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Buying plugs

Posted by rustico_2009 California (My Page) on
Thu, Nov 17, 11 at 16:25

When does it make sense to just buy the things? It seems like the way to go about right now!

Who do people buy them from?
500-1000 plants per order every couple of weeks probably wouldn't garner much in the way of a decent price?

Dealing with any transplant smaller than a six pack type is totally new to me. I bought 10 ea. of 72 and 128 cell trays.
My first try with broccoli and cabbage I transplanted up from 72" to 2" blocks and old six packs and those did o.k. and some have been transpanted to the garden. Is this how you do it?

Actually I did start basil and pepper in 72's last spring. Potted up the peppers before moving them into the garden, and stuck most of the basil in the garden from the 72's. I read people are doing these things in much smaller cells! What do you guys and gals do with these trays? Where do you work with them...in the hoop houses?

Can the 72's go right into the garden? With what types of plants?

One more thing, do you succession plant onions and leeks? I am buying some transplants from Dixon something farms in Texas and their whole site seems to be set up around on planting per zip code?

and....


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Buying plugs

rustico---First thing,please give us some info on the size of your operation.
Do have a green house to start your own plants? You must figure 72 count trays are great for lettuce transplants but too small for fruiting plants such as Tomatoes, Peppers, Etc.
Personally I use 36 count trays for Tomatoes and Peppers. Eggplant, Etc. These 36 count trays have enough soil to have strong rooted plants for transplant and they do not get leggy(weak stems).

As far as Onions I plant all my Dixondale plants here in the thumb of Michigan around April 15 and they are usually ready and full size by July 15.(By the way Dixondale gives great instructions on how to plant when you receive your order)
Broccoli , Cabbage and Cauliflower plants transplant well from a 48 count flat if properly fertilized and taken care of.


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RE: Buying plugs

When you get those 128-512 trays, plan on transplanting into larger cells within 2-3 after receiving your shipment. I've done marigolds in 128s into 4 pks and they did great. Of course, you need to transplant again a few weeks later if you still have them.

I had used the 72s again for any small seeds. I use 50s for melons/pumpkins. The seeds are just so large for the smaller cells.

I will be using some 128s this year to begin my toms and peppers. Soon after first leaves, they'll be transplanted into larger cells. Just takes less room inside, since I start my planting so early. These early planting give me the huge plants that my customers want and will pay for dearly.

Marla


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Hey Cowpie51,This is pretty much a family deal with me doing most of it. The kids are still in the tag along years for the most part and my better half has a career.
We have a terraced acre rabbit proofed,of the 20 rolling acres total. I have another area that is being set up for a low density chicken run for egg layers. I am pretty up on growing spring through fall with some room for improvement. It's a blast growing here in the summer. The garden is very underutilized at the moment. Right now I am just selling butternut squash and have decided to use them to help me hold a spot in a good market as I hopefully get better at this fall/winter thing. I think with some improvement,I can do two average farmers markets by the end of next year around $300 week each. Do a couple hundred a week in restaurants Next calendar year's goal is 10k or so from the acre, chickens, plus the few fruit trees.Maybe double or triple that in the following year. I have a 40 foot row of blackberries that looked very good on the first fruiting last spring,so, I am adding to that. Maybe we will end up with several good rows of blackberries. Waiting to see what it is like to sell them.

I don't have anywhere decent yet to do lots of transplants. The couple of hundred transplants I have so far were started in uncovered box outside. I just did several new flats today that are in an unheated cold frame.

I have lots of supplies and a little money to start building small structures, maybe a 120Sqft dual pain glass green house, germinating tables, a potting shed and perhaps a wind blocked shade house.Zoning allows for poly tunnels by right. Stud framed structures over 120 Sqft. are not allowed without permits which come with deal killing code requirements, fees and taxes. I can't see doing lots of tunnels because of our good climate but one or two could help in the fall, winter and early spring? Pest pressure drops of tremendously about now because the first rains have ended our yearly 8 month drought and the varmints can forage sprouts in the wild as easily as in the garden. I can't afford a kit so will have to do a cheapy with the ideas one can find on the internet. I am asking for ideas on that in the "structures" forum.

Anyway, I am basically not up to speed for the FM position that I seem to be welcome to have. That's why I think it might be better to buy transplants....to try to make a better showing at the market as early as I can this year, even if it is at low profit. Of course there are worries about the stress that off farm seedlings have been through too.

Our Dixondale date is Jan. 9th. Short day onions, plus leeks.
I know a man who harvested onions this September, so he must have planted them much later too(maybe he had them in storage). I'll have to shoot him an email.

