Awwwwwwww Snap, it’s that time to start up-potting our greenhouse plants again! One minute, we’re planting seeds and then quicker then two jiggles of a jack rabbits ass they’re already growing out of their frigg’n pots! So far we’ve planted a buziillion herb seeds for our herb/tea garden.Â But for our real deal Holyfield garden (get it? Holy…field. It’s a farm reference but also like Evander? The boxer? His tagline? Trust us, it’s funny). We started eleven pepper varieties, two kale varieties and nine tomato varieties, and thats just for…starters. (Get it? Like, plant starts? ZING! We’ll be here all week, folks). We started our seeds at different intervals depending on their respected days to maturity so we’re constantly up-potting in the greenhouse. This is great because we don’t get too overwhelmed with having to up-pot every single variety all at once. Because when you have over four hundred plants in the greenhouse, it can all get a little daunting! To hell with all that. Work smarter not harder says old wise people! So this year with our up-potting, we’re trying something a little new.
We started our seeds in in 1×1 cells (72 cell trays) with the Pro-Mix growth medium. Then once they developed their first strong set of true leaves, or grew to be 3″ tall, we up-potted them to 4″ pots (18 pots per tray). General rule of thumb is to up-pot when the plants are three times taller than the pot’s diameter. Soooo… if you have a tomato plant in a 4″ pot, and it’s 12″ tall, it’s probably time to move that sucker up to a bigger house. Or check the root development. If the roots look like they are just beginning to start spiraling around the soil in the pot, then the plant is just starting to get root bound and it’s time to up-pot. Root bound plants are no bueno. But it’s not the end of the world, it’s recoverable. But bad.
Anywho, we up-potted using our favorite potting soil, Happy Frog by Fox Farm. But before I continue, can I just say how awesome Fox Farm is? Last year (before we wrote blog posts and took lots of pictures… our bad) we did a little experiment. We wanted to see if the expensive potting soil was really any better than the cheap potting soil. Or even any better than planting directly into bulk delivered compost. Or if we could stretch our good soil by mixing it with cheaper soil. Or with the bulk delivered compost. And the results were exactly how you think they would be. The high end potting soil plants kicked the crap out of everything else by a long shot. Second place was the cheaper potting soil mixed with high end soil, third place was high end soil mixed with compost and last place was cheap soil mixed with compost. Or maybe straight cheap soil was a little ahead with some plants but whatever. We should have submitted that experiment to the local middle school science fair. And looked really weird as adults at a middle school science fair.
Basically, you get what you pay for. Plants are like people. If you have a little human kid and you give him lots of nutritious food and exercise, he’ll will grow up big and strong. But if you take the same kid and feed him nothing but roller dogs and Mountain Dew and sit the little porker in front of an X-Box for 16 hours a day, he’ll probably have juvenile diabetes and never get any dates. If you want to know more about our greenhouse growing practices, check out our blogs on using LED grow lights and plant’s light needsÂ as well as more soil/fertilizer science-y nerd stuff.Â
A little more about Happy Frog potting soil and how badass it is. Happy Frog is filled with beneficial microbes and fungi that help the plant develop a healthy root structure. They used earthworm casing, bat guano and forest humus so there’s absolutely no fillers in the potting soil. Once our plants get out of the Pro-Mix growth medium and settle into the Happy Frog soil, they really take off quickly! Anyway, that’s our two cents on Happy Frog. Freaking awesome. Pretty pricey, not gonna lie. You could blend it with a cheaper soil if you gotta, we tried it. It doesn’t not work, it’ still great. But the results aren’t as strong as the straight up good good. If you got the scratch, get the Happy Frog. Totally worth it.
Anyway, after the plants have settled into the 4″ pots and developed their second or third set of true leaves, we apply an organic fish emulsion solution. We use organic fish emulsion concentrate found at Worm’s Way. We applied the proper mixture specified on the bottle onto the soil on the 1st of every month. And an organic foliar (on the leaves) fertilizer spray from Dr. Earth on the 15th of the month. Basically, we pay our employees on the 1st and 15th, too. They get paid! But instead of getting that green paper, they get fish crap. Once we applied the fertilizers, it’s like the plants almost doubled in size overnight and quickly started to outgrow their 4″ pots. The combination of mycrorrhizae in the soil and the fish emulsion really makes a noticeable difference in our happy plants.
So once they start to outgrow the 4″ pots, we face a dilemma. We could use a bunch of large pots, but they take up a lot of space (both for storage and in the greenhouse) and can be really expensive unless you find a super stellar deal on them or snag them for free. So this year, instead of using pots, we decided to up-pot our vegetable plants into grow bags. Yes. Bags.
Grow bags are commonly used in hydroponics productions and come in all sorts of sizes. The best thing about them is that they’re stupid cheap. We bought ours at Worm’s Way for about $17 for 100 1/2 gallon bags. You can’t beat that price with a baseball bat! They’re also collapsable so when they’re in storage they hardly take up any space at all. So that’s cool, extra space it always good. Like the late great Michael Jackson, they’re black on the inside and white on the outside (too soon?) which helps maintain healthy root temperatures. They have pre-punched drainage holes and a gusseted bottom so they sit nice and flat and drain well. Â I gotta admit when we “tried” them out our eyebrows were cocked, and we were all like, “I doooon’t know about these, man!” But so far so good. The true test is when it comes time to transplant them out into the field. I’m not sure how well they’ll transfer out of the bag. Oh! And they’re also great for tomatoes because you can fold the bag down, bury the tomato up to it’s neck then as the tomato gets taller, you can un-roll the bag and then add more soil to keep it buried and therefore build good roots.
Check back in a few weeks when we transfer them into the garden to see the results. Will it be successful? Or will we be pissed off? Only time will tell. The jury is still out. On the next episode of As the Tomato Grows…