Transplanting vs. Direct-Seeding and The Heijunka Calendar

Learn the difference between transplanting and direct-seeding your vegetable garden.

| April 2018


The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables (Chelsea Green, 2017) by Ben Hartman shows how to save yourself time with the lean farming method. The Heijunka Calendar can help you to plan a vegetable garden. Hartman teaches readers to plant more efficiently by rotating vegetables throughout the season. Follow the instructions Hartman provides to cut down on time spent in the garden. He targets market vegetable gardeners to help farms increase profit and decrease waste. This excerpt can be found in Chapter 5, “Transplanting by Hand.” 

Transplanting by Hand

When we started farming, we direct-seeded nearly all of our crops into the ground rather than using transplants from a seedling greenhouse, because it was faster. When you can plant thousands of seeds in a matter of minutes, we thought, why bother with seedlings?

But this was shortsighted thinking. Seeds failed to germinate when the soil dried out in hot sun, or they became waterlogged after a rain. If they did germinate, weeds often smothered them. Much was left to chance; defect costs were high.

When we started to implement lean, we realized that to reach our goal of 100 percent success—of every seed turning into cash—we could not tolerate those costs. By using transplants, we can be certain seeds will germinate and that crops will go into the ground weeks ahead of the appearance of weeds. Also, with transplanting we can space crops perfectly, saving costly time spent thinning. While we still direct-seed a few crops when the weather is just right, most of the time we now rely on transplanting. We have developed methods to transplant turnips, radishes, baby greens, green beans, and other crops that many farmers only direct-seed.

The key to successful transplanting is efficient motion. Transplanting requires a lot of movements: bending over, poking holes in the ground, and watering plants in. This work might be tedious, but it should not be mindless. It is critical when transplanting to analyze every step and find ways to simplify and eliminate waste.

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