Thanks,
Russell


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RE: Buying plugs

I think the worth of buying plugs depends on your marketing stance, where you stand in terms of organic/or not production, land base, etc.

If you are marketing yourself as an old-fashioned market gardener - no machines, no chemicals, minimal plastic, hyperlocal - like we are, then buying plugs defeats some of that purpose.

Buying plugs may also affect your level of satisfaction as a producer. 'I kept this plant alive' vs 'I nurtured this plant from seed to sale'.

We are buying plugs for a few items next year that are difficult to start or cannot be propagated by seed. Sweet grass and a specific ornamental oregano. I am also buying plugs for mint because I don't have any yet and I want to market it for the weekend of the Kentucky Derby next year. Will push it for mint juleps (and also mojitos since a lot of people travel to Cuba in the winters and it would be novel).

We bought a whole bunch of onion sets in July from Rona for 50 cents a package and succession sowed them until the beginning of September for green onions. It worked well and we will most likely do it again.

We are growing intensively on 1/4 acre so my view is from a very small production standpoint.

I tried growing a bunch of things in 128s last year and I found them to be a PITA.


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HI Maggz88, I've been busy.
3 months of succession planting on the onions sounds pretty good. I just checked a good reference for bulbing onions and it says we can do sets Oct/April and seeds Nov to Feb so probably transplants would work until somewhere from Jan to around March/ April?

Every philosophical concern you mention has ran through my mind, good points. I am just an average no spray, non-certified plant animal and mineral based amendment guy.I won't go so far as to worry about whether a seed is treated or not or if a drop of miracle grow was in the seed starter from the nursery(I don't use it).


Good luck with your mint, sounds like a lot of fun. Off to google "mojitos"


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Plugs and their use are really dependent on the size of your operation. I grow everything from seed. I never transplant. All plugs go straight to the field.

Onions my first year were in 128's. That was a HUGE waste of space. They have been in 288's this year and that was borderline too large yet.

Tomatoes, Peppers, Melons are all in 72's. They get transplanted directly to the field when they are the proper size. No repotting on toms or peppers. It is a complete waste of time. None of the larger growers would bother with it. Time your plantings so that the plugs are ready to go into the field at the proper time.

I was the ONLY grower in my area to grow onions from seed. Everyone was aghast that I did not by from dixondale. That was until they saw the size and quality I got and my cost. You ARE paying for someone else to produce your plants AND ship them.

I have found that most people don't care or won't pay a premium for organic in my area, so I don't try. I use IPM and try to avoid most commercial pesticides, but I do use fertilizer, etc.


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when do you start your onion sets in the plug trays? I'm interested, but need some details. I don't have alot of room in heated area, but plenty (I think) in hoophouse.

Marla


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I grow all my own plugs. It is alot of work, but if you can make a set up that works, it is easier. We have a light shelves with 4 or 5 shelves, with 4 florescent shop lights on each shelf. We can put 8 flats on each shelf. We plant using 50's and 72's. There can be 2,000-2,880 plugs on these shelves.

I pot up tomatoes, it does make a stronger plant.

Jay


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RE: Buying plugs

JrslicK do you have a picture of your light set up handy. I am hesitant to bother with lights because our lowest average lows in the winter only 44 and I think they will do fine in a greenhouse, all theory at this point. Days dip to just below 10 hours at their shortest.

Thanks for plugging along on this thread, great info. Actually, when I live closer the coast in San Diego and had a small garden, I direct seeded my tomatoes and pepper in the garden dirt. The were amazing. Super long growing season. Plenty of my tomatoes here in the foothills last year were from volunteers.

Pat Welsh has a good video about starting onions from seed on youtube. Webcajun covers it even more.Both of them live in mild climates at about 32 deg. Lat. I agree making ones own transplants looks easy. I am afraid it is getting late for me, probably not, but going to try Dixondale this year anyway. I started three pots of leeks a few weeks ago in a research and development effort. The last two years I have bought these tiny little bunches of onion seedlings in six packs from the local nursery and they made respectable but not huge bulbs quickly(don't remember the variety). Sets(small bulbs), seem a waste of time, (Pat Welsh concurs)


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rustico, you could most likely just use your greenhouse. Where Jay and I are at, our lows get below zero at times. My lights are just 4' flourescent lights, I'm using 4 bulbs per shelf this year. I get a 4' wide commercially made shelf, the heavier the better then hang the lights with hooks and chains. I use chains so that I can adjust the height of the lights off of the plants.

Marla


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Here is a picture, it isn't the best (or the prettiest) but you get the idea.

