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Old 04-07-2015, 03:01 PM
 
Location: I live wherever I am.
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In 2012, the grand total of what I was able to grow was one bowl of green beans.

Last year, I had a 1,000-square-foot garden which grew more vegetables than I was able to eat or give away.

This year I'm going to start selling my produce. Only trouble is - it seems to be taking me FOREVER to work the seeds and I wonder what would be some good steps up.

For example - I have been growing tomatoes in egg cartons. I have timed it out and when all is said and done, it takes me approximately one minute per seedling to do the transplant. I have to separate the seedlings, put holes in the bottom of the Dixie cups I'm using, fill each cup with potting soil, then put a finger-hole in the soil so that I can drop the seedling into that hole. Then I have to pack the soil around the seedling so that it stands up relatively straight, water the seedling because the potting mix is only "barely damp" out of the bag, etc.

I can't imagine this is the best way to do things.

I have considered plug trays - but I don't have a plug extractor, nor have I ever seen one, nor do I know how it works. Even at that, I wouldn't know what size plug tray to use. If you get one with too many small cells, the plants will fight for sunlight and will grow really tall without forming a stem capable of supporting their individual weights, because they'll be using each other for support. If you get one with a lesser number of large cells, who knows if it'll be a waste of space and soil, you know?

Also, there's watering... I don't have a greenhouse yet. (I may build one this year.) I put painter's plastic on the floor of one of my spare bedrooms and have most of my plants in there. I can water from a watering can for the most part, except for the plants I have transplanted into Dixie cups. For those, I have to use a spray bottle and it seems like they get dry really quickly. Having to do 10 sprays per cup, into almost 400 Dixie cups, every day, takes a lot of time and gets tiring.

Now, I have ordered some sheets of pots from a greenhouse supply company, so that may be more professional-looking than a Dixie cup... but it still won't save time on transplanting and watering. If I'm going to be scaling up from a hobbyist garden operation to a small farmstand, and who knows where beyond that, I will need some more knowledge without having to do trial and error. Any of y'all who have done this before - what do you suggest?
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Old 04-08-2015, 08:31 AM
 
Location: East of Seattle since 1992, originally from SF Bay Area
31,854 posts, read 58,015,420 times
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If you have a really long growing season, and it stays above 50F at night from about March, the best solution is to plant the seeds in the ground. We can have frost until early May so I have to plant seeds indoors too, but then my garden is limited to a 7'x12' (unheated) greenhouse so transplanting takes very little time. If you build one and try to start seedlings early in it, keep in mind the electric bill to heat it. The same applies to using the garage, with grow lights. My suggestion for you is to use peat pots. They come in various sizes, and you can plant the seedlings pot and all, saving a lot of time.

peat pots | Price comparison and reviews at best-deal.com
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Old 04-09-2015, 06:48 AM
 
Location: I live wherever I am.
1,935 posts, read 3,940,201 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hemlock140 View Post
If you have a really long growing season, and it stays above 50F at night from about March, the best solution is to plant the seeds in the ground. We can have frost until early May so I have to plant seeds indoors too, but then my garden is limited to a 7'x12' (unheated) greenhouse so transplanting takes very little time. If you build one and try to start seedlings early in it, keep in mind the electric bill to heat it. The same applies to using the garage, with grow lights. My suggestion for you is to use peat pots. They come in various sizes, and you can plant the seedlings pot and all, saving a lot of time.

peat pots | Price comparison and reviews at best-deal.com
I considered peat pots. Do they hold their shape and size under frequent waterings or do they collapse? I mean, if they're engineered to biodegrade, it would stand to reason that they're not as resistant to such as plastic pots.

Where I live (northeast Ohio), even now it is not reliably above 50 degrees at night. Over the next ten days the average nightly low is in the upper 40s. Last year I wasn't able to transplant until the end of May, because it is possible to drop below freezing until at least mid-May.

