This time of year, the propagation greenhouse is always busy. Head lettuce and various salad mix components are seeded weekly, and there are still plenty of mid and late summer crops sown on a regular basis. The biggest job in the propagation greenhouse this past week involved transplanting many thousands of pepper starts into larger pots (2.5″), so they’d have a bit more room to grow until the soil and climate conditions are ready for them to be planted outside.
Peppers are hand seeded into “200s” (flats with 198 individual cells) and encouraged to sprout in the propagation greenhouse sprouting chamber (see more about our sprouting chamber in this past blog post). When the first cotyledons appear, they’re pulled out of the sprouting chamber and placed on heated tables under grow lights. After about a month, the roots of the pepper plants will more or less fill the cells and start to get cramped for space.
Just filling up almost 300 trays of pots with soil takes a day’s labor for a couple workers. Fortunately or unfortunately, all the dirt work is done by hand. (To learn get our soil mix recipe, see this past blog post.)
Sarah pokes holes for incoming transplants with a gloved finger.
When young pepper starts are ready to transplant, they will readily pull out of cells without damaging the roots.
Sarah plugs the transplant into the hole and gently pushes it into the soil.
She smooths out the soil and adds a little extra where needed. When she finishes a whole tray, she marks it with a labeled popsicle stick and adds it to the table of newly transplanted pepper starts.
Though time consuming, transplanting peppers is not a highly technical job. Like many tasks on the farm, however, it does require a lot of patience and dedication paired with a keen eye for quality control. Mistreatment of the starts or mislabeling of the flats can cause significant losses of both plants and time, so workers must focus on the task at hand from the beginning of the process all the way to the end.
These newly transplanted starts will grow in the propagation greenhouse until the end of May when they can be planted outside in the fields.
These pepper starts are about two months old and were transplanted into bigger pots a month ago. They’re grown under lights to encourage them to bush out to the sides instead of elongating upward. They’ll be in the propagation greenhouse for another couple weeks until greenhouses can be prepped for planting in the ground.
This year, Gathering Together Farm is growing the following varieties of peppers (some in greenhouses, many outdoors):
Admiral from Osborne Seed Company