Indoor seedlings

 On our farm, most of the crops start inside a nursery that we develop annually to produce the vegetable transplants. Indeed, when we have the choice between planting a crop by transplanting or by sowing in the ground, we prefer transplant. The advantages of this method are worth the related efforts and expenses, especially when it comes to intensifying the production of a small area. The success of our harvests then depends on - Current expression of our ability to use the nursery well, since a loss at the sowing stage (linked to missed germination, too slow growth, diseases, etc.) would have catastrophic consequences on our production schedule. This facet of the trade requires attention to detail and certain know-how.

 However, the production of transplants is only a part of our production season and it is hardly justifiable to invest in sophisticated facilities and equipment. to achieve it. The science surrounding greenhouse crop production is very extensive and it is not obvious to master the best techniques. Despite everything, we have sufficiently developed our systems and acquired the knowledge necessary to succeed in producing very beautiful transplants in large quantities and with little means. For the needs of a market garden, the important thing is to get there without doing it a specialty. Here are the principles we follow at the Jardins de la Grelinette.

Cultivation of seedlings in multicell

There are several techniques for starting your indoor seedlings. Most popular gardeners use open polystyrene boxes or individual coconut fiber pots. Eliot Coleman has long promoted the self/black (minimotte), a technique that consists of sowing seeds in blocks of soil amalgamated by compression. As for us, after some experiments, we chose to produce our transplants in multicell, an efficient technique and proven that I highly recommend adopting.

Multicell are plastic containers separated into several cells, where the roots of seedlings. Cells are attached in multicellular trays (commonly called trays) and placed in other flat containers (trays, in English) which, in turn, are used to carry. Most trays are 28 centimeters (10 3/4 inches) wide and approximately 54 centimeters (21 inches) in length. As these measurements are standardized, the dimensions of sowing tables and other equipment for the nursery (especially harvest trolleys used to transport transplants in gardens) fit easily.

For vegetable seedlings, multi-cell containers are ranging from 24 to 200 cells for the same tray size. The choice of several cells is made according to the volume required by the roots and the time that each culture will have to spend in its cell. Each plant will thus develop its root system independently (the roots do not intertwine, which will facilitate their transplantation). In our nursery, we use trays of 72 and 128 cells and other individual 10-centimeter (4-inch) jars for transplanting.

Working with multi-cell trays offers several advantages: they are easy to handle and fill and drain well after watering. The lumps formed by the alveoli hold together well, which is an important element in the success of a transplant. They're tough and reusable, but they're not indestructible. It's good this is one of their faults. Inevitably, after each season, some end up in the trash. As the trays are still good for several seasons, it is important to ensure that that they do not become vectors of disease for seedlings. Over time, we abandoned the idea of ​​sterilizing them before storing them. until the following year and we never had of problems. However, at the end of transplantation, we always empty the trays of their land and let them dry in the sun for a few hours. This simple practice is sufficient.

The importance of soil

For the production of multi-cell transplants to be successful, the choice and preparation of the potting soil used are very important. The seedling depends on a very small amount of substrate for all of its needs (air, water, minerals, etc.) and the components of the latter must therefore have particular characteristics (drainage, water retention, aeration, use, salinity, pH, etc.). In short, its constitution cannot be improvised. However, buying commercial soil is a lot simpler. We should then choose a field of premium quality and make sure it is not processed with synthetic wetting agents. Most of those with biological certification is adequate.

However, preparing your soil is not difficult. Here is an "all-purpose" recipe that we have used successfully for several seasons. The boilers have a volume of 16 liters.

- 3 peat moss boilers

- 2 perlite boilers

- 2 compost boilers

- 1 garden soil boiler

- 1 cup of blood powder *

- 1/2 cup of agricultural lime

The ingredients in this recipe are common to most potting soils and a quick search will reveal their origins and characteristics. However, some details are important to note:

~ Peat is the central component of the mixture and should be of premium quality. Grinds that are too coarse or h · op fine should be avoided.

~ The perlite serves as an aggregate and plays a major role in the drainage and aeration of the mixture. In this recipe, we can replace it with vermiculite, especially for seedlings started in trays of 72 cells or less.

~ The compost must not be leached of its nutrients and must be fully mature (i.e. having finished your composting work and no longer being hot) to avoid germination problems. The one we use is the same as for our gardens.

The garden soil incorporated into the mixture is used to "Cut" the compost and reduce the salinity potting soil. A light soil should be used (not too sandy, not too clayey). To introduce living matter in potting soil, I prefer to use the soil of our garden rather than soil to the sterilized planter. Blood powder provides supplement nitrogen needed for demanding crops. It can be replaced by flour from

feathers in this recipe.

~ The addition of agricultural lime is essential to adjust the pH of the mixture which tends to decrease due to naturally acidic peat moss. Mixing can be done directly in a wheelbarrow. We first combine lime with peat to optimize its action. The rest of the ingredients is then mixed using a shovel.

To achieve a good homogenization of the mixture, working with dry ingredients helps a lot, but lastly, you have to make sure that the mixture is well moistened. In my opinion, the best way to do this is to sprinkle it while mixing the ingredients.

The soil should then be sieved to remove rocks and other coarse debris. The grain size is important to ensure a filling uniform in each cell of a tray, an important factor in watering. To do this, we use a wooden frame with a metal mesh with openings of about 1 centimeter. In sum, producing your soil is simple, but it's exhausting. To reduce the workload, there are more efficient ways to do this, such as the use of a cement mixer, a practice that I have often seen on other farms.