Growing Seedlings in flats

snappybob(SaTexas Zone 8)August 17, 2012

I'm fairly experienced in growing seedlings. I start a lot of tomatoes and peppers every year to sell to friends, co workers and some farmers market growers. I start them out in the little six packs sowing a half dozen or so seeds per cell and then transplanting to 4 inch pots and growing them out to sell or plant in my garden. I have a customer who would like me to start and grow out to transplant size two varieties of peppers in 96 cell flats. One flat for each variety. I am looking for pointers on what I may need to do differently with this method of growing. Will I have to feed periodicly since the plant will have much less medium to draw nutients from? I'm sure diligent watering will be a must since the small cell will tend to dry out quickly with a big root system drawing from it. I grow in a small green house that is heated at night when nessesary. I usually start my plants around the third week of January. Will seedlings grown this way grow faster, slower or at the same rate? I am looking forward to getting some experience at growing with this method. I'd like to get some advice to avoid any pitfalls that may be on the horizon. Thanks in advance for any help.

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myfamilysfarm

I start my plants and then transplant into cells. don't have much problem, I only transplant the healthiest ones. Yes you will need to fertilize them, but only at 1/2 strength and 2x as often as larger pots.

Glad you got some 2013 sales on the horizon.

Marla

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 3:15PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

I wouldn't think of growing peppers in a 96 cell flat. Even a 72 is pushing it in my opinion. My peppers are seeded in open flats on heat, then transplanted to 2" pots. I think its 49 2" pots to a flat.

If you really need to grow them in 96's, I'd think you should start seeds much later than usual so the plants are still growing strong at transplant time, not root-bound and leggy.
My plants usually take 2 months from seeding to transplant. In a small cell i'd think 5-6 weeks is the max.

Good luck!
-Mark
Flying Onion Farm

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 5:00PM
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cal_mario(9)

The smaller cell 98-72 will slow down the growth of the peppers,50 cell is much better and don't use open flats for peppers,they don't transplant well if seeded together then pulled apart in the winter months.Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 8:47PM
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cole_robbie(6)

To echo what everyone else is saying, I used 72, 60, and 48-cell flats this year. I wish I hadn't bought the case of the 72; I will never use them again. Tomatoes and peppers will get the 48s. Everything else gets the 60s. I learned not to get greedy with the number of plants in a flat. The price for a flat is the same, anyway. The fewer the plants, the bigger each plant is, so the value equals out.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 1:51PM
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snappybob(SaTexas Zone 8)

Thanks everybody for your input. You're probably saving me a lot of grief with your experience. Thanks for sharing. My customer says they already have the 96 cell flats. That's probably why they are wanting me to us those. I'll get online and see what size flats I can buy there. Any suggestions on good places to buy these online?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 9:00AM
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myfamilysfarm

I got mine from ebay, also from seedlings that I bought previously, also from greenhouses that don't reuse theirs.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 9:15AM
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rustico_2009

When I was reading up on using cell flats last year I found something that may apply to this post. One idea was to grow first of the season peppers in larger cells and go to 72's as spring got warmer.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 5:22PM
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PAFlowers

You can easily grow peppers in 96 cell flats. You will not be able to hold them as long before transplanting to the field. It is just a matter of what size plant you want to transplant to the field. And no need to put six seeds in each cell. Just usually one.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 10:00PM
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snappybob(SaTexas Zone 8)

My customer says they would like the plants to be 5" to 6" tall when they plant in the field. I have found some 48 cell flats at Growers Supply that I can get unless they insist on using their 96 cell flats that they have been using in the past.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:28AM
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myfamilysfarm

5-6" plants should be in larger cells than 96, if they want healthy plants. Minimum 48 cell, preferrably 36 or 24. Insisting on the 96, they will get stressed plants. I wouldn't agree with their decision, since I have a rep for good healthy plants.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 9:12AM
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snappybob(SaTexas Zone 8)

