Veggies In Flats

The leaves are roots in the air .

The leaves are roots in the air .

Photos Vegetables That Grow Ground
Roots are leaves in the ground

If you build your own flats, the standard flat size is 3 inches deep by 14 inches wide by 23 inches long. For smaller home gardens, and people with less sturdy backs, half-sized flats may be more convenient. The depth is critical since an overly shallow flat allows the seedling roots to touch the bottom too soon. When this occurs, the plants believe they have reached their growth limit, and they enter a state of "premature senility." In this state the plants begin to flower and fruit even though they are only transplanting size. We have experienced this with broccoli and dwarf marigolds; the broccoli heads were the size of the nail on a little finger. The flat's length and width are not as critical. They should not become too large, however, or the flat will be hard to carry. If plants must remain in a container more than 4 to 6 weeks, use a half-sized flat that is 6 inches deep.

When planting seeds or seedlings, remember that the most important areas for the plant are the 2 inches above and the 2 inches below the surface of the flat or planting bed. The mini-climate created under the plants' leaves and the protection of the upper roots in the flat or the bed by the soil is critical. Without proper protection, the plants will develop tough necks at the point where the stem emerges from the soil. A toughened neck slows the flow of plant juices and interrupts and weakens plant growth. These few inches are also important because in a very real sense the roots are leaves in the soil and the leaves are roots in the air. The roots "breathe in" (absorb) gases in significant amounts as if they were leaves, and the leaves absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. Also, plant life activity varies above and below the ground according to monthly cycles. Root growth is stimulated more during the third quarter of each 28-day period, and leaf growth is stimulated more during the second quarter, in accordance with the phases of the moon. (See pages 71-74.)

The critical distance above and below the surface of the planting bed is not exactly 2 inches. Obviously it will be different for radishes than for corn, since their leaves begin at different heights from the soil surface and because their root systems have different depths. Generally speaking, though, the 2-inch/ 2-inch guideline helps us develop a sensitivity to the plants' needs above and below ground. (The need for proper conditions above and below ground was also noted in the comparison between the normal use of rows in gardening and farming and the use of raised beds for growing plants, discussed on pages 3 and 4.) In particular, this miniclimate protects feeder roots and microbial life, which are both concentrated in the upper soil.

Once you have planted a flat, there are several locations— depending on the weather—where you can place it while the seeds germinate and grow:

  • In a greenhouse or miniature greenhouse if the weather is cold
  • In a cold frame for two days when the seedlings are almost transplanting size as part of their hardening off (acclimatization to the cooler outside) for transplanting in cold weather
  • In the open for two more days to complete the hardening off process before transplanting
  • In the open during warm and hot weather
  • In the shade to slow down their growth in hot weather You may want to build flat covers to protect seedlings from birds and mice. An easy way to do this is to build a flat similar to the ones the seedlings will be in, but without the wooden bottom. We use V2-inch galvanized wire fabric on the "bottom." Then we turn the unit upside down and place it on top of the flat to protect the seeds and seedlings.
Organic Gardeners Composting

Organic Gardeners Composting

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