Soil block adventures

Thanks to Prime Day, I picked up a soil blocker. I’m on my way to seed starting and cultivating plants in soil blocks.

This meant also making my own seed starting mix, something that I’ve been wanting to do ever since pandemic gardening switched into full gear. I came up with my own DIY mix with media I was able to collect locally.

  • 1 part perlite
  • 1 part organic raised garden soil (Miracle Gro)
  • 1 part organic compost
  • 1-2 handfuls of organic plant food (Espoma Garden Tone)

I used a 1 gallon ice cream plastic container to bucket out my portions into a seed tray and began mixing away.

Realizing that mixing this media in a shallow tray would result in a mess and lots of wastage, I made sure to create a 2nd batch in a stainless steel full size steam pan. We were previously experimenting with high sided steam pans to double as litter trays, but decided it was impractical to keep lidless trays with dogs roaming about looking for “kitty treats”.

Those high sides made it easy to contain the soil mix that turns to slush once you add water. Then it’s just a matter of finding the right jig/dance with the soil blocker to pack the slushy mix and eject the molded blocks.

I forgot to measure the amount of water added to the mix. I was mainly trying to go by feel…so some of my extruded blocks ended up a little crumblier than the next batch. So it’s trial and error for now until I come up with a system that I’m satisfied with and produces the desired results: mainly healthy seedlings.

By the 3rd day, radish, lettuce and kohlrabi seedlings popped up. Success!

Seedlings April 2020

It’s amazing what stay-in-place means for my gardening hobby. I actually get to garden!

Of course, strange days also brings strange weather. I can’t recall the last time I saw April temps dip down into the 30s, but here we are mid-April with overnight temps reminiscent of winter.

It’s a much welcome change from the 100 degree plus Aprils I’ve seen in years past.

But back to the topic of seedlings. I started some seed on 3/31 and here we are about 2 weeks later. Thanks to IG gardenspo, I had to have me some Fish Pepper seeds, which led me to Baker Creek Heirloom Seed, where I bought more than I planned. I never imagined myself growing tomatillos, but I read somewhere that it (along with radishes) would make great pest-attractors and ward pests from companion crops. So into the basket went Purple Tomatillos and Japanese Wasabi Radishes, along with Thai Long Green (Green Elephant Tusk) Eggplant, Jigsaw Pepper, Lemon Bee Balm, Korean Hyssop, and Sirius Blue Sage. Baker Creek also dropped a couple of free seed packets, which I’m still debating on planting.

Wasabi radish seedlings
Wasabi radish seedlings
Free Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds
Free Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds

I was also able to source Strawberry Fields gomphrena…which I’m happy to report, have germinated as well. In fact, all of the seed I sourced from Baker Creek have germinated successfully under grow lights, compared to some older seed that either struggled or haven’t come up at all. The radish germinated in as little as 3 days, which provided near-instant gratification.

Seedling flat
Seedling flat

I direct sowed the Baker Creek lemon bee balm into the garden bed, along with some Outside Pride Mexican Sunflower seeds (sourced from Amazon in 2017) earlier in the month. Nothing has come up as of yet, but I made sure to mark the spot with a pot of wild bee balm purchased from Painted Flower Farm on 4/7.

Anywho, with this cold snap, I’d better go water the plants! More field notes coming soon!