Somehow, it’s already been a month since we got the greenhouse fired up, and many of our first seedlings are in their adolescent phase– almost ready to be sent out into the world. Despite the chilly spring mornings, stepping into the greenhouse is like a little tropical paradise– green, warm, humid, and filled with the smell of rich soil. Using a compost-based potting soil that is well-balanced in terms of texture and nutrients, is the crucial foundation for our farm’s success. We invest in a high-quality mix that gives the seedlings a good boost right away, but will also keep feeding them with nutrients throughout the month that each transplant typically spends in its cell before being put in the ground.
However, some of our crops need to spend longer in the greenhouse before they can be transplanted, and the seedlings can start to feel the confines of the small amount of potting soil in their cells. Eggplant is such a crop– we start eggplant seeds in a tray that has 288 very small cells. After a month or so, these seedlings start to outgrow their cells and it’s time for us to move them up to trays with bigger cells, otherwise known as “potting up”. Because eggplant can’t be planted until the weather is consistently warmer, and we want the transplants to be fairly large, we will eventually pot them up a third and final time– this time into 4” pots– so that they stay happy and nutrient-fed until we are ready to put them in the ground.
Potting up takes extra time, soil, and space in the greenhouse, but is well worth it for certain crops. Soon we will be moving tomatoes, peppers, celeriac, and many flower seedlings to bigger cells. For us, starting to pot up is a good sign of spring’s progression, and gets us excited for the bountiful crops to come!