Transplanting…never twice the same!

Lettuce transplants in the greenhouse

[From 12 Apr 2016] Today’s transplants: Still steadily plugging in seedlings in the greenhouse, waiting for more ground to dry out. This round, lettuces (above) and bok choi (elsewhere). All this transplanting is pretty straightforward—taking the photo, I might wonder, “What’s the difference between these seedlings stuck in the ground, and any others…why bother posting the same thing over and over?” Well, I don’t literally ask myself that, but I can see how some folks may think that. There’s no good answer, it really is in the eye of the beholder.

On a tiny farm, where weather runs everything, you never know how little decisions will turn out, and how critically they may affect things. Decisions like, let’s put up this greenhouse in this wet-in-spring field that’s also slow to dry, and see what happens (because the alternatives are too expensive), and fix or work around any problems we may run into. In that greenhouse, THIS lettuce planting, in mucky ground,  in all-new conditions that may also in a few days get infernally hot and downright lettuce-unfriendly if we don’t finish the end-wall windows for ventilation before the temperature shoots up, is entirely different from every other lettuce transplanting. New story, ending unknown, let’s see how it turns out! It’s always something different… :)

Transplanting: tiny sections

Greenhouse transplanting: tiny sections

Transplanting lettuce into the unheated greenhouse, filling it out in small sections to work around wetter areas. The seedlings, waiting for drier conditions, stayed a couple of weeks longer in trays than ideal—now they’re a little floppy and stretched, but I’m confident they’ll figure it out. This first spring, seeing how the ground dries in the new hoophouse is part of the learning curve. Tiny farming!

Seedlings in the sun

Hardening off leetuce seedlings

Lettuce seedlings get their first taste of full-on springtime sunshine. Next stop, into the ground in the greenhouse. I wouldn’t call this hardening off, some of these are being transplanted later today—tomorrow’s cloudy forecast should give them all the post-transplant adjustment break they need, then bring on the sun! (Starring in this pic, always reliable Black Seeded Simpson.)

Winter spinach

image

Later and later we go: More late season/winter harvest experiments, with four-week-old spinach transplants into the unheated greenhouse. Also trying out a trench approach to transplanting—a furrow about 6″ deep, made with a hoe—instead of putting them in one by one. Seems a little quicker, but it all takes time!

Bare-root transplant

Bare-root tomato transplant

It’s out of the moist paper germination environment, and into the wilder world of the cellpak. This is a baby golden cherry tomato—can’t you tell?!—going into standard sterile seedling mix of equal parts perlite, vermiculite and peat. As long as the root hasn’t gotten too long, I just plunk ’em down, cover and water in, letting the roots find their own way down (a few years back, I probably would have made tiny holes and painstakingly inserted each one, but really, they seem to do that work a lot more efficiently). On a side note, I think I heard that perlite or vermiculite (maybe both) have made it into some people’s not-so-environmentally correct category, along with peat. So complicated—I will look into that. :)

1440 onions

1440 onions

I’m sure I’ve taken this photo before, but somehow, it’s still new—the first transplants of the season! This is the look of 1,440 onions, starting out. These are 72-cell plug sheets, and the plan is to multi-plant four onions in each spot. Do a little multiplication—5 trays, 72 cells, 4 onions per—and the results are clear. Whether things will turn out exactly like this, perfect bushels of Red Globe red and Utah sweet Spanish, is anybody’s guess, but I’m quite confident we will get…something! :)

All the usual tools and methods for this tiny farm are back for another run. There are still at least a couple of years left on the roll of donated food-grade plastic wrap that I use (and re-use for the season) to hold moisture and increase heat, just until the tiny seedlings emerge. To check temperatures in this new seedling room, on the lowest shelf of the light rack, where it’s coldest, is one of the minimum/maximum digital recording thermometers. And of course, there are the trusty, home-built light racks themselves, with an assortment of T-12 and T-8 fixtures and Cool White fluorescent tubes, providing the bare minimum of heat and light to get things started.

I’m always up for trying new approaches and new gear, but a lot of the time, if it gets the job done and you’re already having fun, what more could you need?!