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Growing in modules

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default Growing in modules

Post by Dandelion on 30th January 2016, 7:59 pm

I garden in raised beds, and raise my veg in modules rather than sowing direct into the soil. This has a couple of advantages - our soil is clay, so takes a while to warm up in the year: sowing in modules means that I can start early. I also like the fact that when the seedlings are planted out, they are already big enough to take care of themselves to some extent.
My issue is that the modules you buy in the garden centre (or save when buying small plants) are incredibly flimsy. I spent part of today tiding up a pile of plant pots and modules from a corner, throwing away any which were past it and washing the rest, and I'm not impressed with the quality. A particular bugbear are Rootrainers - a great idea, but will only last a few years (and are very pricey.)
So I'm looking for an alternative which will cope with being washed and reused year after year - I shudder at the thought of all this cheap flimsy plastic going into landfill every year. Any ideas?

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.
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default Re: Growing in modules

Post by Ploshkin on 30th January 2016, 8:44 pm

I've had polystyrene ones that lasted me for 10 years or so, in fact I've still got some but only the ones with the smaller cells which I didn't use often. The ones with the larger cells were used to death. They were 6 x 4 rows of cells - 24 total and were the right size to sit in a standard size seed tray. I always had excellent germination with them, I think the warmth of the poly helped. They looked grubby after a bit but I cleaned them with bleach. I think they got puppy chewed eventually. I couldn't find anything similar to replace them but I must have another search.
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default Re: Growing in modules

Post by Chilli-head on 31st January 2016, 11:43 am

I've been through growing in modules, and mostly come out the other side reverting to traditional methods like the nursery or seed bed for things like leeks and brasicca.  Mostly because module trays require careful watering, which is not always easy when life gets busy.   As well though, I have become fairly convinced that plant establishment is better direct in the ground.  I suspect both the check to root growth of them being balled up into a little knot in the module, and the compost running out of steam before they are planted out (especially with leeks) are to blame.

Having said that, it can be easier to get good lettuce from transplanted modules - almost all UK commercial growers do it this way.  I have on occasion used commercial module trays; they are very much stronger and reusable, but far too large for most of us !  Now I tend to use degradable "modules",  either cut down cardboard tubes e.g. loo rolls or made with a paper potter:



These do break down quite quickly though, so no good for slower growing things like alliums.
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default Re: Growing in modules

Post by Ploshkin on 31st January 2016, 12:19 pm

My main reason for starting things in modules is protection from the elements, especially with things that need to be sown quite early. It does help to keep slugs and mice off too and give things a fighting chance. I have sowed brassica directly into the ground later in the season and they have done well. Oddly, I have found that beetroot are more likely to be successful for me if I start them in modules. If I sow directly in the ground they germinate ok but never progress past a couple of leaves.
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default Re: Growing in modules

Post by freebird on 31st January 2016, 12:45 pm

I agree, Dandelion, about the flimsiness of modules. I have had occasions where I haven't cleared up after planting out the seedlings, leaving the modules in the coldframe. A bit of hot sun and that's it, they've melted and distorted.

Like Ploshkin, I have to start virtually everything out of the ground. I completely agree, CH, that modules can and do check the growth, but for me that's preferable to no growth at all. We have such a problem with slugs and snails nipping off top growth, mice and rats digging for bigger seeds, and foxes digging up newly planted seedlings.

Like you, D, I wish rootrainers were better quality. I use them a lot and find them very good, but have to be very careful with them to make them last. I'm afraid I have no suggestions to make for you.....

while I've been typing this, something came to me that might be worth investigating/experimenting with. Cheap plastic 'bits' boxes from somewhere like B&Q. You know the sort I mean? One with lots of divided sections, preferably with removable dividers. They may not be deep enough, but if something could be found with the right dimensions, I can see possibilities.
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default Re: Growing in modules

Post by Ploshkin on 31st January 2016, 2:08 pm

Thinking cap's on here. Is there any suitable dimension ducting or trunking that is used to retro fit cables or pipes that could be cut into appropriate lengths and stood on end in a tray or box? We have 2" square ducting in our boiler shed which would be a bit big - but I don't know how big programmers are.
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default Re: Growing in modules

Post by Dandelion on 31st January 2016, 7:37 pm

Thanks for all the suggestions. I think I'm going to keep trying things out too see what works best - I certainly won't be buying cheap modules again. One thing I'm going try is modules made from fibre (coir, I think) - presumably you can cut the fibre module tray up into individual sections and plant the whole thing out.
One additional benefit for me in using modules is that because I am becoming more immobile I do as much gardening as possible from a sitting position. I can sow, prick out, water and check the rate of progress of the seedlings easily if they are at waist height. I have to get down to plant them out, but then can just hoe round them and maintain them from the comfort of my garden chair!

................................................................................................................................
The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.
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default Re: Growing in modules

Post by Chilli-head on 31st January 2016, 10:09 pm

There are definitely pros and cons. I do have to use a lot of netting and environmesh when sowing things directly - beetroot is hopeless otherwise because the pidgeons love it. My overwintering brassica this year were a learning experience - don't leave un-netted cabbages to overwinter outdoors unless you have kindhearted feelings towards pidgeons !

2" modules are not that over large for some stuff. I do use 42mm plastic waste pipe offcuts, cut into 5" lengths, to sow climbing beans into. They give a reasonable depth of root run, and when planting out the contents can be pushed out easily by poking with the trowel handle.
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