Photobucket

I turn the flats each time I water. This way the plants won't always lean only one way.

Jay


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RE: Buying plugs

Marla,

I start Onions in Late March to Early April. I grow them in a double poly hoophouse with propane heat when needed. Onions are pretty hardy. I have let the hoophouse get down to 35 at night and they don't seem to care. The key is to control temps when the sun come up. You CAN NOT let the temp swing to 85 within an hour or two or you will have leggy plants.

If you transplant into plastic mulch you can start seeds a week to three weeks later and make up the difference in the field.

I lost my heater last year for THREE HOURS at night when the temp was zero in late march. I lost about half of the plugs and had to replant.

I use a germination chamber to get seeds going. This can be something as simple as a covered bench with a small space heater. The key is to keep the temp at optimium (usually 70-90 degrees) until the seeds spout. You then move them to the greenhouse/hoophouse to continue growing. I usually get 99% germination on most things this way.

You can also use bottom heat, but it costs more to setup.


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Thanks moon1234, I have bottom heat, large enough for a 1020, probably plenty big enough for me for germination of onions.

I guess I should have asked where you were at, to help determine when I should start.

Jay, I turn my trays the opposite way and add more lights per shelf. I space the lights about 6-8" apart, I could put a light reflector between, but I haven't enough. Note to self, try that. I can get alot more trays by turning them opposite of what you show.

Marla


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Actually with a 1020 tray they take up the same space going long ways under the lights or across the lights. Since they are 10 inches by 20 inches.

Jay


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No Jay, I turn them where the 20 side is sticking out. Yes 2 10x20 takes up the same space either direction. It looks like you have the 20 side turned the same as lights, I use the opposite. I'm telling a math teacher??? think about it.

10/10/10/10 versus 20/20 see what I mean, along the lenth of your shelves.

Marla


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Yes, I turn them in my picture I have them 20/20/20/20 then when I water them I turn them to 10/10/10/10/10/10/10/10. The next time I water, I turn them back to 20/20/20/20. I am sure we are saying the same thing.

Jay


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I don't turn them them, I'm just adding another light, so that each tray will have 2 lights. That way, I'll have more light for them and less leaning plants. I still have to set up my new fixture in a new room. The whole room will be just plants.

Marla


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Marla,
I am in Southern Wisconsin. I think the methods you use to start seeds really depends on your size.

I start around 50 flats at once in a smallish covered table, (which is really just cement blocks with 2x4's for shelves and double poly over it. I use a single small space heater and a small fan to circulate the air. Most seeds germinate in 2-10 days. Remember that you can stack your flats this way as the seeds have NOT popped out of the soil yet. Make sure your growing medium is at the proper temp before your place it in the germ chamber.

I usually stack the flats 3-4 high per shelf. You can get an amazing number of flats in a small chamber and get really good germination. I don't use lights at all, just normal ambient light. I don't start brassicas until early april. Most people around me are planting them in april, but they also have real greenhouses where heat is less expensive.

It is usually very wet in the spring based on the last few years here. Transplanting into black plastic mulch has more than made up for my being "late". I also get to skip some of the normal onion maggot and other early spring pests that others deal with. My input costs are a little higher, but I just charge a little more.


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I don't double stack my flats, I guess I'm just too anxious to see those little necks popping.


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Following up with progress. I ordered a bunch more trays to do plugs and also am halfway done building a 4'x8' cable heated germination table/cold frame hybrid(16 cell trays). This should be enough, unless I want to sell plants.

From there the trays will go into unheated wind blocked, low tunnels with agribon by day and plastic at night or if it is going to be a cold rainy day.Although we has 5-10 light frosts a year an an occasional dusting of snow, the big threat to seedlings is that we can have a 90-95 degree day any month out of the year, for that I'll be ready with shade cloth and lots of water.

Probably get a regular hoop house within a year.


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next time don't order plug trays. just go to some greenhouses locally where they sell a lot of proven winners and petunias and stuff like that in the spring and they will have big stacks to get rid of. I know all of us around here have a lot.
I'd give some away if anyone came and asked.
When I first started, I wasn't buying anything in plugs, and I got some like that.


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Our local greenhouse isn't giving those away any longer, they hooked up with a recycler to reduce their trash. Now they are taking people's old pots and giving the customers a 10% discount on their purchases.

I got alot of them while my son worked there. I will miss that.

Marla


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Time flies, I can't believe I started this thread a month and a half ago!

