Technically, I'm 8 weeks into this gardening process, these seedlings are in the ground, and (spoiler alert) I've already harvested my first cup of basil! However, I want to recap the very important and somewhat torturous seedling stage. As the title states, it has been a real test. But, the benefit being that I made it out the other side with plants, and I've learned so much a long the way so I can do it better next year. Mostly, this post is documentation so I don't forget it all.
Field Notes: Although the light and seed tray worked, I want to do a little more research. I think for this light setup to be more beneficial, the seeds need to have independent cells that can be rotated round evenly.
By reaching out to friends, I learned that it might be a good time to get them out of the cells and transplanted into something bigger. Leaving them in the seedling medium will slow their development and in some cases cause the stems to rot and the plant to die. I was also excited to learn that tomatoes and peppers like to be 'potted up', or buried up to their first leaves when transplanted. No more spindly, falling over seedlings! I felt sooooo much better once I got them into the larger containers. They were more supported, had real soil, and room for roots to grow. I was also able to rotate them around better under the lights at this point so they weren't straining.
I didn't want to go out and buy a bunch of containers for the seedlings, so I used tin cans I had been saving. I ended up LOVING this method. I'll explain more below!
Field Notes: 1. I possibly could have done this process a week earlier. Now, I know what to look for. 2. Need to save more of the *right* cans for next year. 3. I'm also curious about outdoor greenhouses stand for once the plants have been transplanted?
The picture you see above is during the last week before the plants went in the garden.The plants need to get acclimated to the outdoor conditions before going in the ground. The first day I put them out for an hour or two. Some of the leaves got a little scorched, which made Matt and I realize how important this hardening off stage was. For the rest of the week, I added an hour or two each day, until they were planted on Saturday. Our method seemed to work because they are all doing well and have stood up to these 80 degree days and some storms.
Field Notes: Do this again next time! Also, if I did use a greenhouse shelving unit, I could just remove the cover to do the hardening off.
Transplanting Seedlings in Tin Cans
My organic gardening friend Kate (from Beets + Beats Family Farm), who has given me tons of invaluable advice, warned me that it might be difficult to get the seedlings out with roots intact if I used tin cans. So, I came up with a way to get bottom support for the soil while also allowing drainage and the ability to push the seedlings out when it was time.
You have to get the right kind of cans and remove the top and bottom the right way. I have a nice little battery powered can opener that removes the entire top by cutting around the outside. That does not work for this project! You have to cut both the top and bottom off on the INSIDE of the rim. Additionally, the bottom of your cans need to look like the one on the left in this picture:
That's the only way a traditional, hand crank can opener will remove it inside the rim. The one on the right has more of a rounded edge on the bottom, which doesn't work because the opener doesn't have an edge to grip. (Because I needed to get them transplanted ASAP, I didn't have time to get more of the right cans. I destroyed a lot of roots during planting on the ones that did not have a removable bottom).
You should be able to place the can over the cut out bottom perfectly, like this:
Now, flip the can top- down. Add a couple of pieces of tape to the outside of the bottom lid (with some hanging over), and stick the bottom on to the can. Bonus: there is enough space around the edges for water to drain out.
Flip back right-side up, fill with soil, and do your transplanting. When it's time to place the seedlings in the ground, just peel the tape off, hold the can horizontally in your right hand, and start to push the 'bottom lid' through the can with your left hand. As you push , maneuver the seedling into your right hand and let the can just slide down your left arm. You'll be able to push out the seedling with all of it's roots in tact! Then, set the seedling down in the hole, and wiggle the can off your left arm.
I wish I would have taken pictures or video of how neat the seedlings came out. Maybe next year :) I will also be saving more of these cans this winter, and maybe adding a little chalkboard paint for labeling. (I just used a permanent marker on these ones).
Hello, there! My name is Nikki Jones and this is a place for me to write about my travels, my urban homesteading adventures, and whatever else my little heart desires at a given moment. Like many personal-blog bloggers, there are times I write daily and long streteches I'm not inspired to write at all. And that's ok! At any rate, I'm glad you're here.