While most market gardeners grow in standardized 100’ or 50’ garden beds, unfortunately, the paper chains in the Paperpot Transplanter system don’t match up to these lengths.
For example, the 6” spaced paper chain is the most commonly used. This chain is 139’ long, which leads to the need to swap out for a new tray in the middle of your second row (when planting a 100’ bed).
Wouldn’t it be nice if one paper chain was the length of one standardized 100’ bed? If this was the case, there would be no changing trays halfway through a bed. Easier planning and less margin for error! One tray would cover one row–one and done!
Skip The Last 12 Rows of the Paper Chain
Some pro growers in the small farm space have had this same thought, and have actually started intentionally seeding only 100’ of a paper chain, rather than the full 140’. To accomplish this, don’t seed the last 12 rows of the paper chain. Elliot Seldner of Fair Share Farm and Ray Tyler of Rose Creek Farms have both used this method and found it to be helpful. See the following chart to show you what it looks like:
One Tray = One Row
Take Salanova lettuce planted in 6” paper chains for example. With four rows in a 100′ bed, you can set two trays on one side of the bed, and two trays on the opposite side of the bed. One tray for each 100’ row.
Load up that transplanter and just pull it all the way to the end. There’s no stopping in the middle of the bed and reloading the transplanter with another tray, and pinning down the chain to start again. You just know that when you reach the end of the row, it’s time to load another tray where it’s waiting for you. It would also work great for 50 beds, where two rows would equal one tray.
One disadvantage of this system is that you are left with about 12 unused rows in the paperchain, and the potting mix that fills those cells is wasted. However, when it comes to increased efficiency and saving time on the farm, it’s a small trade-off in the big picture.
Another potential drawback to the system is not having extra transplants on hand to fill gaps in case of failed germination. One potential solution to this could be intentionally planting a full tray for one of the rows (just to have some backups on hand if you need them). You would want to save this tray for your last row when planting a bed.
Four rows of crops in a 100’ bed using 6” paper chains will require 2.9 chains to plant out the bed. At $3.60 per 6” paper chain, this costs you $10.44 in materials.
By comparison, if you used one paper chain per row, that would require four paper chains, which now costs you $14.44.
$4 more per bed isn’t too bad, especially considering a 100’ bed of Salanova lettuce can bring in well over $1000 of profit! If it can simplify your life and speed up your flow when planting, it may be a good option.
Custom Top Plates
If you’d like to try making this technique a part of your planting system, feel free to reach out to Paperpot Co. to inquire about custom top plates for the Kwik Klik Drop Seeder to accomplish these plantings even faster. If you’d like to experiment with it first, try putting painter’s tape over the holes where you don’t want seeds to drop (see reference chart above).
So there you have it! Now you know WHY you would want to only sow 100’ of your paper chain, and HOW to accomplish it! Skip the last 12 rows and you’ll be dialed. No more stopping halfway through a 100’ bed to swap out trays and interrupt your flow.