Reeger Farm Tour, Part 3: The Transplanter

The past week has brought on yet more intriguing new experiences here at Reeger’s. Previously we had been sorting and packing our produce in the kitchen, but with the weather getting nicer we decided to move the operation outside to the pavilion behind the market.

The breeze comes through softly under the pavilion and there are even some birds nesting in the rafters. There are certainly some natural advantages over stainless steel. We even brought out the utility sink and hooked it up with a hose, also up the rafters.

Previously on the Reeger Farm Tour I showed you the greenhouse beside the market, the one in which we start plants from seed. This week we began transplanting these into the fields. There are a number of fields made up with rows covered in plastic to keep out weeds. We transplant into the mounds beneath this plastic. This is a complicated process  though.

First, a hole must be cut in the plastic. Then the ground must be loosened up to make room for the plant. The newly transplanted plant is also going to need water. All of this for a single transplant! Not to mention that the rows should be neatly aligned. How do we do it?

Years ago the Reeger’s designed a machine specifically for this process. We call it the transplanter.

The transplanter

Pulled behind a tractor, the transplanter has a number of important features. Each part of the odd machine fulfills a part of the process I explained above. Before we start I should mention we will lower the transplanter from where it is in the picture above.

First, the yellow wheel will roll along on top of the plastic row punching evenly spaced holes. On the front of the tractor, as you can see in the next picture, there is a large water tank. This water is pumped out of a hose into the center of the yellow wheel. From there, it flows out of a hole inside each of the triangular spikes and into the newly punctured holes in the soil. This water loosens up the ground and makes a welcome home for the new plants.

Next, two people will sit and lie on the back of the transplanter to place the plants into the new holes. We load up trays of the plants onto the diagonal shelves above the chairs. The planter in the orange chair will pull the plants out of their trays and place them into the holes. Then the planter lying on the bench-like apparatus will more firmly plant the plant, leveling out the dirt.

A cart full of peppers ready to be transplanted.

Preparing to transplant

Maggie is placing the plants in their holes and Mary is securing them there.

Another angle of the complex transplanting process.

Each member of the three-person transplanting team has to be constantly aware to make this process work. The tractor driver has to drive evenly to keep the holes in line. The planter in the chair not only has to prepare the plants but they must also push and pull a lever to stop and start the flow of water into the yellow wheel. The transplanter lying down has to keep up with the pace of the tractor, digging around in countless muddy holes while lying down, which, while effective, can be quite uncomfortable over time. Despite the difficulty this method of transplanting is much more effective than moving each plant by hand.