View Full Version : For Best Choice, Timing, Vegetable Gardeners Grow Their Own Transplantsby Leslie John

January 6th, 2007, 02:30 PM
Many more varieties are available as seed than as commercially produced transplants. EAST LANSING, Mich. -- More choice in varieties and transplants when they want them -- these are the two main reasons why home vegetable gardeners grow their own transplants.
Another reason, says Mary McLellan, Extension Master Gardener program coordinator at Michigan State University, is the satisfaction of raising all their crops from seed, including those that have to go into the garden as transplants.
Part of that satisfaction may stem from the fact that many more varieties are available as seed than as commercially produced transplants, she suggests.
Having transplants when you need them is another plus of growing your own.
"Having transplants of warm-weather crops such as tomatoes and peppers at the proper planting time usually isn’t a problem because they’re abundant in mid- to late May, when you want them," she observes. "On the other hand, it’s almost impossible to find transplants of broccoli and other cabbage family plants in early spring or in midsummer to plant for a fall harvest. They, too, are common in late May, which, in southern lower Michigan, at least, isn’t ordinarily the best time to plant them."
All of these advantages of growing your own hinge on your being able to produce sturdy, healthy plants, McLellan points out.
The most common problem in home transplant production is insufficient light.
"Unless you grow plants indoors under lights or in a greenhouse or coldframe, insufficient light will result in poor quality plants," she sums up. "The sunniest of sunny windowsills just isn’t good enough."
Timing is another consideration. Sow seeds 6 to 8 weeks before you want plants to set in the garden, McLellan advises. The aim is to have plants that are big enough to handle but not overlarge so that they suffer excessive transplant shock. Tomatoes and peppers, for instance, should be nowhere near blooming when you put them in the garden. They need time to concentrate their resources on building an extensive root system and top growth before they start trying to produce fruit.
Producing high quality transplants takes an investment in seed, containers, media, time and energy. You can make that investment and fail, of course, because of damping-off, forgetfulness (seedlings do need to be watered occasionally), an inquisitive pet or some other misfortune. Then you have the worst of both worlds: the expense of growing your own transplants compounded by the cost of having to replace them with commercially produced plants.
"Gardeners who succeed, however,” McLellan says, “can enjoy the satisfaction of growing their crops ‘from scratch’ and having the varieties they want when they want to plant them. This can add a special dimension to the whole gardening experience."