An Introduction to the Production of Containerized Vegetable Transplants

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This publication introduces the first-time transplant grower to the multiple factors involved in growing vegetable transplants. Many production practices are learned through the process of trial and error; therefore, the grower is encouraged to operate on a small scale until an efficient management style is developed.

Most vegetable crops can be grown from transplants, but only a few are traditionally grown in this manner. A "good" transplant is usually defined by consumer specifications. Differences in consumer preference may require distinct management techniques for the transplant crop. For example, home gardeners may favor robust, succulent plants, while commercial farmers may select more hardened plants. No simple procedure can be followed in growing vegetable transplants, and only through experience can you begin to produce a consistent product.

In general, a "good" vegetable transplant should be stocky, green, and pest-free with a well-developed root system. Once transplanted, the plant should tolerate environmental challenges and continue growth to optimum yield. Overly hardened or under-fertilized transplants may not establish quickly, which can lead to delayed maturity and reduced yields. The "ideal" technique for growing transplants would be to raise the plant from start to finish by slow, steady, uninterrupted growth and with minimal stress. Since ideal growing conditions rarely exist, plant growth may need to be controlled through the manipulation of water, temperature, and fertilizer.

This bulletin will cover some of the many topics that need to be considered in the production of vegetable transplants. Subjects will include greenhouses, soilless media, containers, seed, irrigation, fertilization, shipping, and crop specifics.

Charles S. Vavrina
University of Florida IFAS Extension