Thanks, that's the kind of info I need right now. They had problems with the plants I sold them last year although no one else had any problems. Of course, I want them to have success with the plants I supply to them so getting information like this up front helps a lot. I'll talk to them soon and see if I can get them to agree to another flat format. Apparently planting peppers in 96 cell flats is possible since that is what they normally use and have had success with it. But the supplier that they use is a huge commercial plant supplier that surely has capabilities that I do not possess. They just don't offer the varieties that I do.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 9:09AM
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myfamilysfarm

The larger supplier don't plan on keeping plants in 96 or any size cell for very long, just long enough for them to be sold or dumped. If they are just planting with a transplanter, they need small plants. Also, I'm wondering if they are caring for the plants differently or what. If they were the only ones with problems with your plants, it's evidently not the plants that's the problem.

Also, certain years (like this last 1-2) are harder on plants than others.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 1:58PM
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snappybob(SaTexas Zone 8)

I think they may be using a transplanter now that you mention it. I remember them saying something about buying a new piece of equipment. That may be why they are wanting the 96 cell flats. Last year they were trying a new variety of pepper that I was growing. I think they may have ran out of space and had to make more in a hurry. Perhaps the ground they planted mine in was not in optimum condition for planting. I think they were happy with the plants that I provided last year since they upped the order quantity and added another variety to the order. It could be that they are new to planting with a transplanter and I am new to growing plants for that purpose. I know enough now, thanks to the people responding to this post, to ask more specific and educated questions. Many thanks. Having a sucessful transaction and relationship with this customer is very important to the future of my growing endeavers.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 3:19PM
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cole_robbie(6)

If they absolutely must have 96-cell flats, it is possible, but you will need an automated watering system. I would use a flood and drain setup. I would think that overhead watering would make the leaves wet all the time, which would invite problems. A flood & drain could be as simple as a kiddie pool that you flood 1-2" deep with a pump and timer every few hours, then let gravity immediately drain off the liquid to a reservoir that is below the pool. Anything that would hold water would work. They sell hard plastic flood trays for this purpose, but they are fairly expensive.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 4:45PM
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snappybob(SaTexas Zone 8)

I spoke with my customer today. Yes they use a trans-planter that is set up for 96 cell flats so I will need to adapt to that. Two to three inches in plant height would OK. Target planting date for them is around mid March depending on how the weather goes. The automatic flood and drain watering system sounds like a good idea. Cobbling things like this up is what I do for a living when I'm not growing plants. Now if I can just get the timing right to have 2-3 inch plants ready for them in mid March. One of these days, hopefully, my operation will be bigger. Building up this foundation of knowledge will reap many benefits. Thanks for the help.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 5:42PM
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myfamilysfarm

2-3" is probably the best size for tranplanters. Too much foliage will be bad for transplanting, when the plant goes 'thru the shoot'. Short compact plants with good roots would be the best. My plants are usually about that size after planting about 8 weeks ahead of time. Keep the temps down alittle and the plants will be more compact.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 6:38PM
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snappybob(SaTexas Zone 8)

I got a couple of empty flats from my customer and they are much bigger that the standard 1020 flats. They are just open trays that came with 16 six pack trays that fit in the large open tray. The six pack trays are the open type that are to be used with the peat inserts rather than plastic six packs with individual cells. That is going to complicate things a little. Can someone tell me where I can get the peat inserts. I'm not even really sure if that is what you call them. I've done some searching around but I haven't been able to find anything that looks like what I need.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 10:49AM
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2ajsmama

Can you post a picture?

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 11:03AM
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myfamilysfarm

I know what you're talking about snappybob, but I can't put a name on them at this moment. I think it's a peat type of plug that fits in them. I'll look around.

I know that they're are a more expensive tray, but last much longer.

Marla

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 11:56AM
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cole_robbie(6)

"Jiffy" is the brand. They make everything you'll find that is a peat product.

