I wanted to do a seedling report today because the seeds I started recently have germinated very quickly. I learned something this time around that needs to be posted about. I’ll start with what I’ve sown first.
The babies above are, starting from the right, tomato (only a few up), lettuce ‘Red Sails’, broccoli, basil, the rest is Alyssum and Rock Cress. They were all sown on the 27th and shot up rather quickly!
Watermelon and zucchini squash
Here is the zucchini squash (and watermelon, above) that I started in the Dex paper pots on 3/26- They are holding up very nicely, surprisingly! I did pick this one up by the rim and it tore a little. As you can see, the roots are protruding a lot! More on that later.
Here is the Morning Glory ‘Heavenly Blue’, Sunflower ‘Strawberry Blonde’, Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’, and Cosmos ‘Summer Dreams’. These were started on 3/26. The plug flat is the new 50 cell I purchased from Territorial Seed a couple weeks ago. So far I like it- but when it comes time to potting them on or out in the garden- that will be the test.
So, on to what I learned. When I got up yesterday, I decided that I should check the roots of all these babies. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Some of them were 3 inches long out the bottom of the plug flats! I’ve noticed before when using 200 cell plugs that the roots grow rapidly and the last batch of lettuce I did had to be moved on to a 6 pack way before the first true leaves appeared, or at least I thought they did because of the roots. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. All the books I have that recommend using the plug trays (which I love for growing stuff that will go in hanging pots, by the way) has said to pot them up when the first and sometimes the second set of true leaves appear. But, what about the roots? Putting a large penny nail in the bottom of the 200 cell flat to pop up the seedlings is really easy...except for the roots!
Well, I did a search and found Shane Smith’s site to his book Greenhouse Garden. What a wealth of information this site has! And they have a message board! Well, I asked what to do about my problem with the roots, and had some advice the same day, and I think by Shane Smith! :)
I should have known what the problem was. The plugs flats should not be put in a standard flat/tray so the air can get to them. Air pruning! Just like soil blocks- duh! The roots grow until they hit the air- then they stop. So, by the time the seedlings need to be moved on they have a nice healthy roots system or root ball. You don’t want to leave them in the plugs too long, however, or they the stems will harden and the roots become pot bound. Something veggies and some other plants don’t like much ;).
So, what did I decide to do? I had two choices, as far as I could see. I could just try to pot them on with as little damage to the roots as possible (like I did with the lettuce, last time), or I could take the plug flats out of the standard flats and let the air get to them. I chose the latter. The above picture is after the flat had been exposed to the air for a short time and the roots had already died back a bit- the roots were a lot longer, if you can imagine. I took the paper pots out of their flat as well, for a while, and then returned them making sure the paper pots had room around each one.
Before going to bed, I checked the plants and the roots are browning up. The plants on the other hand, look fine. We’ll see what happens! Lesson learned- no trays for the flats- got it!
Out in the greenhouse the growth continues.
‘Gold Nugget’ tomato and Black-eyed Susan ‘Spanish Eyes’ at back
I’ve pinched out the Black-eyed Susan that is behind the tomato along with the Salvia- or some of them anyway.
Salvia ‘Coral Nymph’
Hollyhock ‘Indian Spring’
The Hollyhock are doing really well- I sure wish the weather would hurry up and warm up a bit!
The lobelia has been pinched and needs a bet of a foliar spray with fish emulsion- actually a few of the plants need that to green them up a bit. Most of the plants are greener than they appear in the photos- but they could use a good spray. The tomato is a one of the ‘New Girl’- huge, huh? Like I said, the warmer weather need to hurry up! I am hardening off a couple test plants this week and they’ll go in next week- live or die, protected under a tunnel, of course :)
Here is the other monster tomatoes! I can’t believe with the cooler temperatures that they’ve gotten this big! For those of you that are waiting for your tomato plant- dig a big hole, you’re gonna bury in deep! I started them a little later than last year, but they still got huge- Note to self- start them even later next year!
Here is the trailing lobelia after being pinched- I’m hoping they will get much bushier.
Blue Flax after pinching.
Here are the 2 test tomatoes- poor things today! It was cold! I rigged up a shelter for them to keep a lot of the wind and rain out- but they were not happy.
Well, here’s to hoping for nicer weather for them next week! I hope you all have had a chance to work in your gardens this today, and as always...