Allow waste by finding your true constraint

With the weather finally warmed up, I potted up my tomato plants to give them more room.

I started with 110 seedling cells with 400-500 seeds in total. Then I had to thin those down to the best plant per cell. Finally I moved them to larger pots for greenhouse, but only had enough room for about 50 of them. In the end I'll probably only plant about 20 or 25 plants.

That means only about 5% of the seeds will end up becoming adult plants.

It sounds like a waste of seed but it's actually a good waste. The cost of these seeds is so low and the supply is so high, what really limits everything is space. It's much easier to use more seeds than necessary and make 100% use of the space, than to be misery with the seeds and have unused space.

In other words, the seeds are not the limiting factor or the constraint of the system. The growing space is. Inside under the lights, in the greenhouse, and in the garden itself space is the most costly resource.

The first gardening method I learned said to be careful with the seeds. Only use two per cell max and save them for later years.

That caused a number of problems:

A better strategy was to over-seed and thin them out over time if there wasn't enough space. Making sure I had kept an inventory of plants ready to go into the ground, not of seeds that needed a month to be plant-able.

That meant having to buy more seeds every few years but by learning how to save seeds, that was avoided in some cases.

(For example, the non-edible parts of one regular-sized tomato fruit has at least 100 seeds and a single plant will often make dozens of fruits)

By figuring out my true constraint was growing space, I was able to optimize the process around that and not worry so much about seeds.

Figuring out what your true constraints are can take awhile.

For most ecommerce stores it'll probably be in the amount of customers you can get to your store. Even if you produce your own goods, you're most likely able to scale up your production with less effort than scaling up your customers.

Eric Davis

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