At a presentation I gave last year on growing greens I was asked how I managed succession planting for lettuce. My answer was “always have seedlings ready to plant”. To do that, I start lettuce seeds indoors every 3-4 weeks. It’s really simple, it just takes a little planning.
Last week I started seeds for lettuce, radicchio, endive, arugula, pak choi, and tatsoi. When transplanted in the garden they will yield greens for salads and stir-fries in March and April. Next month I will sow more seeds, perhaps lettuce and komatsuna. As warm weather approaches I choose more heat-tolerant and bolt-resistant varieties. Having a continual supply of seedlings means I always have something ready to replace the things I harvest.
For starting most small seeds like lettuce, broccoli, tomato, basil etc I like to use the 200-cell plug flat below. After germination I’ll thin to one seedling per cell, and when the seedlings are ready for planting or transplanting I just use my little transplant tool and plop them right out of the cells. That way the roots are undisturbed, and it saves me a lot of time when dealing with large numbers of seedlings.
I got these plug flats from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and they also come in different sized cells for larger seeds and transplants. Still, I find I use this size the most for vegetables, flowers and herbs. Each cell is slightly less than 1 inch square (20mm) and is 1.5 inches deep.
And even though it has 200 cells you don’t have to use them all. Many times I use less, and since it is the size of a standard flat it doesn’t take up a lot of room under the fluorescent lights.
I do find it helps to keep a garden log to help with the planning. I use an Excel spreadsheet – nothing fancy, just one line per variety (or event), with dates and notes. I may miss a few entries occasionally, but for the most part I do my best to document what’s going on.
It takes a leap of faith to be planting salad greens when there’s 6 inches of snow on the ground, but that a big part of gardening, isn’t it?
Faith and experience may be two sides of the same coin in this case, as we remember spring salads past. 🙂 200 cells don’t sound like they could fit in a standard flat. But I do like the idea of not disturbing anybody’s roots when it comes time to transplant… of course I will do my best, but sometimes it can’t be helped when they are growing in one open flat.
Your seedlings look so healthy!
You’re quite a bit ahead of my planting schedule. I’ll not seed my first lettuce until the second week of March, for early May salads. I’m hoping to take a pot or two of the AZ lettuce home with me for earlier salads.
I sowed my first lettuce of the season yesterday. I usually sow them in a gutter, and have often wondered about using a plug flat, maybe I will check out the prices here in the UK
It is a leap of faith to be sowing so early … but wont it be nice to be eating homegrown salad early!
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What is your “transplant tool”.
I have a small Rumford Gardener stainless steel tool that fits in the plug trays, but I don’t think they are made any more. I found another tool that looks identical to the one I have:
Thank you, just ordered one.