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Friday Favorite: Soil Block Makers

February 1st, 2019

Many years ago I purchased a soil block maker and have been using it for seed starting. It’s a wonderful tool, both for practical reasons (no plastic seed starting flats needed) and for the plants (reduced transplant shock, air pruning of roots). My old soil block maker started to get rusty and some of the welds were failing, so I purchased two new ones at Johnny’s Seeds. Lucky for me, they were on sale!

I have always used the 2 inch maker, this year I purchased a smaller one as well. With the smaller one I should be able to fit more lettuce seedlings under my grow lights, thus maximizing that space! I have already started a few flats of seeds, onions will be started quite soon. Then the gardening season is up and running….

Do you have any great tools you’ve discovered to recommend?

Better Late Than Never

December 12th, 2018

Last winter I did a great job of growing microgreens and herbs for our meals. I had great intentions of starting flats of green when we got back from Israel, but catching up with work and life got in the way. Yesterday morning I finally got two flats started; one filled with spicy microgreens and the other with cilantro.

I put them under the woodstove to warm up, this should help germination rate and speed. After the soil was warm, I put them on top of my grow light stand, which is in the same room as the woodstove and very warm up that high.

Hopefully in 10 days or so we will be enjoying the microgreens for breakfast. Now I just need to remember to start another flat next week.

What are you doing this week?

Soaking up Some Sun

April 18th, 2018

This time of year, I carry my flats of seedlings in and out so they can get some real sun. Like gardeners, they do much better when able to spend lots of time outside. Eventually, I’ll have a small greenhouse, then I won’t have to do this chore.

Typically, I’m already transplanting seedlings in the garden, but this year spring is taking a long time to arrive. That’s OK with me, it gives me more time to get some of the other necessary chores out of the way. Though I must say, space under the grow lights is becoming very limited!

How do you harden off seedlings?

Always Looking

April 2nd, 2018

I’m always looking for long lasting garden tools, especially when it comes to seed starting. The black plastic trays are ridiculously flimsy and won’t last long at all. They’re so flimsy, they don’t really work with soil blocks. I started using Perma-Nest trays about 8 years ago and really like them a lot. But they are plastic and won’t last forever, I’m guessing 10-15 years will be the max for them. Which is still great considering they’re not much more expensive than the black plastic ones that only last a season. Most recently, I decided to try half sheet pans with lids.

They sheet pans themselves are made of metal, so they should last for many, many years. Even though the lids are plastic, the don’t get as much wear and tear and should last quite awhile as well. They’re less expensive than a tray with a dome, even initially.

One issue I discovered (and thought about previously, but figured I could find a work-around) was the height of the lid. With soil blocks, there’s minimal head room. That’s not a huge deal, as I always remove the lids as soon as seeds start to germinate. The sheets fit the same exact number of soil blocks that a perma-nest tray does (40 of the 2″ soil blocks). There is no way that a plant tag will fit in the blocks, so I taped them on the lid to let me know which varieties were in each row.

Just so the lid wouldn’t get turned around, I added arrows on the lid and on the tray. When I remove the lid, I’ll transfer the labels to the corresponding row of seedlings. That should avoid confusion and only adds a bit more work to the seed starting process. I’ll keep you posted on this product to let you know. I already use chaffing dishes and sheet pans for holding larger pots and have found them to be quite reliable. Their strength is a major benefit over the plastic alternatives. I’ll keep looking for ways to decrease products that don’t last in order to produce less waste in my gardening.

Have you discovered any great products for gardening that aren’t really intended for gardening?

Seed Starting Station

February 5th, 2018

For my entire gardening career, I’ve started seeds on the kitchen table. It’s not a big deal, but here in this house we don’t have a light in the dining room. Thus we have a strand of Christmas lights. They’re OK for ambiance during dinner, but don’t offer quite enough light when starting small seeds.

This winter, I added a station upstairs for my mailing and other work projects. It happens to be PERFECT for seed starting as well. The counter height is perfect, no more stooping over. As long as I work during the day, the light is much better as well (though I still have a strand of lights for added light).
Overall, It’s the perfect space for, not only the work I do there, but for starting seeds as well. I’m hoping to add cork behind the tabletop for pinning up charts and other necessary items.

Where do you start your flats of seeds? Do you have a dedicated area for garden necessities?

Seeds and Sundries
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Berkey Water Filter

This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.