This last January I attended an all day seminar with John Jeavons wherein he delineated his system of bio-intensive growing. One of the things he talked about was planting seeds in flats and transplanting the seedlings into the garden. The photos he showed us were of very small seedlings, some with just two leaves and they barely fit into his fingers. Mr. Jeavons told us that he transplanted beans, corn, even carrots. Someone asked him if it didn’t take a long time to do all that transplanting and he said, “Well, it’s a meditation…”
I clicked into You Tube and sought ‘Jeavons’ and watched some of the videos there which explain his methods. Transplanting was recommended there, too. I have been growing my own for decades and transplanting into my garden but all these transplants were large, six inch tomatoes and peppers, squash plants that already look like they are going to take over the world. Mr.Jeavons plants were so small they gave me pause. So, I decided to try it.
First I planted a flat of carrots because Mr. Jeavons said that it was easier than seeding the garden. Carrots seeded in the garden need constant care; they can take two weeks to germinate and they have to be kept evenly moist the entire time. I recalled spending all those hours gently watering and worrying about my carrots until they raised their little sword like cotyledons above the soil and feathered out. I was willing to try another method.
I planted a flat of carrots (yokum, napoli and yaya) and when they were much larger than the ones Mr. Jeavons showed us, I planted them out. They had two and three sets of feathery leaves and many had more than one stem by the time I set them out. I watered them in then and the next morning and again the next day but they didn’t look like they needed that last watering – all of them were alive and well. I had some golden beets in a flat as well and transplanted them, too. Sadly, on the way out of the house with them I spilled the entire flat onto the rug in the front hall and only seven of them survived.
The carrots were so easy I planted another flat of napoli and I’ll plant them out at an earlier age. As soon as they are up I’ll put them outside so there will be no hardening off problems. I also planted a flat of red flint corn and that will be planted when it is five inches high.
I have a plant stand with grow lights and it was very easy to plant those seeds in the house and easy to monitor and water them. It took very little time and I used many fewer gallons of water. When I planted them I spaced them optimally so there will be no need to thin.
Corn seeds say to plant at one inch intervals and thin to a foot apart. This makes no sense at all. If germination rates are above seventy five percent then three out of four seeds will germinate and many seeds would be wasted. The flat I planted in the house seems to have near ninety percent germination, probably because the conditions are so stable. When I transplant the corn it will go in at the proper spacing and, again, no thinning, and I will be able to mulch the corn immediately because I won’t have to wait to see where it is or fear smothering it.
Transplanting seedlings does mean that you are going to get down and dirty but if you have mulched your garden paths it won’t be too bad. I have a ‘no bare dirt’ policy in my garden. It keeps the weeds down, the soil moist and the worms like it.
I have always planted beans directly into the garden so this year I will plant some directly and transplant some just to see the difference.
We are so accustomed to transplanting peppers and tomatoes as large plants that we don’t think to transplant the little ones. This method saves seed and water but it also allows us to fill in empty spaces in the garden when other crops are harvested. When the early peas come out a row of beans can go in, or even a short season corn. I usually harvest my onions from one end of the raised bed to the other so by the end of June I should have several square feet of space empty. I wonder what I can put in there?
Planting seeds in flats inside and transplanting also allows us to get a jump on the season. Normally corn would not be planted until all danger of frost is past, the same with beans, but a week or two can be added up front and the plants can be hardened off during the day and be ready the moment frost is past.
The warm weather we had has had an odd effect on gardeners in my area and on me as well. The impetus to get out there and garden has been overwhelming. I was planting peas in the middle of April when I have never gotten them in before May. I had all my onions in a full month earlier than usual and set out kale, cabbage and romaine in April when I often don’t get them in until the middle of May or later. Other gardeners have reported the same. This is a far cry from the years we can’t get into the garden until the end of May because of rain and chill and I am interested it what will come of it at the end of summer when crops are in early. Will my onions still store well if they are harvested in August or will they continue to grow and get bigger and bigger until they all become prize winners?
Every year brings something new to the garden, new plants, new bugs, new information, new methods and isn’t it grand?