Adventures in Soil Blocking

GottaGo

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I've been busy busy busy, between soil blocking more basil, just the Italian Large Leaf at the moment for the produce stand, and starting the Bush green beans, squash, zukes, cantaloupes and watermelons for the home garden, I just don't have many moments to myself. The seeds started in the 2" blocks have taken off like mad, EXCEPT for, again, parsley and sage. I don't have a clue what I'm doing wrong but it galls me that in order to have a supply I'm going to have to *gasp* buy some?
 

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I've been busy busy busy, between soil blocking more basil, just the Italian Large Leaf at the moment for the produce stand, and starting the Bush green beans, squash, zukes, cantaloupes and watermelons for the home garden, I just don't have many moments to myself. The seeds started in the 2" blocks have taken off like mad, EXCEPT for, again, parsley and sage. I don't have a clue what I'm doing wrong but it galls me that in order to have a supply I'm going to have to *gasp* buy some?
April is kind of nuts with seed starting, planting out, weeding, and many other garden tasks. Fun, but exhausting. There are just not enough hours in the day! Today I planted out almost 200 blocks with bush and pole beans that were ready to take off. We just had many days of rain so I didn't even water them in; I figured they would be warmer overnight with just dry soil on top. If this works it will be amazing, and it the weather turns cold and wet it could be a bust. Two weeks should tell the story.

I wonder if you can start parsley on vermiculite. May have to give that a try. This is what I have in my notes regarding starting parsley:
Soak seeds overnight in very warm water (110F) and then place on moist paper towel in an airtight container, and plant when the radicals emerge (5 days or thereabouts). Then sow indoors ½ “deep in mid-February to mid-March; germination is 12-28 days, so be patient. Plant out or move to tall cell packs outdoors when very small (no more than 4 pairs of leaves) as they will quickly form a taproot. It is important that spring seedlings never experience temperatures at or near freezing, or they will think that they have gone through winter and will bolt by July. Sow outdoors 1 ½ “ deep mid-April through late August.
 

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flowerbug

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... The seeds started in the 2" blocks have taken off like mad, EXCEPT for, again, parsley and sage. I don't have a clue what I'm doing wrong

perhaps the pH is too low for the starter mix?


but it galls me that in order to have a supply I'm going to have to *gasp* buy some?

have you tried different varieties of parsley?
 

GottaGo

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perhaps the pH is too low for the starter mix?




have you tried different varieties of parsley?
I have tried triple curled and flat leaf Italian.

And, I have germination on the triple curled! Even sage is popping a couple up.

And I think I may have found a clue... since herbs in general prefer slightly drier soil, maybe the seeds don't like to be fully wet... just moist, not wet. So I've been letting the blocks go to just shy of dry, and then spritz with a water bottle every day, and gave them a soak once a week. We will see how it goes, but so far so good.
 

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I have tried triple curled and flat leaf Italian.

And, I have germination on the triple curled! Even sage is popping a couple up.

And I think I may have found a clue... since herbs in general prefer slightly drier soil, maybe the seeds don't like to be fully wet... just moist, not wet. So I've been letting the blocks go to just shy of dry, and then spritz with a water bottle every day, and gave them a soak once a week. We will see how it goes, but so far so good.
Yay-- progress! :)
 

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How would you find out the pH of your soil? Like a tag on the bag, or is there a test you can do?

if you want numbers you can get a pH probe.

or you can use any of various test kits that will have different methods.

and then there are such things as red cabbage juice. which will act as a pH indicator but without calibration you won't know any specific number. same with if you use vinegar or baking soda.

pretty much any seed starting product you buy should be an adjusted pH range that is ok for growing most vegetables but i was curious if perhaps those few in particular were more finicky and might want a higher pH.
 

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Our cool rainy weather is creating some logistical challenges, especially in terms of all of the bean seeds that I have started in 2" soil blocks. I was quite concerned that it would be too wet to plant them out, but then yesterday was surprisingly dry all day-- so I was able to plant out all of my blocks of beans. They were started on May 18th, so just 9 days in the blocks. Quite a few had white roots showing when you lifted the blocks up-- a good sign that germination has taken place, even though no green top shoots were visible yet. Others had no roots or shoots, but when I peeked under the soil the beans had plumped up and were beginning to pop. My hope is that now that they are in the garden they will quickly put down deep roots, in preparation for what could be a hot dry summer.

I didn't take photos of them, but I noted that trays of Oregon Sugar Pod II peas and Cascadia peas that were also started on May 18th using 1 1/2" blocks were producing green shoots above the soil as well as long white roots under the blocks. So 7 days in blocks seems about right for pea seeds at this time of year. The method that I used for both the beans and the peas was to form the blocks with moist soil, pop the seeds in the hole created by the blocking tool, and then top the seeds with dry potting mix. Using dry potting mix to cover the seeds means the soil does not crust over, which makes it easy for the green top shoots to emerge. Note that no additional water was added after forming the blocks, as we had fairly cool weather and the blocks still felt still felt oh so slightly damp to the touch after several days. By about day 5 a bit of water was added to the bottom of the trays, but not much.

Today it's raining again with sun in the forecast for late in the day, and then unstable weather for the week ahead. After that we sure hope that things will warm up. While there are so many variable that we can control in the garden the weather is definitely not one of them! 🙃
 

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On April 21st I started a tray of several different varieties of tomato seeds in soil blocks formed using a small nursery pot instead of by using a soil blocking tool. The tray went to my friend's place where he germinated them in a propagation cabinet, and then grew them on his his greenhouse. A couple of days ago he told me that the tomatoes were 'calling to be planted', and when I went to pick them up I was thrilled to see how tall and healthy the seedlings looked . They were huge! Given that I made each block individually and placed them with about a 1/2" gap between each block the seedlings were not at all crowded even though they had been in these blocks for six weeks. There were 20 tomato seedlings on a tray that is the size of a 8 1/" x 11" sheet of paper. Most blocks had just one plant, which is ideal. Transplanting those seedlings was a breeze because the whole block got popped in the bottom of a deep planting hole, with no transplant shock. A few had 2-3 seeds growing in the same block, so those plants were considerably smaller as a result-- and those little seedlings were also traumatized when I had to rip them apart at planting time. So permitting just one tomato to grow per good sized block, and leaving a little gap between each block is definitely something I will try again.
 

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We are experiencing an extended stretch of cold, wet weather and the squash, melon, and cucumber seedlings are not happy. There was no way I could plant them out, so I took the 2" soil blocks and turned them in to soil mountains. The largest one is about 5" tall and 5" across, for a Lower Salmon River Squash seedling. I was able to squeeze five large Bushcrop cucumber mounds on to a cafeteria tray, and I'm holding it under cover close to the house until the deluge has passed. If all goes well they will get planted out two days from now, once things dry out a bit. In the mean time the high tunnel is getting kind of crowded.
 

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