Transplanting allows close environmental management during the first few weeks, when plants are most delicate. Soil nutrition, texture, and composition can be monitored and manipulated on a micro level, as opposed to amending an entire planting bed. Plants can be started earlier in a greenhouse, then planted outdoors with a significant head start. Four Season Tools offers several products that make transplanting easy and efficient. Soil blockers, potting mixes, heat mats/germination chambers, cell trays, and hand waterers ensure that your seedlings will be healthy at the beginnings of their lives.
Benefits of Soil Blocks
Soil blocks are compressed soil forms designed for transplanting. This system of transplanting replaces the traditional plastic cell flats and features a variety of benefits:
- Compressed soil provides a nutrient dense medium for plant growth
- Eliminates shock associated with other types of transplanting
- Eliminates root circling and air-prunes roots, creating a neat, confined root system
- Promotes excellent air circulation
- Allows for more efficient use of space
- Reduces plastic consumption
Soil Block Options
Soil blockers can come in hand-held or stand-up types in a variety of sizes, allowing more or fewer blocks to made at a time. Blockers are designed to be used with each other, using inserts that accommodate smaller blocks. This allows potting on to larger sizes when the nutrient or space limitations have been met by the seedling. Blocks are then transplanted into the field or high tunnel. The following sizes are available:
- 3/4-inch mini blocks with dibble
- 1.5-inch blocks with dibble
- 2-inch blocks with dibble
- 2-inch blocks with square insert for mini blocks
- 3-inch blocks with square insert for mini blocks
- 4-inch blocks with square insert for 2-inch blocks
Soil Block Resources:
To see our complete line of soil block offerings, visit our online store.
A good soil starting medium is crucial for plant health and disease mitigation. Ideal potting soil has good aeration and water retention, proper pH, and sufficient nutrient levels to give seedlings a strong start. When selecting a soil mix, there are a few important things to consider:
- Sterile Medium - Sterilized media is free of pathogens and increases the likelihood of healthy transplants.
- Nutrient Source - The nutrient supply in soil mixes can come from a variety of sources. When using a compost-based mix, it is important to ensure that the compost used was fully mature. Immature compost can inhibit growth of seedlings by tying up nitrogen or releasing ammonia.
- Ingredients - Most soil mixes have a variety of additives:
- Sphagnum Moss or Coir (coconut husk) - Both of these materials add bulk to soil mixes and increase water holding capacity. Sphagnum Moss has a slightly acidic pH, so must be offset, while coir has a near-neutral pH.
- Sand - Improves porosity of soil mix and increases weight. Sand does not have any affect on pH of the mix and provides no nutrient value.
- Perlite - This expanded volcanic rock improves aeration and drainage, and lightens soil mix, preventing compaction. Perlite has a neutral pH.
- Vermiculite - Available in different grades, or coarseness, vermiculite is a flaky mineral that increases water holding capacity and provides calcium and magnesium. Vermiculite has a neutral pH. It is also used as a top dressing for transplants to retain water.
- Lime - Lime can supply calcium and magnesium and is used to increase pH.
- Fertilizers - Bone meal, rock phosphate, biochar, and several other fertilizers can be added to a mix to add additional fertility.
If making your own soil mix is not preferable, many commercial potting mixes are available that feature a wide range of fertility sources and blends. Four Season Tools has worked with many potting soil providers around the country. Please feel free to contact us to learn more about various soil mix vendors in your area.
Heat and Moisture
Germinating seeds require specific temperature and moisture levels. To closely manage these factors, many growers turn to heat mats and germination chambers. For benchtop seed starting, heat mats can be used to provide heat to the root zone of your transplants. Electric heat can be monitored and adjusted depending on the needs of your transplants. Germination chambers provide an enclosed environment in which humidity and temperature are controlled. These often eliminate the need for top watering, which greatly reduces the threat of early season fungal infections.
Hand waterers featuring different water pressures can be used for transplants of varying ages. Mini-blocks with germinating seeds require low-impact watering options, such as misting heads, to prevent seeds from being washed off the blocks. Higher volume watering heads are appropriate for seedlings in larger blocks, as they provide quick, effective watering. Overhead irrigation systems can also be installed to maintain adequate moisture levels for transplants.
To see our complete line of transplanting materials, visit our online store.