Adventures in Soil Blocking

flowerbug

Garden Master
Joined
Oct 15, 2017
Messages
16,094
Reaction score
24,253
Points
417
Location
mid-Michigan, USoA
So sorry to hear about your seedlings keeling over GottaGo. Is that perennial shrubby sage that you are growing? Last year I tried growing several perennials from seed including Compact Golden Flax and Rhubarb, and while they seemed to do alright when I started them indoors, most of them perished once I moved them outside. Too much moisture in the soil when I moved them outside was likely part of the problem; now I try to keep seedlings a bit drier, or in our cool damp climate their roots are prone to rotting. I was also treating them like the annuals that I grow, and expecting them to quickly bulk up. Evidently perennials grow much more slowly than annuals and sometimes need a lot more babying for their first year or so. I wonder if any of these factors may have played a role in your scenario. 🧐

the more dryland plants may be more succeptible to damping off so it may help to start the seeds in a more nutrient poor substrate or to use some sand, grit or pebbles on the surface.
 

GottaGo

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Oct 13, 2020
Messages
169
Reaction score
521
Points
135
Location
NE Tennessee
Well, I've been spoiled it seems. I started some flower seeds last week in the standard 6 pack plastic packs. Yesterday I need to transplant into small pots (for resale) and while they had nice little root structures, they we a mighty pain to get out of the cells. Not like soil blocked seedlings, easy to move with minimal root disruption, and no plastic waste..... ❤️
 

Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Dec 2, 2022
Messages
1,469
Reaction score
4,671
Points
175
Location
Southwestern B.C.
Pre-germinating tomato seeds in tiny take out cups continues to work really well for me this year. I place the seeds under a 1" square of damp paper towel in the cup, stack them, and then put a lid on just the top cup. They sit in the fridge for a few days, and then I bring them to room temperature until they show signs of germinating; often this happens after just a couple of days. I sow some of the seeds in large 4" soil blocks with 2-4 seeds per block, and with some I put just one tomato seed per 1 1/2" block.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_20240405_114153329.jpg
    IMG_20240405_114153329.jpg
    205.9 KB · Views: 31
  • IMG_20240405_114057873.jpg
    IMG_20240405_114057873.jpg
    132.9 KB · Views: 24
  • IMG_20240406_074655407.jpg
    IMG_20240406_074655407.jpg
    191.8 KB · Views: 27
Last edited:

Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Dec 2, 2022
Messages
1,469
Reaction score
4,671
Points
175
Location
Southwestern B.C.
The photo below on the right shows Ferrari bush beans that were started March 30th and sown in 2" soil blocks. This variety can handle cool weather better than most and I have a big bag of Ferrari seeds, so I am taking a chance in starting them really early. I also started a second succession of Ferrari today. It's good to plant several rounds of this cultivar because they are a determinate bean, which means they produce a lot but only for a few weeks.

Yesterday I sowed a bunch of Purple Queen bush beans in 1 1/2" blocks, and instead of covering the seeds with moist mix I topped them with dry potting mix to reduce the likelihood of the seed rotting. It's still kind of early in the season for these beans, but purple beans are supposed to be more cold tolerant than green beans so I figure it's worth a shot. If I can get them started I will plant them out with row cover for extra warmth. I did two trays of Purple Queen: one tray with seed from Botanical Interests, and a second tray with their seed that I grew out and saved last year. I am curious to see if the saved seed will produce more vigorous bean plants, as compared to seeds direct from the seed company.

Over the years I have accumulated quite a number of toilet rolls and I would like to find a use for them, so I cut a bunch of them in half and packed them 3/4 full with moist blocking mix. Then I firmly pressed a bean seed in to each one, and finished by topping them with dry blocking mix. They are kind of like little tubular soil blocks, with a cardboard wrapper. My concern is that the cardboard on the rolls will unravel and then when the beans sprout dirt will shoot all over the place, so as a precaution I placed the tray on newspaper in a big flat cardboard box. It will be interesting to see if this works. :)
 

Attachments

  • IMG_20240408_112059515.jpg
    IMG_20240408_112059515.jpg
    213.7 KB · Views: 24
  • IMG_20240408_102047183.jpg
    IMG_20240408_102047183.jpg
    189.5 KB · Views: 24
  • IMG_20240408_162156564.jpg
    IMG_20240408_162156564.jpg
    319.3 KB · Views: 28
Last edited:

flowerbug

Garden Master
Joined
Oct 15, 2017
Messages
16,094
Reaction score
24,253
Points
417
Location
mid-Michigan, USoA
The photo below on the right shows Ferrari bush beans that were started March 30th and sown in 2" soil blocks. This variety can handle cool weather better than most and I have a big bag of Ferrari seeds, so I am taking a chance in starting them really early. I also started a second succession of Ferrari today. It's good to plant several rounds of this cultivar because they are a determinate bean, which means they produce a lot but only for a few weeks.

