An excerpt from Acres U.S.A. Magazine
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Transplanting Tips


At Sun Dog Farm, there is nothing more important to us than letting our land speak its truth. Utilizing observation and a great deal of patience, we are able to document how the landscape handles crops, deals with inclement weather, increases and decreases in productivity, and, most importantly, how the farm is able to reclaim itself. We shy away from using plastic and start our transplants in cold frames.

Simply put, we are seeding transplants directly into soil instead of into plastic transplant trays. While this seems like a minor change to make on the farm, it has major benefits that can be seen directly in the growth rates of our crops. 

We seed directly into cold frames we built on our south-facing hillside. We amend the soil in these cold frames with our own compost, rock powders such as granite, lime, Azomite and rock phosphate (also known as Tennessee Brown) and kelp when we can get it.  We also treat the area with compost teas and extracts during waterings.
The seeds are sown and covered, and watered if necessary. Treating the area as if it were a transplant tray, the seed is sown in lines that are evenly spaced in a rectangle similar to that of a tray. They are then thinned to be equidistant with about 1-2 inches between each new plant depending on the crop and its spatial requirements.
When the plants have grown into their second set of true leaves, we generally find this to be the ideal window for transplanting. While they will tolerate being moved when they are a little smaller or even a little larger, the recovery from transplant shock seems to be the quickest at this stage. As an example, tomatoes seem to reach this growth stage at around three weeks of age, though they can handle being transplanted a little older due to the ever-sprouting nature of their root systems.
Basil, flowers, kale and anything with an abundance of leaves and fixed roots need to be moved during this window or their shock will cause the die-back of the largest leaves and therefore more time to get back into the rate of growth they started with. In a pinch, larger transplants can be moved with some success, though extra care or extra growth time may need to be anticipated.

The transplants are dug up on a cloudy, cool day or in the evening if the weather is hot and dry. Soil is left around their roots, and they are carried to the field where they will be placed. After digging up the transplants, they are dipped in compost extract before they are planted in the bed. This activates the biology surrounding the plant roots and creates a biological shield for the plant body as it enters new terrain. The transplants are then watered in and the observation and monitoring begins. The next day the plants will droop and appear very unhealthy. The root systems are building brand-new relationships with the new soil ecology and this transition taxes the plants. During times of extreme heat or dryness, they may need to be watered in a few more times to ease the transition.
If the plants were larger than the second set of true leaves, some of the material will wilt and dry, but the plant will eventually set and continue to grow. Too much watering can cause damping off, a condition where the plant rots at the level of the soil. During times of excess moisture, this can happen on its own and can be treated with the Biodynamic Preparation 508 (Horsetail) made into a fermented tea and watered or sprayed on the plant leaves and surrounding soil. Silica, being the major player in the Preparation, acts on the periphery, bringing strength to membranes and outer structure, thus aiding in cell wall strength.

Starting transplants directly in the soil not only eliminates unnecessary waste, but also cuts out constant watering and heating. The soil under the cold frame will hold soil moisture better and longer than any cell tray and will provide added warmth during times of heavy frost. Most importantly, the transplants are started in the soil where the Earthly and Cosmic energies are generating the interplay that sculpts the world around us.
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