Growing Transplants from Blocks

It gets expensive purchasing vegetable transplants from your local store. Especially when you are farming on a larger scale. In addition, there really isn’t a great assortment of vegetables when purchased in that form.

We grow Organic, mostly Heirloom vegetable varieties that you can only purchase by seed. Organic for the health value and Heirloom for the amazing flavor! So we grow our plants from seed indoors.

At first we bought plastic trays and plastic pots and found it to be too much plastic for our environmental view. It was also bulky and took a lot space. We had 4 shelves full of trays with heat pads, and lights overhead on each shelf.

We quickly found just reusing a few trays with small soil blocks and no plastic pots was a way to save money, time, electricity and it uses less seedling starting mix. It also results in less plastic in the landfill. We saved the pots we already purchased in case we have a streak of bad weather and have no choice but to repot the soil blocks into the bigger pots.

You can buy soil block makers in a variety of sizes. We bought the smallest one. The larger ones allow the smaller blocks to fit inside the new, larger block the next size up. So you could theoretically start with the smallest blocks then transplant them twice into larger blocks until you have quart size plant.

We only grow our starts for 3 weeks which seems to be exactly when the roots of the seedling fills the small block. We plant outside at that time. If the weather is bad, we transplant the seedlings to small pots, which we had to do this year with our basil.

Best of all we are able to plant almost twice as many seedlings in a tray. We get close to 80 plants out of one tray now.

See how we make our soil blocks on the farm’s YouTube Channel:

Early Transplants

Because of our short growing season, there are some plants that will not mature fast enough to produce anything within before the snow comes. Those are the plants we grow inside and transplant outside. Those include herbs, celery, tomatoes, peppers and our newest try, Luffa.

We started the luffa almost 8 weeks in advance because they need well over 200 days of growing season. They grew so big we had to transplant them twice into larger pots. Now they are in quart size containers and in order to acclimate them to outside they get a wagon ride outside and back inside every day.

The tomatoes and peppers are still tiny but after 3-4 weeks they will be ready to go into the ground. Covered in a tunnel of course. Continuing with the plan to extend the season!

There are a lot of seeds in the ground already too. They are starting to pop through the surface! Get a look at the seedlings on the farm’s YouTube Channel:

Indoor Transplants

This year we got an earlier start on our transplants so had to double transplant some of them. Luffa requires almost 300 days of sunlight to get fully ripened Luffa so we started them very early and moved them into 4 inch posts before we transplanted into quart sized pots and then again into their final home.

Since last year’s broccoli was phenomenal having started them early under covered tunnels, we tried it again this year. The broccoli transplants went through 3 winter storms last spring we are expecting at least one this year. It’s been said the chill from a light frost improves the flavor of cabbage family plants. Broccoli is one of them.

Of course we grew basil, tomatoes and pepper transplants. They always take a long time to get to size but once they do, they rapidly produce. At least that has been our experience to date.

We have been hardening off the plants but will not drop them into the ground until we are sure the snow is past us.

Yet Another Hailstorm

I spend 4 hours this morning finally planting tomatoes and peppers. Then I replanted new transplants for the plants we just lost in a terrible hailstorm. This included cucumbers, pumpkins, basil, okra, squash and a first planting of sunflowers.

I was pretty sore from all the extra work trying to recover from the hailstorm so decided to get a massage. The first 45 minutes was very relaxing when suddenly there was a roaring noise that distracted my masseuse. She said “do you here that?” I said yes. She asked “Do you think that’s rain?” I knew immediately we were in a hailstorm. NOT AGAIN! I completely lost all the relaxation I had achieved.

I got home and assessed the damage. There was about the same amount of damage as the last storm but to add insult to injury it was the new replantings that took the brunt of it. Luckily I grew extra transplants this second time around so was able to plant again. The only exception is the pumpkins. I need start them all over again!

More severe thunderstorms are projected this week but we have to continue replanting as they come. If we don’t we could lose the whole season. Wish us luck!

Memorial Weekend Planting Spree

FINALLY After a long winter and multiple early spring snow storms we have the weather man’s confirmation that we should no longer see a freeze this season. Now it’s time to make up lost time and get growing. The plants we had covered from the snow mostly all survived but a lot had not been planted yet.

We took a 4 day weekend for Memorial Day to get the crops going. Luckily we had the foresight to start growing most of the plants inside to at least get the vegetables germinated. That action made up for 3 weeks of lost time. First we needed to get rid of the weeds that grew while the plants were covered for snow protection. It must have been pretty warm under the covers because a lot of weeds grew! Then we quickly planted all the transplants and seeded where it was needed. We also set up a few more tunnels for protection in case we get a hailstorm prediction.

The tomatoes are ready but due to a severe thunderstorm in the forecast we are waiting, but have a tunnel ready. There are also a few transplants that have not fully germinated that will take about another week before they can go outside. Pumpkins, peppers, spaghetti squash and acorn squash will be transplanted soon. Everything else is off to a good start

See how much is planted on the Farm’s YouTube channel:

Planting Transplants

It’s after Mothers Day which means we can plant everything….finally!

