The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Seedlings running

Chamomile seedlings

In one of his books, Paul Stamets explains that it's essential to keep the mycelium (vegetative stage of a fungus) running. In other words, don't let your cultures sit and stagnate --- they need to grow!

While true for fungi, Stamets' admonition is even more true for spring seedlings. My goal is always to keep our seedlings running...or at least moving along at a steady jog.

Seedling thyme

Potting up is one sure method of keeping little seedling roots and shoots growing fast. But when I moved herbs out of their starting flat at the beginning of March, I left about half the seedlings behind, figuring that ultra-slow-growers like thyme and oregano probably wouldn't notice the difference. Plus, I just didn't have enough window space for twice that many new pots.

Transplanting in the rainFor the first day or two, the left-behind seedlings grew faster than the potted up seedlings --- such is the way of transplant stress. But a week after that, the difference was striking. The seedlings that I'd allowed to spread out into bigger pots had suddenly acquired twice as much leaf area...a fact that was true even for the minuscule oregano and thyme that barely seemed to be making a dent in their living accommodations in the flat.

Unfortunately, I couldn't repot all of the herbs because I just didn't have enough room indoors. But since those extra seedlings were just that --- extras --- I decided to give them a bigger and more dangerous place to run. The ultra-sunny flowerbed in front of the trailer just might be warm enough to let these seedlings survive spring freezes. If the next burst of cold holds off long enough for their tender roots to get established, I'll bet the herbs get their feet under them and outgrow the indoors seedlings by the end of the month. The race is on!

Tomato seedling

Up next: tomato seedlings with their second sets of true leaves need more root space ASAP. Next week, Mark and I might make a little cold frame around the front of the trailer to house the broccoli, cabbage, and onion seedlings so there will be more room indoors for big tomato pots. In the meantime, the babies get a hearty dose of manure tea to provide a quick fix of nitrogen for faster growth. Gotta keep those seedlings running!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Love the hat!

I'm surprised you would transplant seedlings that small. Should't one wait until the seedlings have at least four true leaves?

Comment by Na Yan Sat Mar 14 17:32:11 2015
Na Yan --- I've heard that four-true-leaf rule, but have seldom adhered to it. In some circumstances, it makes sense to transplant seedlings that aren't even seedlings --- just presprouted seeds. And, in general, what's much more relevant than number of leaves is how big the seedling's root mass is (is it running out of space? will it hold its soil plug together so there won't be much transplant shock?) and how cold hardy the seedling is (can it handle the current temperatures outdoors? how about those in the near future?).
Comment by anna Sat Mar 14 20:00:27 2015

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