A stormy period of growing cabbage seedlings is just around the corner. Cabbage is certainly not pepper and not tomato, but the trouble with her seedlings is also quite enough. Especially if a lot of it is planted. After all, it is completely unrealistic to provide each plant with a separate pot in an apartment.
And with the generally accepted cultivation of cabbage seedlings in boxes, transplanting it for growing to the greenhouse or immediately it does not pass into the ground for plants without leaving a trace, unless, of course, you use the "sawdust method", which I have already talked about many times when I talked about growing other vegetables. It is really very effective, but quite laborious, especially with a large number of seedlings.
Therefore, for those who do not dare to use the "sawdust technology", I want to give another, also very effective method, which has received legal recognition almost all over the world.
This is the so-called cassette technology. It was originally invented by the Japanese company Sumimoto (it was in Japan that the first cassettes and special paper for their production were created). And in 1966, the Finnish company Lännen acquired a license for the production of cassettes, which improved the cassette technology, significantly expanding the range of containers, and developed special machines for automating almost all stages of cassette technology. Therefore, it is not surprising that it was the Finns who became the pioneers in the use of cassettes for growing seedlings, at first only cabbage, and now seedlings. lettuce, beets, corn, Luke, flower crops and more.
The very same cassette technology was named "Paperpot", and the same Finnish company that has been working in our market for the past several years is engaged in the sale of cassettes in Russia.
Each cassette, consisting of many individual cells, is made of special paper reinforced with plastic fibers for strength. Both paper and plastic decompose perfectly in the ground under the influence of moisture, salts and microorganisms after planting seedlings in open ground, but at the same time they perfectly hold the soil in themselves during the entire period of growing seedlings. With the help of a water-insoluble glue from reinforced paper, individual cells are glued, which, in turn, are connected to each other in a cassette with a water-soluble glue. Under the influence of moisture, the cassettes are easily separated into separate cells. Therefore, by the time the seedlings are planted in the open ground, due to the abundant watering of cabbage, the cassettes almost automatically disintegrate into separate cells tightly standing to each other.
Therefore, cassettes are characterized by the following features:
- before sowing seeds, the cassettes with cells can be easily divided, if necessary, into blocks of the desired size;
- before planting seedlings in open ground, individual cells are also easily separated from each other;
- when planting, plants are not removed from the cells and are planted directly into them; and, therefore, as the root system develops further, the roots calmly pass through an already decaying cell.
The standard size of the cassette is 60x40 cm. Depending on the size of the cell, their number in the cassette ranges from 25 to 496 pcs. The size of the cells in the cassettes is different and varies depending on the crop being grown.
The cassettes come complete with pallets, which is generally quite convenient both in the process of growing seedlings and when transporting them to a summer cottage. Although the cassettes can be re-formed if necessary, it may turn out to be reasonable if it is more convenient for you due to specific circumstances, for example, a smaller or larger window sill, to use pallets not supplied with the cassettes, but some others. To separate the cassette, it is enough to wet the separation site with hot water - after 15 minutes the cells will unstick themselves.
In principle, the cassette technology is focused on the mechanized cultivation of large volumes of seedlings and involves the use of machines at a variety of stages of cultivation. Machines prepare potting mix, sow seeds, mulch planting, provide drip irrigation, planting seedlings and other work. But if we take as a basis only the principle of growing seedlings in cassettes, then this technique can be of considerable interest for ordinary gardeners. True, in this case, there can be no talk of any mechanization, but there are other positive aspects of this technology.
Even if we forget about the automation of numerous processes of seedling production, because the acquisition of the necessary equipment makes sense only in large farms, the advantages of cassette technology still remain a lot:
- Saving seeds, since you can accurately calculate and grow the required number of plants in advance.
- Saving window area in early spring. According to the data of the All-Russian Research Institute of Vegetable Growing, with the cassette method of cultivation, the seedling yield per unit area (compared to the usual version) turns out to be 2.7 times higher for late white cabbage, and 1.5 times for early white cabbage and cauliflower.
- Saving your own time by refusing to pick plants.
- Relief of plants from stress when planting them in the ground.
The size of the cells is small, and therefore they are immediately designed for a limited period of seedling growth. According to the recommendations of Finnish specialists, the period for growing cabbage seedlings using cassette technology is about eight weeks.
