There are still plenty of work to be done to clear the beds of storm debris and frost damaged plants. But the seed starting bug has already bitten me hard.
End of January, I had already started a batch of veggie soil blocks which include tomatoes, habaneros, bok choy, lettuces, spinach, bunching onions, and eggplant. I was lucky enough to source most of the seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, who had them in stock at the time.
I have perennial and annual flowers started in soil blocks as we end February in a flurry of garden prepping.
But of course, there are never enough seeds to start and plant.
I’m not the only one with a gardening bug. Seed companies and online plant purveyors have been hammered by the pandemic demand; most are advertising low inventories and out of stock items. My normal go-to vendors are struggling to keep up with the demand, I’m having a hard time filling out my wish list. Meanwhile, local nurseries are still recovering from the winter storm, so inventories might still be scarce as of this writing.
If I do find something I want, it’s usually through Amazon and I’m highly suspect of the quality. I’m still frustrated by the habanero pepper seeds I obtained through there; germination rates are very low, even after re-sow attempts as we are enter the 4th week since I planted them. I plan on moving them onto my growing stand with the powerful lights to see if that will spur them into germination.
I’m bound and determined to grow nasturtiums this year. I had some old packets of Alaska Variegated, but turns out they were too old to germinate. So I picked up several packets at Calloway’s and online from Amazon. While seed shopping I also picked up Spinach and Lettuce seeds, along with bunching onions, chives, marigolds and coneflower seeds. I’m also looking forward to my order from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds, consisting of baby bok and Chinese broccoli, coming soon!
As it turns out, my last seed starting venture left me with a lot of unsprouted soil blocks: arugula, spinach, bok choy, and various types of basil. Cleaning out the old seeds from my collection turned out to be a simple matter of dumping packets into wet paper towels and storing them in plastic zip lock bags.
No surprise here…well except for a single spinach seed that germinated. It just wasn’t worth the effort to keep it.
I also started another flat of soil blocks. The Parris Cos lettuce germinated within a few days. I’m hoping that the basils germinate. I also broke out the fenugreek seeds and sowed them in a pot. I purchased these seeds from Amazon pantry a few years ago, which sold them as spices. But whole fenugreek can also grown from these spice seeds. Even as sprouts, they are very fragrant.
If this batch of soil blocks fails to produce any basil, I may have to run them all through the paper towel method. I’m still hopeful I’ll get some to germinate. Stay tuned.
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!