Plant 264 onions in less than a minute, here is how.
The Paper Chain Pot Transplanting System
The paper chain pot transplanting system is a unique, ingenious, and highly efficient means to transplant vegetables, flowers and herbs. It is unlike any standard transplanter used in the US or Europe. It has no motor and is pulled by hand. It allows a single person to transplant as many as 264 plants in less than a minute. This is accomplished while standing upright and eliminates the countless hours spent kneeling, crawling, or stooping.
The system relies on planting into paper pots that are in a chain. Because the pots are in a chain, they feed themselves through the transplanter. A new flat of paper pots comes compressed and needs to be opened using a set of metal opening rods. The metal rods are inserted into either side of the compressed paper pots and then pulled apart (not unlike an accordion or paper fan) to reveal a honeycomb of cells. See photo at right. The most common paper pot flats have 264 cells.
The paper pots are then held open by placing the paper pots and metal rods on a metal frame. After placing a plastic bottom-flat on the set-up, the cells can be filled with potting soil. Dibble plates are available to make depressions in the potting mix to receive seeds. Seeding a paper pot flats can be done by hand but seeders are available that seed an entire flat at a time. After filling and seeding the flat, the metal opening frame is removed.
See the Products page for more information on the various components and options. A narrated video of how to prepare a paper pot flat and use the seeder is on the products page.
Once the seedlings are ready to be transplanted and soil prepared, the transplanter is pulled into the bed to begin creating a furrow. A tray of seedlings is placed on the transplanter platform and one end of the paper pot chain is pulled down into the furrow. A narrow metal stake is inserted through the first cell into the soil to secure the start of the paper chain. Then the transplanter is pulled down the bed and all the seedlings go into the ground, one after the other. Small metal flanges at the rear of the transplanter push soil over the paper pots and packing wheels tamp the soil.
Crops, Soil conditions, and Recommendations
The paper pot system is ideally suited to closely spaced crops, especially onions, leeks, scallions, and shallots. This is because in-row spacing is determined by the length of the paper chain connecting each cell. Currently, paper chain pots are available that result in 2 inch, 4 inch and 6 inch in-row spacing. The system also works very well for spinach, various Asian greens, and many types of cut flowers. Other crops that can be grown include chard, kohlrabi, basil, cilantro, beets, corn, and lettuce. Because the paper pot cells are small, it is not suited for crops such as tomatoes and peppers that are typically grown in large cells with ample room to grow a good sized transplant.
The transplanter performs best in a flat, uniform, tilled bed, such as can be created using a walk-behind tiller or tractor mounted rotovator. In general, better results will be observed in lighter soils than heavy clay soils. In heavy or less well-tilled soils, it may be necessary to use a rake to better cover the transplants after using the transplanter. Furthermore, transplanter model HP-10 is recommended for growers with heavier soils and with the 4 and 6 inch spaced pots because the longer furrowing portion of the transplanter does a better job of getting the transplants into the ground and covered.
Paper Chain Pot System Requirements
A basic paper pot transplanter setup would include a transplanter, paper pots, opening rods, an opening frame,and growing trays. The growing trays are necessary because the paper pot system is designed to be used with the standard tray used in Japan (the same tray used for growing rice seedlings). The trays are 12 inches wide and 24 inches long, have 4 holes per square inch in the bottom for water drainage, and have a low outer rim (about 1.25 inches). The trays are made of a durable, rigid plastic unlike the flimsy “1020” trays commonly used in the U.S. When calculating the number of trays you need, remember that the standard paper pots flats have 264 cells per flat.
The optional seeders are remarkably simple and efficient and can be ordered with basically any size hole to accommodate different sized seeds. They greatly speed
up the flat-seeding process but some growers prefer to do this work by hand. Some cut flower growers, who deal with irregular-shaped and sized seeds, may find the seeders inappropriate.
Non-chain Paper Pot System
The non-chain paper pot system is perfect for growing transplants of most any type and size. It is available in standard flat sizes such as 72s, 128, 220s, as well as other cell counts. The paper pots are held open using plastic clips before being filled with potting soil. The clips are then removed. When the transplants are ready for planting, the paper pots come apart easily for planting by hand or mechanized transplanting. This is also a great system for transplant sales, allowing customers to choose exactly the number of plants they want...without having to buy throw-away plastic cell packs.
The non-chain paper pots are currently only available with a synthetic fungicide so they are not allowable on organic farms. We are working to make this product available without the fungicide.
© 2013–2017 Restoration Seeds, LLC
Thank you to Vince Alionis of Whistling Duck Farm in Grants Pass Oregon for introducing us to paper pots.
The original article from Small Farm Works can be found here.
Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-(608) 620-5804.