This is an excerpt on starting and transplanting seeds from Farming For Security by William B. Duryee. Duryee was the New Jeresy State Secretary of Agriculture, and wrote several books on the subject of farming. We are fortunate enough to have Farming For Security, published in 1943 on the brink of World War II, in our reference library. Expect to see more from this book in future website postings and the pages of the journal.
“Some garden crops do best if they are grown by setting plants rather than by sowing seed in the open ground. Included in this group are cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplants, peppers, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Vegetable garden authorities recommend the use of a seed box for raising small quantities of early plants. The box should be 3 to 4 inches deep, about 1 foot wide and 2 feet long. In the bottom of this box is placed about 1 inch of well-rotted manure. This small seeding area is then filled with good garden soil, which is thoroughly firmed, and then the seed is sown in rows about 2 inches apart and about 1/4 inch deep. The box is then placed in a warm location, and water is added from time to time so that the seed may germinate quickly. A piece of glass covering the box will hold the moisture and hasten germination, after which it is removed. When the plants are two inches or so high, they are thinned to make room so that each plant can make stocky growth. Ventilation is important as a preventative measure agains “damping off” of the young plants.
These plants can then be transplanted to the garden or, if additional growth is desired, they can be transplanted to a cold frame. This is an area of fertile soil covered with an ordinary glass frame, 3 by 6 feet in size. The transplanted stock will make additional growth under the glass and will develop into large-sized plants for later setting out in the garden.
It will be noted that this method of getting plants started requires some experience and knowledge. Studying the methods of near-by plant growers or gardeners will give the novice a great deal of help. Although this is the cheapest way of growing plants, the beginner will find it desirable to purchase part or all of his plants from a reliable grower. These plant growers usually specialize in this enterprise and as a rule follow the changing public preference for certain varieties of each type of vegetable. By purchasing well-grown, disease-free plants, the freshman gardener will eliminate a lot of tedious work, avoid the risk of getting poor plants through mismanagement and will be able to buy what he needs at the time he is ready to go to work.”