The place I order from is "Hummert International" (I have no other affiliation) and in their catalog, I see it called the "Jiffy-7 peat pellets." The come in five different sizes. It looks like about $80 for 1000 of them. Hummert is cheap, but they make you order a large quantity of everything. www.hummert.com is their web site.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 2:37PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Tell your customer to quit being so cheap. They would have better luck buying a larger transplanter and planting them at the proper size. I start mine in 48s and as soon as some stuff goes out to the greenhouse and there is more room inside I transplant the peps to paper cups. There are plenty of transplanter choices for larger plants. I own the Stand and Plant seeder which can do onions and I am buying the Stand and Plant planter for sweet potatoes, peppers, etc.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 7:59PM
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myfamilysfarm

I didn't know that mechanical transplanters had sizes. I know the one person that I know that uses one, needs small plants.
A Mechanical transplanter goes behind a tractor, not a hand transplanter, like I have.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 8:14PM
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snappybob(SaTexas Zone 8)

I did an online chat with Farmtek and I think the product I am looking for is call FertilPot strips. I think the deal with the odd sized flats is that my customer is buying from a large wholesale grower here that suppies many of the local farmers with transplants. They have their own flats made. It even has their company name on them. They hold 16 standard six packs which makes the flats larger than a normal 1020 flat. Since they will be buying all of their other transplants from this wholesaler they would want to keep the relativley few plants they buy from me in the same packaging as the rest of their plants. And that's OK. I can grow them in what ever type sixpacks that they want. The only issue now is, who is going to supply the FertiPot inserts. If I cannot buy them locally and have to buy them online that will increase the cost which is already, understandably, higher than the wholesaler. All of this is good to know since if this farmer is buying from this wholesaler then alot of the local market farmers are also. I'll need to adapt to meet their needs. Luckily all this is coming up now and not two weeks before I need to start sowing seeds. Thanks, all of you have been very helpful. I'll keep you posted.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 11:06AM
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myfamilysfarm

can you line the plugs with paper or something, then add the soil???? Just trying to think outside the box.

Maybe a water/paper pulp mix???

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 5:38PM
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snappybob(SaTexas Zone 8)

Not sure what you mean. They want them in Fertilpot strips in plastic open six pask trays. They have already supplied me with the trays. Now the only question is who is going to supply the FertilPots. Here is a link the FertilPot Strips. I don't know that I can buy them locally.

Here is a link that might be useful: FertilPots

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 9:51AM
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myfamilysfarm

I was thinking about other ways that you could use the plug trays.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 5:44PM
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snappybob(SaTexas Zone 8)

Just thought I would revive this thread to let anyone who remembers it know what I wound up with. After going back and forth with Farmtek on sizes I finally wound up with 2" X 2" fertilpots that come in 18 cell strips. I can fit 36 plants to a 1020 flat. I will grow them in the 1020 flats and deliver them in the big flats that they gave me. I'm shooting for a March 15th delivery date. Do you think 8 weeks growth in this fertilpot system would be about right?

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 7:44PM
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myfamilysfarm

That's what I would guess, of course, it really depends on warmth, fertilizer and such. 8 weeks is what I use as a minimum, but I like my plants larger than transplanter stage.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 8:44AM
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cal_mario(9)

Snappybob,8 weeks seems too optimistic to me to get peppers large enough,myfamilyfarm is right there are factors of heat and fertilizing to consider and different variety of peppers grow at different rates, though I have not tried the fertilpots myself to know what advantage it might have.When I do peppers and this is what I specialize in it takes me 12-14 weeks to get them large enough to be sold in 606 large packs.Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2013 at 1:26AM
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myfamilysfarm

606 packs are really the same as 4" pots. You're right about 12-14 for that size. We're not talking about getting them that large. Transplanters rarely take bigger than 72cells, which are 1206, about half the size of the 606s. Smaller, healthy plants work better for transplanters.

Marla

    Bookmark   January 12, 2013 at 4:57PM
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