Lots Happening; Nothing Being Said About It!
Ought to be punishable by …. at least something, huh!?
On April 19th, we were blessed with a group of students from UB’s Nutrition and Environment Class which came and helped us clean out some of last year’s growth in the hoophouse. They also helped me plant some basil and tomato seeds in little ¾” blocks.
Consequently, I thought I might share a bit on how we start our plants in the house. We learned of a seed-starting method from Eliot Coleman ( http://www.fourseasonfarm.com/) which greatly reduces transplant shock and produces terrific, strong, healthy seedlings that we tried for the first time last year. We had amazing pepper and tomato transplants last year! The method involves making soil blocks by compressing a moistened soil mixture with soil block forms, or blockers. The blocks are made in three different sizes, ¾” blocks, 2″ blocks, and 4″ blocks. Last year, we created our own soil mix to use with the blockers which worked well, but was a little tricky to get consistently just right, balancing the peat, compost, minerals and water. This year, we bought soil from Vermont Compost Company ( http://www.vermontcompost.com/ ) specifically formulated to work with the soil blockers.
We start out with ¾” blocks. The seeds are dropped on top of the block, ideally in the little indentation created for the seed. We have a spray bottle that waters the blocks without washing the soil or seed away.
After the seed germinates, but before there are any true leaves (the first two leaves that show up aren’t true leaves), the block is ready to be dropped inside a 2″ block formed with a special ¾” hole in the center. The young plant will spend a couple weeks in this size block until it needs to be transplanted into a 4″ block, or hardened off and planted outside in its permanent home.
Using this method works well for most of our plants. A view of our plant table upstairs under the lights shows a portion of the plants we have started so far. We have discovered that covering the little ¾” blocks until the seeds have begun growing improves germination, especially for peppers. There are some seeds I don’t have good success using this method with – parsley is one. I start parsley in jiffy pots. I start large seeds, such as squash and cucumbers, in 3″ peat pots.
Hurray for the sunshine!