I refer back to your helpful comments as I practice with my outdoor germination tables and the plug flats. It's working pretty good. The biggest problem is the surface of the cells drying out to near seed depth in a matter of hours on some days( we have been having lots of warm dry windy days). I can't cover them to hold moisture, because heat will build up. I am afraid if they get enough bottom water to make it through the day, they will be too wet a lot of the time. Maybe misters will be needed.

The great thing is is the apparent lack of transplant shock with the plugs on those same dry windy days.

On the topic, Here is an interesting photo of watermelon ssedlings in 128's!
http://www.headstartnursery.com/vegetable_transplants/products/watermelon.php


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I do mine inside, so the wind hasn't been a problem. I do have bottom watering and 90% it's not a problem. If I was you, I'd try it and watch them carefully.

Otherwise, can you cover them with a light colored sheet to help with the wind problem. The light color and fabric won't add much on the heat. Hubby suggests a frost blanket, you don't need the frost protechtion, but it's close to a sheet.

Marla


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Those are good ideas.I'll experiment with the bottom watering on some of the current batch. I have been using agribon, plastic, or shade cover depending on the weather situation. The tables have low hoops over them which are bolted to the sides to facilitate changing the covers. Maybe stacking them, like has been suggested earlier, would actually help insulate them from wind and drying.I'll try that with a chest cooler over the top of a stack.


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Testing to see if I can make a picture appear from photo bucket. It's supposed to be my outdoor seed starting tables.

[IMG]http://i1066.photobucket.com/albums/u408/Rustico_2009/germinationtable2.jpg[/IMG]


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Photobucket


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Rusty, that looks like what we've done INSIDE of our hoop house. We used PVC instead of metal hoops.

FYI, one of my books that I've been buying this year, suggests bubble wrap in addition to the frost blanket and plastic.

Marla


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Pvc is a good idea, I used that on the back table. Bubble wrap "tek foil" is covering a tray of pepper seeds and has another tray stacked on top to hold it down and even more heat in. Going to have to come up with a few tricks to keep taller and more heat loving seedlings happy at night. I have thought about building a small greenhouse or tunnel around this thing, but I am not sure it is needed since it is relatively mild here with very rare snow. The front table is not even plugged in, and those cool weather plants are growing great.


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They were talking about just regular bubble wrap without the foil wrap.

We are having a nice heat wave, highs in 50 and lows around freezing. Normal is highs around freezing and lows in teens/20s.

Marla


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  • Posted by magz88 5a - Central Ontario (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 1, 12 at 15:28

I like your set up rustico.

Looks so warm there, too.


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Rusty, we just put our tables 8' apart (in a line) and installed joist hangers to put 2x4 and another piece of plywood, making the whole thing (so far) 4x24. If we add the other 2 tables with extenders, we could get to 4x56 and that's longer than the greenhouse. Oh well, change that thought.

We have some frost blankets that are 7' wide, and some extra poly plenty wide enough. Decided that with our age and bad backs, we definitely want to use the tables, instead of placing everything on the ground.

Marla


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Thanks magz, It is nice here, it dips just below freezing for a few hours now and then. Our lowest day time average over a month is something like 64 and that's for Jan.

I am glad you like your tables too, Marla. Definitely a nive relief from all the hard work. Once you have the tables and heat, you have lots of choices. It's good for modified "winter sowing". I have the milk jugs up there for that and get really nice temps. I like the tek foil stuff because it holds the heat cable warmth in at night while keeping the containers from getting too hot in the day time(probably not a problem for most people). For taller heat loving seedlings I'll put insulated boxes or blankets over them at night.


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Fennel transplants

Well, as my plug starting continues the only thing that has really not come through is fennel, the bulbing type.
Is this hard to start in flats? I know it doesn't need good soil. Perhaps my starting mix it too rich or too damp at times.

Anyone have tips on proper culture for plug starting fennel?

I can direct seed it now. I did that a few years ago and got decent bulbs. I've read that for my it is a better fall crop, started while it is still warm...haven't done that yet.


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Rustico, With the tables and heat, I will be much better. Yesterday, we went to an auction and brought home a 127,000 btu Modine propane heater. The fan works great, but will have to wait til we get some propane to find out how the heating works. Supposed to work, the facility had changed over to natural gas, so they said. I keep going, and I'll have a full fledged greenhouse.

Marla


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I hope propane is cheaper there than it is here, or else that you can convert it to natural gas.


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We can't convert, no natural gas lines in my area. I won't use it much, just to help out with the sudden drops. It does have a really good fan for ventilation, which we are using without the heat. Lucky, again, for the son that worked in the greenhouse (he also did some of the maintenance) so he knows more about it than the average person. He bought for his 1/2 also. We only paid about $60-70 for each of them.


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