Would an unheated greenhouse be able to resist low overnight temperatures due to storing up heat from the sun during the day?
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Old 04-09-2015, 07:37 AM
 
Location: Dallas
5,653 posts, read 5,234,950 times
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Why not start the individual seeds in small plastic pots? That would reduce the need for starting in flats or egg cartons and having to transplant them to the dixie cups. The pots have holes in the bottom for drainage and you can set them in plastic trays that you fill partially w/ water so the plants can be watered from the bottom. It will save you a lot of time and you'll lose less seedlings by not having to move them until they are ready to go in the ground.

One year I grew hundreds of plants that way in a very sunny spare bedroom.
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Old 04-09-2015, 08:00 AM
 
Location: East of Seattle since 1992, originally from SF Bay Area
31,854 posts, read 58,015,420 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
I considered peat pots. Do they hold their shape and size under frequent waterings or do they collapse? I mean, if they're engineered to biodegrade, it would stand to reason that they're not as resistant to such as plastic pots.

Where I live (northeast Ohio), even now it is not reliably above 50 degrees at night. Over the next ten days the average nightly low is in the upper 40s. Last year I wasn't able to transplant until the end of May, because it is possible to drop below freezing until at least mid-May.

Would an unheated greenhouse be able to resist low overnight temperatures due to storing up heat from the sun during the day?
They biodegrade when placed under the soil. When you water normally, and have them on a tray so they don't sit with the bottoms in water, they hold up fine until ready to put out in the garden. We too are still running 38-42 at night, but I have sources for plants that are already blossoming to transplant in May for the tomatoes and cucumbers. The cost would be a it much for you, though, if you are planning to sell and make money.
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Old 04-09-2015, 08:32 AM
 
Location: Old Hippie Heaven
20,744 posts, read 9,384,866 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
I considered peat pots. Do they hold their shape and size under frequent waterings or do they collapse? I mean, if they're engineered to biodegrade, it would stand to reason that they're not as resistant to such as plastic pots.
Yes, peat pots will hold up for quite a while. They're a bit spendy though, and I think they often last too long in the soil, which crimps their root systems.

Check out both FarmTek - Hydroponic Fodder Systems, Farming & Growing Supplies, Hoop Barns, Poultry & Livestock Equipment, High Tunnels, Greenhouses & More and www.greenhousemegastore.com for bulk supplies, and to get an idea what other growers use. Also, ask on both craigs list and your local freecycle for people's used plastic pots. You won't have too much trouble coming up with a sufficient supply. Especially the smaller sizes. And a lot of retail nurseries wind up with a lot of pots that they can't use and must pay to dispose of. Ask around, they might sell you their surplus used pots for very cheap or even free. Rinse them off and soak them in a bleach solution in a trashcan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
Where I live (northeast Ohio), even now it is not reliably above 50 degrees at night. Over the next ten days the average nightly low is in the upper 40s. Last year I wasn't able to transplant until the end of May, because it is possible to drop below freezing until at least mid-May.

Would an unheated greenhouse be able to resist low overnight temperatures due to storing up heat from the sun during the day?
The short answer is, it depends. The temperatures you are now experiencing are lettuce heaven, and plenty of other greens crops and some alliums also love it. Unheated greenhouses will protect your crops from frost, rain, snow, wind, but no, tomatoes and peppers will probably not be happy.

Get to your library as soon as possible, and get Eliot Coleman's books ASAP. He grows veggies commercially in Maine with unheated greenhouses.

Here's a periodical that might interest you - http://www.growingformarket.com/
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Old 04-09-2015, 08:59 AM
 
3,339 posts, read 7,930,314 times
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Egg cartons aren't good for starting tomatoes. You want the roots to grow deep, which they can't do in egg cartons. This year I started some in deep 3" pots and some others in clear plastic drink cups. They're all fantastic, and you'd be surprised at how fast the roots grow down 4-5". Deep root development is so important for fast establishment outdoors.

