Why I like transplants so much

In From Seed to Table I try to make a pretty strong case for making transplants as much as possible in one’s garden.  I start making my first transplants in March, when I start tomatoes and peppers as well as a large flat of early spinach, lettuce, green onions, beets, and endive.  I also like to start any brassicas and squash family plants a few weeks early and then transplant them into the garden.  There are many advantages to transplants – an earlier harvest, good germination, seedlings that are a few weeks ahead of the weeds and better able to cope with pests, eliminating the need for thinning later on, to name a few.

But what really makes a difference for me in having a steady supply of vegetables all summer long is that I also make a flat of ’salad’ transplants around the middle of every month from April to August.  These are some combination of salad vegetables and greens – kale, swiss chard, basil, spinach, lettuce, endive, green onions, beets, fennel, collards, this year I tried cutting celery.  The flat holds 48 cells and I fill it with whatever combination of vegetables takes my fancy.  By making this one flat every month, I know that I will have a small but steady supply of vegetables that mature evenly throughout the summer.   I find it easier to discipline myself to start the flat than to direct seed in the garden every month.  But more importantly, I don’t have to worry about watering and getting seeds to germinate in the garden, instead I have a small tray to keep moist and care for once the transplants are up.  I can keep the transplants in the tray anywhere from three to five weeks, depending on how busy I am and also on the weather.  And almost every transplant that I put in the garden matures into something that I can harvest.

These past few weeks in Southern Ontario have brought home to me the benefits of transplants.  In early August I started my last ’salad’ tray – a flat with only spinach in it.  The seeds were up within about 5 days of planting and I moved them outside to a small structure – I call it a mini greenhouse – that I use for my transplants.  Then we had our first real heat wave of the summer,  which lasted about 10 days.  During this time I was able to move the flat to a shady area in the heat of the day and one quick pass with a mister and it was well watered every day.  To me, this is so much easier than caring for small plants in a garden space.  Now that the heat is over, I can transplant them on a rainy day and they will hopefully thrive without much care.

I try to help people to grow a lot of food in a small space without too much work. For me, once you are in the habit of making transplants, they are quick and easy to do and make for a much more successful garden.

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