Yesterday I sowed a bunch of Purple Queen bush beans in 1 1/2" blocks, and instead of covering the seeds with moist mix I topped them with dry potting mix to reduce the likelihood of the seed rotting. It's still kind of early in the season for these beans, but purple beans are supposed to be more cold tolerant than green beans so I figure it's worth a shot. If I can get them started I will plant them out with row cover for extra warmth. I did two trays of Purple Queen: one tray with seed from Botanical Interests, and a second tray with their seed that I grew out and saved last year. I am curious to see if the saved seed will produce more vigorous bean plants, as compared to seeds direct from the seed company.

Over the years I have accumulated quite a number of toilet rolls and I would like to find a use for them, so I cut a bunch of them in half and packed them 3/4 full with moist blocking mix. Then I firmly pressed a bean seed in to each one, and finished by topping them with dry blocking mix. They are kind of like little tubular soil blocks, with a cardboard wrapper. My concern is that the cardboard on the rolls will unravel and then when the beans sprout dirt will shoot all over the place, so as a precaution I placed the tray on newspaper in a big flat cardboard box. It will be interesting to see if this works. :)

put a dozen Purple Dove beans for a side by side comparison? :) (enabling... :) ... )
 

Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Dec 2, 2022
Messages
1,469
Reaction score
4,671
Points
175
Location
Southwestern B.C.
Hurrah Lavender Tie Dye petunias will be one of the new seeds that I will grow out this summer, and yesterday 20 of them got their start in 3/4" soil blocks. Petunias are one of the few seeds that I start in the tiny blocks. Once they germinate they grow quickly, so I will plan on bumping them up to the 2" blocks in a few weeks time. I was reminded of how quickly the coating on the pelleted seeds breaks down and turns to mush when it hits the moist soil. You more or less have to firm in one seed at a time, because if you sow them all and then go back to firm them in they just disintegrate.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_20240412_153142974.jpg
    IMG_20240412_153142974.jpg
    301.5 KB · Views: 22
  • IMG_20240412_153128297.jpg
    IMG_20240412_153128297.jpg
    168.8 KB · Views: 30

Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Dec 2, 2022
Messages
1,469
Reaction score
4,671
Points
175
Location
Southwestern B.C.
Funny you should mention it flowerbug-- the seeds that I tried in the cardboard rolls are in fact a couple of Purple Dove outcrosses. No guts, no glory! Lol 😊
We have lift off! 😂

Update: starting bean seeds in short toilet rolls seemed to work well. After two weeks about half of them had green sprouts visible on the surface of the soil, so we carefully unrolled the cardboard and planted the the tubes of soil in the garden. These soil 'blocks' were a lot sturdier than I would have thought they would be. This is definitely something we will try again-- in particular for gifting bean seedlings, as there are no seedling pots involved.

With the cardboard on you can even pick the seedlings up without getting your hands dirty. I think it best to remove the cardboard before planting though. In the past I have planted seedlings with the toilet roll still attached and I would not do that again as the cardboard wicks away moisture from the plant, and becomes litter in the garden as well.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_20240421_131620032.jpg
    IMG_20240421_131620032.jpg
    257.1 KB · Views: 25
  • IMG_20240422_102321996.jpg
    IMG_20240422_102321996.jpg
    244.1 KB · Views: 17
Last edited:

Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Dec 2, 2022
Messages
1,469
Reaction score
4,671
Points
175
Location
Southwestern B.C.
I have so many 1 1/2" soil blocks on the go-- I'm running out of trays to put them on. There are lettuce, peas, sunflowers, lots of perennial flowers, and several types of beans. The lettuce and flowers will be in the blocks for 3-4 weeks, and just a couple of weeks for the legumes because they grow really fast. They all seem to be quite happy sitting under row cover for now. Today I had hoped to plant several trays out, but a squall moved in and quickly dashed my plans; now the soil is too wet to work. Yesterday the exact same thing happened. There should be drier weather going forward, so with a little luck tomorrow will be planting day.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_20240421_093235932.jpg
    IMG_20240421_093235932.jpg
    190.1 KB · Views: 23
  • IMG_20240421_093406625.jpg
    IMG_20240421_093406625.jpg
    235.5 KB · Views: 24

Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Dec 2, 2022
Messages
1,469
Reaction score
4,671
Points
175
Location
Southwestern B.C.
We have a stretch of rain ahead so my latest tray of bush beans in 2" blocks will have to be held on the deck for a few days before I can plant them out. Typically I like to use row cover to protect them, but the tall stems seem fragile; I'm concerned that the seedlings might get damaged if the wind blows the fabric around a lot. It turns out that inverted plastic milk crates fit well over the trays, so that's what's protecting the beans now. I like that they're out of reach of critters but the wind can still whip through the sides of the crate, giving the beans lots of exposure to the elements.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_20240424_072524347.jpg
    IMG_20240424_072524347.jpg
    282.4 KB · Views: 23
  • IMG_20240424_072658267.jpg
    IMG_20240424_072658267.jpg
    290.1 KB · Views: 19
  • IMG_20240424_072558794.jpg
    IMG_20240424_072558794.jpg
    188.1 KB · Views: 18
Top