I used to use Root Trainers, which were great, but over the years, they kind of fell apart.Root Trainers from Beaver Plastics
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Old 04-09-2015, 09:24 AM
 
Location: Under the Redwoods
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I start everything in 4 inch pots so the only transplanting is when they go into the ground.
What sort of lighting do you have in the spare room? Are they full spectrum lights? If there is not enough light for the starts, they will stretch in search of light and this will make the stalks weak.
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Old 04-09-2015, 07:37 PM
 
Location: I live wherever I am.
1,935 posts, read 3,940,201 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aquietpath View Post
Why not start the individual seeds in small plastic pots? That would reduce the need for starting in flats or egg cartons and having to transplant them to the dixie cups. The pots have holes in the bottom for drainage and you can set them in plastic trays that you fill partially w/ water so the plants can be watered from the bottom. It will save you a lot of time and you'll lose less seedlings by not having to move them until they are ready to go in the ground.

One year I grew hundreds of plants that way in a very sunny spare bedroom.
I ordered almost 2,000 plastic pots from a garden supply wholesaler, so I will be doing that at some point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hemlock140 View Post
They biodegrade when placed under the soil. When you water normally, and have them on a tray so they don't sit with the bottoms in water, they hold up fine until ready to put out in the garden. We too are still running 38-42 at night, but I have sources for plants that are already blossoming to transplant in May for the tomatoes and cucumbers. The cost would be a it much for you, though, if you are planning to sell and make money.
Since I have a business account with a wholesaler (because I am doing this as a business this year), I can get them for 3-4 cents apiece. The issue would be how well they hold up and whether or not they really do transplant well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OwlKaMyst View Post
I start everything in 4 inch pots so the only transplanting is when they go into the ground.
What sort of lighting do you have in the spare room? Are they full spectrum lights? If there is not enough light for the starts, they will stretch in search of light and this will make the stalks weak.
All I have is sunlight from two rather large windows. I'm hoping to do a greenhouse this upcoming year.
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Old 04-12-2015, 04:25 PM
 
Location: Shingle Springs, CA
531 posts, read 1,307,840 times
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Have you tried Winter Sowing? It's actually pretty amazing -- and it works!!!

WinterSown.Org HOME
" To make a flat you take the foil container (of course it's clean, washed in hot soapy water) and a paring knife. Stab a few slits in the bottom of the pan, this is for drainage. Now fill the pan with soil to about a half inch from the top. Give it a real good drink and let it drain. I do this in my kitchen. (I have a sprayer on a hose at the sink and I use this for the watering, works well and won't gouge out holes in the soil). After the pan has drained, sow your seeds and pat them down. Cover the seeds with more soil to the correct depth, if necessary. I like growing plants with tiny, tiny seeds, they're really just the very most easiest to sow. Sprinkle them on top of the soil, pat the seeds down, and that's that.

Now you need to put the lid on but first...and this is the very most important step...take the knife and poke several slits in the clear plastic lid. This is for air transpiration. Think about it, you're making a little mini-greenhouse. If you don't vent the air that is heated by the sun you'll cook your flat and the seeds won't germinate. You've baked them to death. Okay, put the lid on secure by folding down the foil rim. Now the seeds are sown.

Uh oh...back it up, I forgot a step that you may wish to use: labeling. I didn't label mine as I like surprises, however this concept may pop the heads of gardeners who enjoy having everything 'just so'. Get some freezer tape, duct tape, or any tape that you know will work well after being frozen. Pull off a piece and stick it to the bottom of the flat. Write the variety name on it with a permanent marking pen. You can do this before or after sowing, if you do it afterwards make sure you wipe the bottom of the flat well as most tape doesn't adhere as good as you'd like to a damp surface. Label the tape before sticking it on the bottom of the flat. The label is on the bottom of the flat because the sun can't bleach it down there.

All right, the flat is now sown and covered (with little slits in the top, yes? don't forget!!). Now take it outside to somewhere it will be safe for the winter. I put them on a picnic table top away from my curious puppy. I learned my lesson, I lost a flat of daylilies (the first I sowed this way) because I put them on the ground under a bush and the puppy found them and thought the flat was a toy, and she promptly killed it by shaking it to death. After that all the flats went up on the table out of her reach. A sad loss; but it was an excellent lesson.
Now you'll just wait it out. When the weather warms the flats will freeze and thaw repeatedly as Winter gives way to spring. This action of freezing and thawing out helps loosen the seed coat. You'll often see the term "nick or file seeds prior to sowing" in germination databases: this is to duplicate Mother Nature's work. (Now you won't have to do that anymore!)