It takes longer than you’d think. We dig each hole within the fabric by hand, measuring as we go with the measuring marks on the trowel itself. We amend the soil if needed by sprinkling a little in the bottom of the hole, mixing it in the surrounding soil and then putting the transplant on top, carefully filling in any gaps with extra soil and thoroughly watering it in. Since we use no chemicals,compost is really the only source of nutrients. Tomatoes and peppers need additional calcium so we add dolomite lime.

This process will take a couple weekends to complete, but once it’s done we can sit back and watch everything grow. Besides weeding, every now and then we test for dryness and give extra water where needed. We also start monitoring pests right away. Good to catch early to fix it before it gets out of control.

We are really excited to have everything in ground now and are looking forward to seeing how productive a second year under the fabric will be. Stay Tuned!

Transplant Challenges

This year we decided to grow most items from seed. The only transplants we grew inside were tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and celery. The challenge last year was the celery took 12 weeks to grow so this year they were planted much earlier. Another challenge was avoiding fungus or moss that took over when the soil got too moist. There is a fine balance between too dry and too wet. I focused on keeping the top of the soil dry once the seedlings got their first set of leaves. It seemed to help.

The biggest challenge we face is hardening off the transplants before we plant them in the ground. The hardening off process is getting the transplants used to the harsh weather outside a little at a time, but the weather extremes where we live always results in transplant loss. It can be sunny 80 degrees one day and snowing the next. It’s not unusual. Professionals in our area repeatedly recommend not to plant until Mothers Day. Yet we have had storms after! Every time planting gets delayed due to weather the transplants get stressed from being potted for too long. It happened this year.

We lost a number of our transplants this year to something we never considered. One of the deer got very brave and walked right up the tomatoes against the house and bit the tops off! Note the above picture. Our neighbor’s puppy also found her way into the yard and pulled our basil out of the pots! We received a very nice letter from her a day later on top of some new basil ready to plant!

In the end we had enough transplants to fill the garden and get the job done!

Planting Transplants

Finally the winter is over so we are ready to plant! Some of the transplants we had inside for weeks were starting to get too big and leggy. We had already been acclimating them to the weather by taking them outside and bringing them in when it got too cold. We are so happy we didn’t take a risk and plant them before Memorial Day when we experienced a late freeze. It would have been devastating to lose almost 1000 seedlings! You can almost depend on a snow storm in late May every year. It’s just hard to predict when the last one will be. Next year we are going to do row covers to allow us to plant earlier, hopefully.

The last seedlings planted were cucumbers you see in the picture. They are the perfect size and should do well. The expansion requires so many more plants it’s going to take a lot more time. So armed with gloves, a shovel, a knee pad and a bag of compost, we spent 3 days planting seedling. We always grow extra because not all transplants will survive. When one dies you plant a spare. We found the black fabric absorbed so much heat that we lost more transplants than usual.

The only transplant that did not do well was the beans. They were too leggy and fell over in the first rain. Luckily we had plenty of seeds and re-planted, a little late but they came up quickly and did just fine.

Due to the drought and the heat absorbing black fabric, we had to hand water the seedlings until their roots grew long enough to reach the subsurface drip tape. It was an added step but once they reached their water source they grew quickly.

I can’t wait to see how much produce we get out of this new expansion!

 

Transplants In the Ground

Cabbage Transplants

The weather is finally cooperating! I finally got some transplants in the ground including cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. Seeds planted include peas, 4 different types of heirloom beans, 3 types of onion (bunch, red and Walla Walla sweets), spinach, collards, radishes and carrots.

Seeds still to plant……beets, lettuce, cucumber, corn, okra, summer squash, watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkins. Transplants that still need to be planted….celery, tomatoes and peppers.

I also have herb transplants that are taking a long time to grow including parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme (the Garfunkel), basil and oregano (the Italian), and lemon grass.rosemary, lavender, lemon balm, and fennel (the aromatics).

And where would we be without flowers? There are already so many on the property, including lilly of the valley, iris, daylillies, hostas, shasta daisies, peonies, catmint, phlox, roses, wallflower, vinca, passion flower, dianthis and penstemon. Amazingly they haven’t been eaten by the deer or rabbits yet. I’m planting more native flowers as a xeriscape food source for the bees we¬†will be bringing home next week. That includes sunflowers, blanket flower, pineapple sage and not so xeriscape, but great for eating…nasturtiums.

Wow! Reading all that I realize there is still a lot of work to do!

More Spring Snow!

Snow and Deer

More snow! How long is this going to last? It’s supposed to continue for another few days. The apple blossoms are partially open. Let’s hope they don’t all freeze. If you look close, you can see the deer laying underneath the lilac bushes.

The growing season is rapidly shrinking. Less time means less harvest. We could regain time if the weather cooperates the rest of the season. Here is crossing fingers.

The cold weather transplants are getting too big for the trays. I may have to plant when it gets above freezing, using a row cover to protect them.

Over grown transplants

This is also effecting the building of the run and preparing the beehives for the bees coming in two weeks!
We will be so happy when the weather warms again, but then it will be a race to get things done!