Week 5: A Full Week Of Transplants

This week has been much more evidence to support just how slow things move on the farm. In short, there are two main ways of planting crops: transplants and seeding. Seeding is what I described in earlier entries, where you place seeds directly into the crop bed and allow them to germinate and grow all in the same area. Seeding’s main benefit is the efficiency, in that it saves a lot of time and takes much fewer resources. Transplanting, on the other hand, is a much more labor-intensive process but tends to guarantee higher quality and higher yield of crop. Transplanting, in basic form, is simply allowing seeds to germinate and grow outside of their final bed– typically through the use of separate planters in greenhouses. After allowing the seeds to grow in a protected area, you remove them from their planters, dig holes in their final crop bed, and plant them. Despite sounding simple, the process is actually quite tough to do quickly on large scales, as there is no real way to plant multiple simultaneously. Because of the length of the transplant process, we chose to do much less than prior years this year. In the past nearly all or all crops were transplants, this year we only did the tomato plants and peppers (at most a quarter of the farm). The process for these can be seen through pictures below:

This bed is covered in “solar mulch”, a material used to reflect helpful forms of UV radiation back into the plants that otherwise would have been lost. We also set up a trellis system on each bed so the plants stay supported and ordered when growing vertically.

This is the stencil of sorts that we use to keep the spacing and size of each hole placed in the solar mulch relatively equal. The torch is used to evenly melt the mulch rather than being extremely inefficient with scissors. Solar mulch is expensive and very useful for plant growth, so it’s important to take caution when making holes for the plants


This is what our transplants look like when they are ready to be placed in their beds. This particular transplant is a tomato and very likely a variety called Valencia based on it’s size and color.

After digging a hole with a gardening shovel, the transplant is placed into the dug whole then covered.

Lastly, once all the transplants are in the ground, you have to go through and give a good soak to all of the plants.

This whole process was exceptionally long, hot, and hard: digging the holes in the frequently-rock-hard-soil was difficult on the back, using a torch in 95 degree hot weather over the top of extra reflectant of UV radiation solar mulch had me sweating buckets, and the one by one approach to planting was painstakingly slow. However, I got to share this time with two new people: Ellie (the new intern) and Mike (a long time volunteer at the farm). At this point, Tyson was relatively hands-off, which was initially a shame as I had grown fond of our talks and friendship we developed working together over the long hours on the farm. Tyson was somewhat of a mentor for adult life, he taught me a lot about city politics in Detroit, general rules on homeownership, getting a job, property-owning tips, and general life lessons that all genuinely applied as he was still fairly young. Tyson taught me a lot of skills (plumbing, farming, construction, etc.) and also gave a lot of good advice, but, he overall lived a really unorthodox lifestyle and his mindset was probably fairly biased. In that sense, getting to know Mike proved to be really important in terms of having good mentorship. Mike was a good bit older than Tyson, had a much more normal and dependable job (he was some form of a packaging engineer), and all in all was already set on his life path. Getting his perspective helped assure I wasn’t getting totally non-fitting advice. The combination of Mike and Tyson (no pun intended) as two mentors was a true blessing of my time at the urban farm and prepared me for my life past schooling more than I would’ve imagined prior.

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