TIPS ON HOW TO USE THE FLATS FOR OPTIMUM PLANT GROWTH
To ensure best results, please follow these simple guidelines:
1) For proper “air pruning” of the plant’s tap root, the Speedling trays MUST be suspended on aluminum T rails or by whatever means necessary to accomplish free air flow UNDER the tray. A common practice is to place the flats on 2×4’s placed on edge at each end of the tray. We recommend a minimum of 2” of UNOBSTRUCTED air space under the entire tray.
2) Various mixes can be used in these trays. We have the greatest success with 80% coco coir/ 10% vermiculite / 10% perlite. DO NOT USE SAND IN THE MIX. It is most important to stimulate root growth. This is best accomplished with the addition of an available Phosphorus source, such as bone meal, added to the mix. Use 3-5 Tbs. bone meal per tray or 10 lb. per yard of mix. Trace elements are also important; we recommend kelp meal at 1 lb. per yard. Also add a lime source such as dolomite at a rate of 4 lb. per yard. A custom blended all organic quick-root soil-less potting mix, especially developed for SPEEDLING systems is available from GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm and Apiary. DO NOT make a mix that is rich in Nitrogen. Too much N stimulates rapid vegetative growth, with little root development. It would be better to have a fully developed root system with smaller top growth, than vice versa. In order to pull the plants from the tray, the root system must be developed to fill the whole cell, at which time all of the cell’s contents (planting mix and roots) will pop out. This will not happen if you use too much N.
3) The planting mixture can be wet or dry when filing the trays, but should be lightly pressed into each cell, to ensure even distribution and no air pockets. Wet mixes work better for this. Fill the tray all the way, but make sure that when full the top portion of each cell divider is exposed (visible).
Completely covering the tray will result in roots from each cell growing into adjoining cells, causing a dense mat of plants rather than the desirable individual plant.
4) Plant seeds at normal depths or a little shallower. You must be sure to keep the trays sufficiently moist to ensure proper germination. Because air moves around the entire tray, the seeds tend to dry out faster than when planted directly in the ground.
5) When watering trays, make sure that they receive the proper amount. Water until drips appear at the drain holes in the cells. Excess water will cause leaching of soluble nutrients. Too little water fails to fully saturate the cells, thus restricting root growth.
6) Irrigation frequency will depend on your planting mix, the time of year, air temperature, sun intensity, and wind (if growing outside). In general, many growers water daily. In greenhouses with controlled temperature and humidity, daily watering may not be necessary. During cold weather, the need for watering is less. Conversely, if grown outdoors during windy and/or hot weather, some growers water twice daily. The trays are quite heavy when fully saturated. If yours are not, you are not watering enough. Increase frequency and/or quantity. But remember, too much water causes excess leaching of useable nutrients.
7) Following development of true leaves, use 1-2 Tbs. of fish emulsion per gallon of water every irrigation. Other soluble fertilizers may be used, follow their directions. Fertilize regularly but lightly. Use kelp extracts for growth hormones and trace minerals.
8) Proper time to pull plant plugs from cells of course depends on the type of plant being grown. Some general rules are: grow plants in cells until they can be easily removed by gently pulling on the plant stem. All of the planting mix should come out, with the roots, leaving a clean cell. If it doesn’t, the plants have not grown long enough. The tray MUST be thoroughly soaked prior to pulling. This eliminates friction between the roots and the tray, allowing the plants to pop out. Don’t let plants get root bound. Pull when mature. If plants are stuck or you need to pull them early, push up from the drain hole with a pencil or round stick. Do not damage the drain hole.
9) Virtually every type of vegetable, herb or flower can be grown using the SPEEDLING method. The exceptions are carrots and plants grown from tubers such as potatoes, or those grown from bulbs such as garlic, gladiolus, etc. Nearly all commercial growers using this system grow all of their plants in the one inch cells (200 cells per tray). Many growers have good success with the 1 1/4” and 2” cells, especially for plants which normally stay in the cells for a fairly long period of time such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. 2” cells are exceptionally good for melons, cukes, squashes, etc. 3” cells are suitable for any extremely large transplants. It should be emphasized that all tray sizes will do an excellent job of growing any of these or other plants. Bigger plants will be obtained from the larger size cells;
quicker time to transplanting and greater use of space with the small cells.
10) Good success has been obtained by planting root crops in clumps. Plant crops such as beets, turnips, leeks, parsnips, scallions, bulb onions, chives, etc. by putting 3-5 seeds in each cell (1” size) and thinning if necessary to three plants. These can then be transplanted out to grow in small clusters with excellent success. Green onions can be planted as thick as 7-9 seeds and left as is to grow in a clump. Other growers are having good success raising parsley and spinach in clumps by planting 2-3 seeds per cell. Experiment—please let us know your results.
11) For maximum service and use, caution should be used to avoid physical damage to trays. Many growers get 25-30 uses out of each tray with proper care. The tray should be protected from excessive heat and sunlight when not in use. If you have disease problems, the trays can be sterilized with hot water, or steam, or use a 2% chlorine bleach an water solution. Do not place in boiling water. Do not get gas or other petroleum solvents on the trays.
Congratulations! You have purchased a state of the art transplanting system. Follow these instructions and you will grow the healthiest, most vigorous plants possible.
TO BE ECONOMICAL, AGRICULTURE MUST BE ECOLOGICAL