions more favorable to growth, we can extend the growing season, raising plants earlier than raw nature allows.

• Some long-season summer crops are marginal in our climate with its cool summer nights. Giving them a jumpstart improves the likelihood of a mature, productive crop before the weather turns.

• Putting out transplants can help your plants avoid/outgrow slug/symphylan/cucumber beetle pressure that can flatten direct-sown seedlings.

• Growing up transplants allows you to keep the beds they are headed into in other (cover) crops longer.

• Tranplants can make it easier to identify and manage weed seedlings.

• Direct seeding has its great advantages but, typically, only a small percentage of seed directly sown will mature into fully-grown plants – what with thinning and other pressures. Raising transplants from seed allows you to ensure that ‘every seed counts.’

Why not to raise your own transplants.

Attentiveness is the key to raising healthy plants. If you start seed inside, you won’t be able to step away from them from approximately February to May for more than 48 hours at a time – 24 hours if you are using a heat mat. If you continue to seed, the time commitment deepens. An extremely reliable plant sitter may be all that sits between you and, potentially, hundreds of dead or stressed plants.

Some plants, such as heading Brassicas, (and cauliflower in particular) are particularly sensitive to stress. Even though initial appearances my continue to suggest that all continues to be well, even one occasion of stress as a start – one missed watering on an unexpectedly sunny day – is enough to ensure that the plant bolts or never sizes up once it goes in the ground.

A supportive lifestyle is essential.

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