May 15: Seeding and Transplanting on the Rooftop - by Bryan Vicente, Alberto Stefanelli, & Anita Lazurko


Many people want to get into garden but don’t know where to start, and others start their own garden but may not achieve the results they are looking for. The CEU rooftop garden is a unique way for busy students and staff at the CEU to reconnect with nature and learn about healthy, effective ways of producing vegetables in their own backyards.

One of the most important steps of the gardening process happens right after you finish planning out your crop rotations and purchasing supplies – preparing the seed bed, direct seeding plants, or transplanting seedlings from pots into the garden. Without proper technique for starting and planting seeds, your chance of producing a successful crop drops significantly. The organic gardening practicum class, run by the CEU Environmental Sciences and Policy department, hosted a workshop on Monday, May 15 to do some transplanting after the harvest the previous week, and to share knowledge. 12 people were in attendance and participated in the workshop!

The workshop began with an introduction to the concepts of seeding and transplanting from two CEU students. Anita introduced the basic concepts of direct seeding into your own garden: considering the type of plants that are best seeded by hand, physical constraints such as furrow depth and spacing, and the importance of planning the seasonality of your seeding. For example, the CEU rooftop garden has radishes, beans and other hand-seeded plants that required a furrow and spacing that considered the limited space and germination rate of the seeds. The rooftop garden also has some hand seeded greens and root vegetables, but the tomato, cucumber, herbs, squash, pepper, and flowers were started in small pots. The group discussed techniques such as using a string run between two stakes in the ground to make straight rows, and they also discussed techniques to maximize useable space in the garden, such as using spirals.

Brian introduced the concept of transplanting, which is the process of starting seedlings in one place and setting them out in the garden once they have reached a further stage of maturity. He shared useful tips, such as using transplanting only for crops that regrow their roots easily, such as celery, lettuce, onion, and tomatoes, and to avoid ‘bare root’ practices that damage root functionality. The best way to mitigate this is to use soil blocks, in which the entire block of soil in the starting pot is moved to the plant’s new home in the garden.

The group also discussed the importance of companion planting as part of the garden planning process. To make things more interesting, each participant was designated as a ‘plant’ and given a companion planting chart. As participants mingled and tried to determine if other ‘plants’ were their companions, small ‘gardens’ were formed. The activity was a fun way to act out the challenge of planning a garden that reflects the type of food we like to eat, the type of plants that do and do not like to grow next to one another, and the diversity of options that exist to create a successful garden!

Next, Alberto demonstrated techniques to prepare the seed bed and transplant seedlings. The group spent the rest of the afternoon preparing the seed bed and transplanting tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers into the rooftop garden. Overall, the group had an enjoyable time on a sunny afternoon learning new techniques for seeding and transplanting and sharing their love of gardening!