Amazingly, just when winter is about to break, and you're still getting nightly freezes, the first of your flats will begin to germinate. When I saw this I thought that the seedlings were goners, but they thrived. The seeds know when it's safe to come up; it's part of their genetics. Now is the time to check the moisture in the flats. On an above-freezing day, open them up and if they look like they need a drink give them one. The excess water will drain away. Don't forget to replace the lids tightly.

As your seedlings grow start widening the slits in the covers, once a week or so make the slits a little bit bigger, eventually you'll have more open areas than covered and you'll be able to transplant the seedlings into the garden because they are completely hardened off. I have put in seedlings that barely had their first set of true leaves and they thrived in the ground.

After transplant care is typically the same as for indoor sown seedlings. They need a drink and just a little bit of food: 10% strength after their first week in the ground, then increase slowly as the season progresses. After about eight weeks and a few feedings your seedlings will be able to take a full strength feeding.

Alternate seed flats:

I have used plastic milk jugs and 2 liter soda bottles: just cut around the middle almost all the way through. Make the drainage slits. Fill with dirt, water, drain, sow, and cover with more dirt (the same procedure as above.) Tape the cut edges together and simply remove the cap for air transpiration.

Cardboard orange juice or milk containers can be used with a baggie. Cut them in half, horizontally or vertically, make the drainage slits and sow your seeds by the same method above. Slip the flat into a baggie, tie it closed with a twist tie or a knot and use the knife to make a few slits for air transpiration, put a few slits in the bottom of the baggie for drainage.

Whipped Topping tubs: Make the drainage slits, and then sow your seeds as above. Take a scissors and cut out the center of the lid, leaving about an inch around the inside of the rim. Put a piece of clear plastic wrap over the tub, put on the lid. This holds the plastic wrap "window" snuggly in place. Take the knife and make some slits in the plastic wrap for air transpiration.

Did all my flats germinate? NO! I had eighty or so of these made and eight did not germinate. Was it the seeds? Was it the method? Was it me? I don't know. But I did have over seventy flats that did germinate. Outside!

Let me mention that I also used four kiddie pools. These were used the summer before as container gardens ~ lots of soil and lots of big slits for drainage. I simply direct sowed these and left them all uncovered. They got snowed on, the snow melted, it rained while the bases of the kiddie pools were still frozen and the rain didn't drain. They all were frozen with ice at least an inch thick.......aarrgghh, panic, Panic, PANIC....I couldn't do anything about it. When warmer weather finally came the pools thawed and drained and the seeds came up! YEAH!

That's it. As you see it's not hard to do at all. I sowed these flats at my leisure throughout the Winter. Everyone talks about going bonkers in January and February because they can't get out and do any meaningful gardening. There are only a few varieties of seeds which can be successfully sown this early indoors....frustration and gardening fever sets in. While all the other gardeners were chomping at the bit I was being self-indulgent and playing with dirt and mud and seeds at my own lazy-bones pace.

I took a leap of faith doing this. I kept the faith and I was rewarded. I believe in this method, it works, it really truly works. Too much emphasis has been made on indoor sowing under lights. It takes up time, it takes up space, white flies take to the air, damp off kills your effort, your seedlings, and your spirit. I forget to mention that there is NO EVIL DAMP-OFF. The chilling temperatures and fresh winds prevent the damp-off that sadly causes young seedlings to fail. We take a lot of time and care in our efforts, sometimes we feel like the seedlings are almost our "plant" children. It really is depressing when a flat of seedlings doesn't make it.

I encourage everyone to try the Winter Sowing Method. If you want to hold back some seeds the first time you try it that's great. Save some seeds to sow indoors of a variety you have placed in a Winter Sown flat, compare the differences in the seedlings, and then compare plants when they mature. Learn from what you observe."
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