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Start a Small Garden

Start a Small Garden

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Published by: rolacola on Jan 21, 2013
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Starting The Garden With Transplants
James M. Stephens
1. This document is HS507, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food andAgricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Revised April 1994. Reviewed May 2003. Visit the EDIS Web Site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.2. James M. Stephens, professor, Horticultural Sciences Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Universityof Florida, Gainesville FL 32611.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information andother services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex,sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service,University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. LarryArrington, Dean
Starting vegetables such as peppers and tomatoesin the garden as transplants rather than seedingdirectly in the garden row is a common practice.
When you use plants as starts, you realize thesemain benefits:1.
Avoid adverse weather
— Sow seeds indoorsduring cool weather, then move outdoors, whenweather warms up.2. Transplants give higher early yields, and, in thecase of watermelons, give larger fruits.3.
Choose the best plants
— Since the seedbedproduces many more plants than needed, onlythe very best plants may be planted in the garden.4.
Obtain a small number of plants
— Where onlya few plants are needed, these may be purchasedfrom a nursery or grown in a seedbed. The costof expensive seeds may be saved in this way.5.
Reduce seedling decay
— The disease-free,precise environment of a planting pot is moreideal for seed germination and seedling growththan is the garden soil.6. Seedlings thinned from over-crowded areas maybe moved to fill in bare spots.
Certain vegetables may be transplanted withease, others require more care to transplantsuccessfully, and some may not be transplantedexcept in containers. Table 1 indicates ease of transplanting.
Start your transplants by any of the followingmethods:
Plant pot
— Sow seed directly into a plant
Starting The Garden With Transplants2
band, peat pot, or peat pellet. The peat pellet is acompressed mixture of peat and nutrients about thesize of a jar lid. When placed into water, it expands toform a planting pot soft enough to insert a seed. Manyof those listed above in the "Difficult to transplant"category may be started and transplanted in a plantbox.
— Sow seed into a container filled withsoil or soil mixture. Use sterilized soil where possible.Most good grade commercial potting soils are sterile.
— Sow seed into a well-preparedhotbed, coldframe or open seedbed.
A seedbox, or flat, is about the most practicalway for a home gardener to start a small number of plants. In miniature, the seedbox serves the samepurpose as a hotbed. Any small, shallow, wooden orplastic box can be used as a seedbed; however, one3-5 inches deep, 12 inches wide, and 18 inches long ismost convenient. It should not be too heavy to moveeasily when the soil is moist. Small cracks in thebottom provide drainage. A newspaper may be placedin the bottom to prevent soil from dropping throughthe cracks.Many manufactured potting flats are availablefor gardeners to purchase (often called "cell-paks").These feature ideally-shaped individual plantcubicles. Take a loose, fertile garden soil from an areawhere vegetables have not been grown. Better yet,prepare a mixture of one part soil, one part perlite, andone part peat, or use ready prepared potting mix. Stirin 1 to 2 tablespoons of 6-8-8 fertilizer if garden soilis used. Prepared potting mixes already containfertilizer in the right proportion, so are ideal.Fill the container to within 1/2 inch of the top othe box or container, firm the soil and level with aboard.Moisten the filled flat with water and let drain.
Broadcast tiny seed over the surface and pressthem gently into the surface with a board. No need tocover them. For larger seeds, make furrows in theseedbed 1/4 inch deep and two inches apart; coverseed and press until firm with a board. Place anewspaper or plastic material over the box untilseedlings begin to emerge. Do not let the soil dryout.Thin plants to 2-3 inches apart when they areabout 2 inches high, and transplant them to anotherflat, paper cups, or plant pots. Before setting plants inthe garden, place them where they will be hardenedby the sun and wind. Increase the time the box hasfull sunlight each day until plants are thoroughlyhardened.
Most vegetables are ready to set in the gardenwhen they are 4-6 weeks old. Set only the best plantsthat are strong, stocky, vigorous and disease free.Tomato plants 4-5 weeks old grow and yield betterthan older transplants.Avoid disturbing roots when transplanting.Where seedlings are to be removed from boxes orflats, block out the soil by cutting into squares. If individual plant containers are used, moisten the soiland remove from the container before placing in thegarden. Some containers such as the peat pellet maybe inserted into the soil.Transplant when conditions are best — soon aftera rain, when cloudy, or in the late afternoon. Protectplants 2-4 days after transplanting with somethinglike a palmetto fan, brush or board.When setting the plant into the soil, do notcompress the soil around the roots; gently pour waterinto the hole to settle the soil around the roots. Afterthe transplanting water has dried a bit, cover the wetspot with dry soil to reduce evaporation.
While transplanting, a starter solution helps getthe plants off to a quick start. Special starter solutionsmay be purchased, or one can be made by dissolving1-2 tablespoons of 6-6-6 fertilizer in one gallon of water. A better solution would be one with a highcontent of phosphate such as 10-50-10. Mix at thesame rate as above. Pour 1/2 pint of the solution into
Starting The Garden With Transplants3
the transplant hole as the plant is set; then cover themoist soil with dry soil.

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