Planning equipment, timing and spacing
Getting Started with Paper Pot Systems
Growing seedlings in, and transplanting with, paper chain pots is not completely different from other systems but there are a few things that should be noted:
TRANSPLANT MORE CROPS. Planting in paper pots allows you to transplant crops you normally would direct seed, such as peas, spinach, cilantro, beets, turnips, dill, beans, and corn. Some people even transplant carrots… although this is tricky and generally not recommended. Read more about planting carrots.
PLANT LATER, TRANSPLANT EARLIER. Because plants are not being yanked from plug trays, you can transplant a week or two earlier than normal. In fact, it is best to transplant crops when they are younger because (a) the paper chain pot cells are small, and (b) the cells do not have a bottom so it is best to transplant before root system grow too much and get tangled. As a result, you can push back your seeding dates.
As a general guide, we recommend transplanting 7 to 14 days earlier than normal depending on the crop. We hesitate to make definitive statements on exactly how much earlier to plant a given crop because every farm operates a little differently and has their own unique goals and preferences. Furthermore, fertility, moisture and heat greatly affect seedling growth rates so it is best to see how things go on your farm in terms of how much earlier you decide to transplant using paper chain pots. Some crops, such as beets and other roots, should definitely be planted early (when they get their first true leaves) for best results.
GREENHOUSE SPACE & PLANNING. Paper pot flats occupy bottom trays that are approximately 12 inches by 24 inches (~30.5 x 61 cm). The trays are larger than 1020 flats and thus will occupy a larger footprint on greenhouse benching. Each paper pot flat has 264 cells so space utilization will likely be greater, however, than most 1020 plug flats. Space utilization will also be increased because the plants will not be in the greenhouse for as long since they can be transplanted earlier.
FIELD SPACE & PLANNING. There are several important numbers to keep in mind when using the paper chain pot transplanting system in terms of planning your plantings. First, there are 264 cells per flat, regardless of the in-row spacing of the paper chain pots being used. Click here for a video explaining this.
Second, keep in mind the length of the paper chain pots:
- Each 2-inch spaced paper chain (CP303) results in ~46 feet of row in the field.
- Each 4-inch spaced paper chain (LP303-10) results in ~89 feet of row in the field.
- Each 6-inch spaced paper chain (LP303-15) results in ~131 feet of row in in the field.
For this reason, some people adjust the length of their beds to better accommodate the length of the paper chains. For example, 90-foot beds will fit two flats of CP303 or one flat of LP303-10 per row.
DISTANCE BETWEEN ROWS. It is possible to plant rows of paper pots as close as about 3 inches. I do this with peas as I have always grown a “double row” on a trellis to maximize yield. With a bit of practice, it is easy to get rows nice and parallel to make cultivation easier and more efficient.
There are any number of methods to mark beds either during bed prep or afterward to assure straight and parallel rows. Some growers use marking devices on the back of their rotovator or bed-shaper. Others use rolling dibbles or rakes. Some people set up string to use as a guide. Another option is to use the edge of the transplanter as a visual guide. For some crops, I keep my eye focused on keeping the edge of the tray over the preceding row when planting the next row (see photo, below).
PAPER POT CROP CHART. Not everyone plants crops at the same spacings but we have developed a Paper Chain Pot Crop Chart to help guide you as you plan your paper pot plantings. This is a living document, informed by our community of customers, so if you have additional crops you think should be added or other recommendations, please let us know!