I talk a lot about working in the greenhouse at Rutgers Gardens, but what exactly is it that I do there? What goes on during the workdays?
Basically, I do two things: seeding and transplanting. Everything starts with the soil table. It’s a large bench where bales of sterile soil-less mix are broken up and then moistened so that we can use it to plant our seeds and plants in. No soil is ever used in the greenhouse because soil contains spores and bacteria that will breed in the warm greenhouse and kill the plants. Because we are growing thousands of plants, we go through a lot of soil-less mix!
Important tools that we use are labels so we know what the plants are, Sharpies so the writing on the labels doesn’t wash off when the plants are watered and “pokers”, thin bamboo sticks that are used to remove plugs from trays.
I plant seeds in square containers that are called, not surprisingly, “squares”. There are 8 squares to a flat.
I plant seeds at the proper depth as directed by the seed packets. And if the packet says surface sow, I don’t cover the seeds because they need light to germinate. Each square has only one kind of seed in it. A label is placed in each square so I know what was planted in it.
Then the squares go on the misting table. The misting table has a built-in heat mat that keeps the seeds warm so that they will germinate and grow faster. There are overhead misters that keep everything evenly moist. They spray automatically like the ones in the produce section of the grocery store. We have all learned not to walk too close to the misting table!
The other way we start plants in the greenhouse is with “plugs”. These are plant starts from a commercial greenhouse. There are flower, vegetable and herb plugs.
They all come in large trays, one type of plant in each tray.
Each tray has individual “cells” with the plants in them. Each cell has a drainage hole which we use to remove the plants. We take our “pokers” and gently push the plant and soil out of the cell.
Then we plant it in a container for it to grow into a saleable size. This is the same container that you purchase at the sale.
Bet you didn’t know that lovely large herb plant you bought started out in our greenhouse as a tiny plug!