This machine is hand powered and transplants 100 plants a minute!
If you are into production farming, you've probably heard of the paperpot transplanting system. If not.... you gotta see this thing! It's pretty mind blowing:
Not my straightest row....
Created in Japan for the beet farming industry, this ingenious machine uses 264 cell paper plug trays that break apart into a chain and drop your plants neatly in the ground.
Basically, you pull the machine behind you ... keep it steady, and with a little luck and a lot of skill, your plants drop evenly and gently into the soil. The machine then covers the plant for you, thereby completing the transplanting process ... Sounds amazing, right?
This simple action results in a MASSIVE reduction in labor. What used to take all day can now be done in just an hour or two. Pretty impressive!
This enables someone like myself, who works alone most of the time, to go a bit bigger than would ever be possible otherwise. And in terms of community, this machine allows one person to provide more food to more people with much less labor. Those are both great things, my friends...
So, I believed all the hype and got one of these machines.I purchased mine from Terratek, a Canadian distributor who also sells in the United States. I've been using it all season and while it is very, very useful, it has quite the learning curve. I've lost quite a few of the crops I planted so far!
However, it is still absolutely worth it. It saves me so much time transplanting. I don't think I could ever go back.
For instance, in the picture above, I planted 5 rows of bunch onions, 50' long each, spaced 6" apart with the bunches spaced 4" apart. It took me about 30 minutes. Not bad! I spent another 30 minutes preparing the bed.
Which brings me to my next point: This machine needs very nice soil to operate properly. Can't skimp on bed prep even a little bit! Every little chunk or stone or twig is going to cause issues with the dispensing of the transplants down the chute.
I have discovered that lettuces work very well with this machine. One thing that is cool about the paper pots is that they force the roots downwards. That is a great advantage with lettuce because the roots stay moist even with the top half inch of soil wants to dry out. Very useful in dry climates!
Here's some romaine lettuce I grew with this machine. No complaints!
My lettuce mix has been absolutely prolific. I don't know what it is. Perhaps the machine causing deeper roots like I mentioned above. But, I have been getting record yields in lettuce production. A couple of days ago I harvested 25 lbs off of 75 bed feet. And that was my third cutting! For me, that is a lot of lettuce! Pretty incredible.
The machine itself is pretty expensive. As of 2018 it runs about $1000 from Johnny's.
The pots are also expensive. Each chain is about $5. But since they hold 264 plugs, that's not soooo bad. You can select 2", 4", or 6" spacing, but all the trays hold the same amount of plugs. The spacing is just changed by adding more paper between the 'chain links'.
I didn't get the drop seeder accessory, which makes short and precise work out of seeding the trays, but I really wish I had it. Some seeds you can just use a spice shaker to get good distribution, but anything where you need one or two seeds per plug has to be done by hand.
You also have to buy a spreader bar tool to stretch the paper flats onto the proprietary 24"x12" trays.
All these little accessories are pricey and somewhat essential to using the tool.
Here's something most other reviews are not going to mention about this system: you can plant the paper chains just fine WITHOUT the machine. It's a little slower, a little more tedious, but it works. If I had known that starting out, I might have just bought the chains and saved the money on the machine 'til next year.
So, in conclusion and after a couple of months of use.. I would definitely purchase this tool again. It is cutting my labor way down. Now that I'm figuring out how it works, and what crops I can and can't do, I'm getting some nice results as well. I'll post an update sometime about what crops work best, techniques, etc. This machine is a game changer!
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