Modular growing of plants

 In Annuals and half hardy seasonal plants, Gardening, Gardening tips, Grow your own, Plant Propagation, Sowing, Vegetables

Modular growing of plants is on the increase and there are many advantages to raising plants this way.


This frustrating season!

Here we are in mid February and hardly a thing has been sown or planted because of the constant rain!

With the garden so wet and the days getting longer every day, there is a real sense of frustration amongst gardeners to get started with new season’s crops!

But rather than sow and plant into soils that are sodden and cold, this is a year when modular growing will really pay off.


Modular or cell pack plant raising

Sowing or transplanting into cell pack or modular trays is a gardening technique that has been steadily gaining momentum whether the soil is wet or not.

onion seedlings in a modular tray

Onion seedlings

This is what I mean by ‘modular growing’.

It means that we can provide better conditions to get young plants started and end up with stronger plants to grow on.

And because each plant has its own discrete root zone, disturbance when transplanting into the final growing place is minimised.



Which type to use

Cell and modular trays come in a lot of different shapes and sizes and so it is important to choose a type that suits what you are going to sow or prick out.

A cell pack with 50 small holes would suit direct sown lobelia, alyssum, lettuce, rocket or spinach.

But for plants with larger leaves, a modular unit with fewer larger holes is needed.

So for sowing or pricking out kale, cabbage, sprouts, stocks and marigolds; use these larger ones.

At the top end, beans and garden and sweet peas need the biggest containers.


It takes more space

But before you think that you can sow everything into modules, just bear in mind that this requires a lot more space!

cauliflower plants in cell trays

Cauliflower plants in a cell tray

So for some bedding and vegetable plants it will pay to sow your packets into pots or trays filled with seed compost. Then prick them out into modules just as soon as they are big enough to easily handle.

In fact many plants that have very small seeds are definitely best sown this way and transplanted.

Fibrous rooted begonia, impatiens, celery and celeriac all have tiny seeds and are prime examples.



What growing conditions do you need for modular growing?

The growing conditions that you will need for modular growing will vary. Easy plants such as rocket, lettuce, marigold and Alyssum tolerate much cooler conditions than the others.

Hollyhock seedlings, modular growing

Hollyhock [Alcea] seedlings

Also bear in mind that a higher temperature is often needed to kick start germination. After that plants will tolerate a lower temperature to grow on.

And before you put everything in the airing cupboard until it has sprouted, there are a few, and it is a very few, that need light to germinate! Put celery in the dark and, no matter how warm it is, it just refuses to germinate but bring it out into the light and it’s up in next to no time!



Deeper containers for modular growing

sowing beans in a seed tray of compost, modular growing

Sowing beans into Rootrainers

For those deeper rooted plants such as beans, peas and perhaps some root crops, the Rootrainer is the answer!

These reusable cell units are shaped so that plant roots are trained downwards, thwarting their usual habit of growing round and round inside a pot.

When these roots reach the bottom- which is cunningly raised by their supporting frame – they grow out into the air and the root tips dry off and die. As a result lots of new roots are produced back inside the Rootrainer cell! This produces an exceptional root system that is ideal for transplanting!

Of course, all these modular ways of sowing and growing puts more emphasis on using well-mixed and good quality compost. Each cell must contain everything that the young plant needs!



Raised Beds

The popularity of growing plants in raised beds continues to grow every year.

This form of more intensive production is perfect for using modules to raise young plants.

With baby plants ready to plant this is an ideal way to maximise output!

Amateur gardeners can really benefit from modular growing. They can maximise the output of food and flowers from even the smallest space.

I’ve written about sowing chillies and peppers here.

I’ve some tips on sowing tomatoes here.

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