With all the extra woodcutting activity going on here this year, it seems I've hardly had any time to think about the gardens. Hedge Witch has been helping out a lot with the seedlings this year, but she doesn't have quite as delicate a touch as I do, so she does most of the seeding, and I do most of the potting up.
I thought I had already done a post about the procedure of potting up seedlings, but when I went to find it so I could add a link just now, it didn't exist. That ruined my plan to just phone this one in, so if I get a little loopy later on, it's because I'm tired again.
Why re-pot your seedlings?
The short answer is: To give your seedlings more root space. The longer, more involved answer is like every other answer: it depends. Ideally, we would have unlimited space to just start every plant in the pot it will stay in until it goes outdoors. Realistically, I don't have an acre of indoor shelf space. Sometimes, we want to start seeds in a thin layer of dirt that's easy to keep warm, and those seedlings later need to have more dirt. This year we're re-potting a lot of seedlings because we're starting them out heavily over seeded. We're doing that because many of our seeds are old right now, and I'm not sure how well they will germinate.
Speaking of germination rates, this red cabbage did just okay. The ones that did come up look splendid, but they're certainly going to need more space than that. The first thing I do when repotting is to get all the new dirt ready in the cells, as you can see behind the cabbage seedlings.
The second thing I like to do is make sure that everything is well watered. Young roots do not tolerate drying out very well, and they will pull apart easier if the soil is nice and moist.
There is no real special trick to this, other than just be as careful as you can. I like to loosen the cells around the edges with a plastic fork. Usually just this process will pop the roots and the dirt right out. Sometimes, especially if there are a lot of roots sticking out of the bottom of the cell, they'll be a bit more stubborn. These cabbages are fairly sturdy, even when they're young, so I can just grab a couple stems and pull these right out. The dill, which I did not get any good pictures of during this process, is a lot more delicate, so I dug those out with the fork.
Once you get a clump of plants out of the cell, they need to be separated into individual plants. If they aren't too root bound, you can usually just start pulling at the plants on the edges, and they'll come apart fairly easily.
For more stubborn clumps, like in the picture above, it can help to loosen them up gently with the fork first. When they are grown together this much, you WILL lose some roots, but your plants should be fine. If the individual plants need to be torn apart to get them free, pull directly at the roots, and not on the stems. The plants can afford to lose a few roots, but if you crush the stem they will almost certainly die.
Often you will get one plant that wants to keep all the roots, and all the other ones will be left with quite a bit less. The plants don't need a whole lot of root to survive, as long as their other needs are met, but the more roots you can save, the faster they will grow.
Once I have a plant separated, I make a wedge shaped opening in the new cell. Having the soil nice and wet makes it easy to press apart, and it holds its form well.
The big opening makes it easy to get the new roots in, and then I just press the dirt back into place. I like to bury them right up to the first leaves, or as close as I can get. This will help make sure your plants get nice strong, sturdy stems.
One down... dozens to go. The work can be tedious, but I don't mind it as long as I have a comfortable spot to work. Over the years it's become another task that I can do just from muscle memory, and I find repetitive tasks like this to be fertile ground for a wandering mind. Some of my best ideas come to me when I'm planting or doing dishes.
Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are all looking fantastic so far this year. We have some warm days coming this week, and I'm actually going to try getting a few of these in the ground soon. With the row covers we got last year, these brassicas should be able to handle whatever cold we're likely to get for the rest of this winter.
The dill won't be able to go out until the end of May, and may need to be potted up again before then. Some of these will be going into large pots with other plants anyway, that we'll start taking in and out (as the temps decree) sometime in April.
Luffa gourds are one of the things that do not like being transplanted at all, ever, which has caused some real problems for us. These have not been moved yet, but will need it very soon. They do better if I put them in peat pots, which I can bury right in the ground outside, but I've had problems with the peat pots molding. We'll try some other things with them this year, and hope for the best.
There's still plenty more to be done, but these are mostly carrot family plants, which can grow in much closer quarters. Some of these will probably get planted directly outside under the row covers. Carrots, like beets, can handle pretty much any cold temperature we get around here, but they'll grow a lot faster if I can keep them above 40°.
Well, those 1000 words just flew by. It isn't even Tuesday yet, which means I'll schedule this for tomorrow morning, which I realize will sound weird since you'll be reading it then, but I think I'll leave this paragraph in anyway. What's a post without a little
I'm still working on my snowblower repair post, and part 2 of Gardening On A Slope. I'm sure there will plenty more about the bandsaw mill in the near future as well. I've also been working on some videos of me playing music, but I'm not sure yet if I'll post those under this account. I'll probably do all my entertainment videos under my alt.
I realize now that I'm just rambling because it's almost Tuesday, so I'll thank you all for reading, and beg you to come back for more. I'm really putting in the effort to get some posts out regularly. You've all been so gracious and rewarding, I think you folks deserve it ;)