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Planting the Seedlings

I had to leave town, on business, just as the seedlings were ready to plant. I was afraid that if I waited until I returned, the seedlings would be weak or dead. After all, they were growing in a small cell of peat, in a tub of water. Not much food to eat!

I did manage to plant one small container, in the morning, before I caught my plane. Sure enough, when I returned 11 days later, the seedlings in the flat had yellowed from lack of nutrients. I planted the remainder of the seedlings immediately.

A few of the plants were too weak and did not survive. But, most recovered and thrived. A good reminder that rice is a grass. And a very hardy grass, at that!

If you are transplanting directly into garden soil, make sure your soil is prepared to receive the rice, just as you would prepare the soil for any vegetable seedling. The soil should be loose and free of competing plants. Have a container of luke warm water ready.

If you are transplanting into closed bottom "mini-paddies", add water to the paddies until the water level is about 1 inch (about 2.5 cm) above the top of the soil. Use warm water or allow the filled containers to stand until the water is no longer cold.

The seedlings are transplanted by removing the flat from the water and tipping it at an angle. You may need a flat instrument, like a butter knife, to help free the soil from the surrounding walls of the cells. Be gentle when pulling the long roots through the holes in the bottom of the cells.

Remove the seedlings, one at a time. If you are direct seeding, place the seedlings in the ground, about 6" (15 cm) apart, in rows that are spaced at least 8" (20 cm) apart. Try to insert the roots naturally, so they are not balled up or crimped. Gently tamp the soil so it hugs the roots. Add warm water around each seedling, as you go. If you have the space, consider a wider distance between rows. Choose a layout that will allow you to keep the area clear of competing plants*.

* I don't like to use the word "weeds". All plant life serves a valuable purpose in the web of life, even if it sometimes seems to interfere with our garden activities. A garden is more artificial than the plants that grow in it, whether they were intended to be there, or not. The word "weed" has come to suggest a form of life that is harmful or worthless.

In fact, our garden is full of so-called "weeds" that we have purposely introduced, like Ground Ivy and Amaranth. Both of these serve to hold back more voracious garden competitors. The Amaranth is an introduced variety, from Central America, and can be used as a cooked green. The local variety of wild Ground Ivy makes an excellent garnish for Miso and vegetable soups. Both are easy to control.

If you are planting in a mini-paddy, the process is basically the same. Place each seedling's root system into the soaked soil. You can use the same 6" (15 cm) spacing but, unless your paddy is very large, you can ignore the row spacing. You'll be able to remove any competing plants by reaching in, over the side of the container.

During the next few days, some plants will probably dislodge from the wet soil and float on the surface of the water. When this happens, just push the roots back into the mud. After a week, the roots will grow into the soil and take hold.

Leave a small, unplanted area in the mini-paddy. Big enough so you'll be able to dip in a large drinking glass or small pitcher, on its side (to scoop out water, later in the season).