Naturally, the first step is to purchase the required number of cassettes and prepare the soil. Although the latter operation is generally not necessary. You can simply use the potting mixes specially designed for cassette technology, which can be purchased with the cassettes. The soil is poured into the cells a few days before sowing (at least two days), watered and warmed up. Please note that the soil must be located below the junction of the cassette cells with each other, otherwise the roots may germinate from one cell to another.
As a filler of cells all over the world, as a rule, a mixture is used peat and sawdust, although the use of other soil mixtures is not excluded. For example, I used a mixture of peat, vermicompost, sawdust and vermiculite, flavored with fertilizer "Breadwinner" and ash.
The seeds are sown in the cells as usual. There are no peculiarities here. If you are not sure of their germination, you can sow not one, but two seeds in each cell (if both sprout, then one of them will, of course, have to be removed). Then, according to the Paperpot technology, it is obligatory to mulch the soil with vermiculite in order to preserve moisture (which is even more important with a small volume of soil) and the optimum temperature in the cassettes. Before the first shoots appear (usually the first two days), the cassettes are installed in a warm room at a temperature of + 210C and a humidity of 80-90%. To maintain such a high humidity in an apartment, you will have to place pallets with cassettes in large plastic bags.
As with conventional technology, the cassettes should be removed from the warm room before the actual sprouts appear (i.e. in the stage of active seed spitting), otherwise the seedlings will be stretched out. The most convenient, of course, is to place cassettes with seedlings on a glazed loggia, while providing for the possibility of sheltering the plants at night during cold snaps. The optimum temperature for growing should be considered to be from +8 to + 120C. Watering plants, given the small volume of cells, is more convenient with a teaspoon.
After the appearance of the second true leaf, fertilizing is required twice a week. Using the Paperpot technology, top dressing is recommended to be carried out with crystalline. As usual, I use Planta and Kemir fertilizers. And so that the plants have a good root system and do not get sick, one must not forget about weekly watering them with a solution of biological products. You need to be extremely careful with feeding, especially in sunny weather. Feeding can only be done after a good preliminary moistening of the soil and weaker solutions to prevent root burns.
It is very important that the seedlings are hardened before planting, therefore, in the last two weeks (or earlier, if the situation permits), you need to try to bring the growing conditions closer to the environmental conditions. This primarily concerns temperature conditions and lighting. The most convenient for hardening is to use your own greenhouse.
And at this stage, certain difficulties begin. In the West, cassettes are installed on wooden shelves in greenhouses, and the appropriate technique ensures regular drip irrigation of the soil in each cell. And the soil dries up in them in the bright sun quickly enough - if in cloudy weather, watering may not be needed for 1-2 days, but in sunny weather you will have to water it even 2-3 times a day. You and I have to monitor watering on our own, as a result, it turns out that it is no longer possible to leave the garden, and this option is not suitable for everyone.
What to do? At first glance, the solution seems to be to bury the cassettes in the soil at the level of the upper border of the cells. In this case, moisture evaporation will be significantly reduced. But this should not be done. Once the roots are in contact with the surrounding soil around the cassette, they will immediately sprout from the cassette cell into the ground. And the whole point of growing plants in cassettes to ensure their painless transplantation will be lost. However, right on the greenhouse ridge, you can dig rectangular grooves exactly to the size of the cassettes, lay films on all sides in them, make holes in the corners for the drain of excess water, and only then install the cassettes there. As practice has shown, this is a way out, although not ideal, tk. in some of the cells in conditions of darkness and sufficient moisture, the roots germinate through the paper base. True, there will still be no breakage of roots during planting, because they have nothing to gain a foothold.
In general, there are no peculiarities here. Cabbage beds are prepared in the usual way. A complex is added to the prepared wells organic and mineral fertilizers and mixes well with the soil. The cassettes in pallets are then transported to the landing site and neatly separated into individual compartments.
Each plant is planted in a prepared hole along with a cell. Then everything is as usual - watering, mulching the soil and covering with a covering material. Next is the usual care.
When using cassette technology, it is important to observe certain "rules of the game", if not observed, a significant delay in the development of plants is possible. To prevent this from happening, you need:
- to provide high soil moisture in the cells, preventing the slightest drying out of the soil; the cells themselves must also always be moist;
- do not allow the soil level in the cells to rise above the level of the cells joining into the cassette, in order to avoid the germination of roots from one cell to another;
- observe all precautions when carrying out dressings, remembering that the smaller the volume of the soil, the greater the likelihood of a possible burn of the roots;
- ensure good mulching of the soil in the pots with a layer of vermiculite.
Svetlana Shlyakhtina, Yekaterinburg