Vegetable Garden Series Part 3c: Planting the Seedlings

I should have taken a picture of the flat of seedlings I started back on March 9, but I didn’t think to take pictures at first, I was so intent on getting them into the ground! As I was preparing the bed, I realized I should do a final post on this little flat of seedlings so you could have a complete picture. Well, technically, I suppose when we’re eating the vegetables is when the cycle is complete (or is it when I compost the scraps?), but I’m sure you get my meaning. :-)

Anyway, they still looked a lot like this, and they needed to be in the ground about a week and a half ago, but the weather and my schedule conspired against me.

And I will say this about the weather: two weeks ago it was too cold and wet and I didn’t want to be out, and then hot and sunny weather started last weekend (80 degrees in Oregon in April is a funny thing: shorts and white legs, red,red sunburns, and people rushing to plant tomatoes even though it will get back into the 30s for lows…) and the plants wouldn’t like to be transplanted.

Trust me on this- I have lost many a tender lettuce seedling trying to plant them on days I want to be out. Unless there is a way to shade them, it’s best to put them out on overcast days or at least cooler sunny days. Which is what we had yesterday: still sunny with some clouds, but much cooler with the high around 65 degrees and a cool breeze. And those people who rushed to get their tomatoes in had 34 degrees and areas of frost this morning and the news is saying even colder tomorrow. I’m not saying anything other than get a cover on them or they will be stunted and never produce very well for you even if they don’t die…

I’m waiting another week or two to plant mine, and even a few weeks longer for the peppers. Unless I get a hoop house in the meantime. Dream, dream…

The very first thing I did was water the flat of seedlings really well, making sure that each sell was quite damp. I did this about 1-2 hours before planting as this is an easy way to help the little guys transplant well.

Then I prepared the bed – pulling out the few weeds and digging out the stumps of old cabbage from the winter harvest, then spreading a layer of compost. I made holes at the spacing I wanted for the lettuce (I like to do it this way: 4 plants in one row, 3 in the other so I can plant a little more closely), then added a 1/4 cup of my home made organic fertilizer and mix it into the soil.

I use the recipe found in Steve Solomon’s book, Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. It’s easy and cheaper than buying it at the store.

Gently remove the seedling from the cell pot to get the whole seedling out, roots and all.

Sorry, I couldn’t figure out how to take a picture of this since it takes two hands. Pretend you’re seeing me holding the pot upside down, then taking my other hand and squeezing on the little cell bottom until the seedling pops out into my other hand, seen in the picture above.

Whenever I’ve just pulled the seedlings out, I invariably loose some of the roots, so I always turn the pots upside down and use the squeeze-out method (I’m just making that up. I don’t think there’s a “squeeze-out method,” do you?)

Now here’s a little confession: I sometimes let two lettuce seedlings grow in one cell so I can have more plants. I’m not sure you’re supposed to do this, but it works for me. :-)

Their roots are growing together, so I have to GENTLY pull the seedlings apart. I’ve found if I grasp the section of root beneath the plant that they separate easier. And of course they’re well-watered, so that helps the roots separate, too. But even when they don’t and I have one with all the root ball and one with just a few, I still plant them both. Most of the time they both grow.

Then I just put the seedling in it’s hole and bring the dirt around it and firm it up.

This picture shows all the lettuce seedlings planted and the alternate planting I like. The onion seedlings are waiting up in the corners for their turn. I like to line my beds with onions – I like the look and they seem to take up less room because I can plant in the middle still, but who knows? Could be just my perception…

With onions, I like to dig a shallow trench all the way around the bed, then I add a line of fertilizer and mix it into the soil.

I know it looks like I didn’t mix the fertilizer in, and well, that’s because I didn’t here. BUT I did later, I swear! I just got so into taking pictures I forgot and had to do it later…

The onions are grown all together, so I just pull each seedling apart by grasping at the part that grows closest to the soil. You can really see why you need to water well, because they should pull apart easily.

I lay them in the trench at a pretty close spacing (about 3″ apart) because I always have a lot and I know I can pull every other onion for green onions, letting the others have room to head up. Then I back-fill with the soil and firm everything in place.

Here’s this bed finished. The empty space at the end is waiting for pepper plants in a few weeks. I always think I’m going to get a crop of spinach going in this space in March. Can you guess how that goes?

I just snake the soaker over the bed willy-nilly. I might adjust it later, but then again…

I took this picture to show how I always have more onion seedlings than I have room, so I end up looking around for a spot to put them. Here I’ve put the rest in the asparagus bed (doesn’t that asparagus look beautiful? It’s a magical thing when they come up in the spring- some of the first edibles!). I figure if they don’t grow as well there, then at least I can get some green onions and they didn’t go to waste.

The rest of the flat of seedlings consisted of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage (or “cole” crops). I planted in the same way, except I used 1/2 cup of the fertilizer in each hole. I spaced these at a 3 plants, then 2 plants alternate spacing.

I always cover my cole crops with a floating row cover (and I have some small hoops) and usually keep it on the entire season because I’ve lost whole crops to aphids and worms in the past and this really keeps them clean. Some years are better than others, but I don’t take any chances anymore.

I’ve seen a lot of new raised beds going up in people’s yards around here…it’s nice to see people wanting to grow their own “victory gardens.”




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