Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gardening Floyd: Newspaper Pots and Transplanting

Two and a half weeks after planting the cole crops they have their first real leaves and it's time to transplant them into larger pots.  These seedlings are going into newspaper pots which, in a couple of weeks, will be planted directly in the garden without disturbing the roots again.

Newspaper is a gardener's friend.  It's cheap (read free if you raid the recycling bin) and has multiple uses.  It makes a better weed barrier than landscape fabric when laid in wet sheets under mulch, it makes great mulch when shredded, it can be shaped into pots that can be planted directly into the ground, and it's biodegradable.

Bonzai Aphrodite has a great tutorial on How to Make Newspaper Seed Pots and I suggest you go there to learn how to do it.  You don't need one of those fancy-schmancy expensive turned wooden gadgets to make newspaper pots.  All you need is a stack of newspapers, scissors and a soup can.  My only difference is I use a bit of tape to hold the bottom of the pot.  When I plant it, I remove the tape as I pull open the bottom to release the roots.

Fill the paper pots with a good seedling or soil mix.  Your local nursery can recommend a good blend for this job.  Pack the pots firmly but gently and set them in solid-bottomed Jiffy trays.   The solid bottom allows you to water the seedlings from beneath rather than dumping water on them from above which can damage them and promote disease. You can find the trays at Home Depot and if you take care of them they will last for several years.
In the above photo you can see that I also have the jiffy tray lined with a skeleton tray.  This lends a little more stability to the jiffy tray making it easier to handle.  It's not necessary, but it is nice.  These skeleton trays are often give-aways at local nurseries when you buy transplants.  Hold on to them.  Once you have the pots in the trays give them a few drops of water each to moisten the soil.  I like to use a thin spouted cheap plastic watering can from the dollar store for this.  The thin narrow neck gives me more control over the direction and flow of the water when I must water from above.

Make a hole in the center of the soil in each pot to slip the seedling into.

Now it's time to start lifting the seedlings from the soil.  I use the tip of a plastic plant marker strip.  A butter knife, metal or plastic, works well also.  Slip the tip into the soil about a half inch away from the plant and gently pry the soil up a bit to loosen it.  The seedling should raise up from the soil.  Gently lift the seedling making sure not to crush its stem or leaves.  It's a little fiddley but you'll get the hang of it.
Here you can see the healthy little root ball, the cotyledons or sprout leaves, and the slightly fuzzy, first true leaves.

Slip the seedling into the hole in the paper cup, gently pushing the root ball in. Try to get the seedling in almost to its cotyledons, then gently firm the soil around it.

Once you have a trayful of seedlings give each one a drop of water from the top using that narrow spouted watering can.  Direct the water away from the seedling.  This helps to settle any air pockets out from around the root and eases possible transplant shock.  But just a drop and no more!  You don't want soggy soil and drowning seedlings!  The next day water the seedlings from the bottom, pouring only enough water into the tray to barely wet the bottoms of the pots.  The capillary action will draw the water up to the seedlings roots where they can drink just what they need.

Place the seedling tray (preferably) back under lights adjusted to just a couple inches above the tray or in your sunniest window sill.  Go here to learn how to put together an economical seed starting shelf.

Now's the time for folks in the southwest VA mountains to plant pepper seeds indoors!

1 comment:

  1. Oh! What a cool website! I just came over here from another website, and when I saw "Eating Floyd" I was hoping it was Floyd, Va! I originally hail from B'burg, Va. My father, in his retirement before his death, did a lot of work with the Blue Ridge Center for Chinese Medicine which I'm quite sure is out your way. That land is beautiful. You are a lucky woman to live there.