Adventures in Soil Blocking

Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Dec 2, 2022
Messages
1,399
Reaction score
4,461
Points
175
Location
Southwestern B.C.
Well, my first round of herb seeds are doing well, and actually need to be potted up. 3 Types of basil, oregano, sage and thyme. Had a couple of non-germinators, but have had very good luck with the 1.5" blocker. Got rapid germination on heat mats.

Now into second round with tomatoes (3 types) and some more herbs. They are taking a little longer, as DH changed up the plugs for lights and mats without telling me that if I used the switch, I was turning off the lights AND the heat mats lol. They new batches are catching up now that I know!
This is such encouraging news GottaGo-- I am so very glad to hear that you are having success with using the 1.5" blocker. I think for most people that would be the idea size as it is suitable for most seeds-- and it is definitely the size that I am using most often. My tomatoes can stay in the 1.5" blocks for 3-4 weeks, and once they are in the basement under lights those large blocks can go 3-4 days without watering. I almost always pre-germinate the seeds under paper towel first (which can take 3 days for lettuce, 5-7 days for tomatoes, and up to several weeks for peppers), and then sow the seeds in the blocks once the radicle emerges. So I don't even make the soil blocks until most of the seeds show signs of life. It seems that every year I have a new 'favourite' seed starting technique. Lol.
☺️
 

GottaGo

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Oct 13, 2020
Messages
163
Reaction score
503
Points
135
Location
NE Tennessee
This is such encouraging news GottaGo-- I am so very glad to hear that you are having success with using the 1.5" blocker. I think for most people that would be the idea size as it is suitable for most seeds-- and it is definitely the size that I am using most often. My tomatoes can stay in the 1.5" blocks for 3-4 weeks, and once they are in the basement under lights those large blocks can go 3-4 days without watering. I almost always pre-germinate the seeds under paper towel first (which can take 3 days for lettuce, 5-7 days for tomatoes, and up to several weeks for peppers), and then sow the seeds in the blocks once the radicle emerges. So I don't even make the soil blocks until most of the seeds show signs of life. It seems that every year I have a new 'favourite' seed starting technique. Lol.
☺️
I've never gone the 'pre-germinate' route, using pots or now the soil blocker. I'm an impatient gardener, lol. For some reason I'm having issues with the spinach, though. Only 2 out of 8 germinated, and it's fresh seed. I'll reseed tomorrow, even though it's the wane of the moon. Next week I'll be doing root crops by direct sow, and cover with row cover, and plastic if temps drop that low. Then around March 14, time to soil block for the flower seeds!

Iluuuuuvvvv Spring!
 

Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Dec 2, 2022
Messages
1,399
Reaction score
4,461
Points
175
Location
Southwestern B.C.
I've never gone the 'pre-germinate' route, using pots or now the soil blocker. I'm an impatient gardener, lol. For some reason I'm having issues with the spinach, though. Only 2 out of 8 germinated, and it's fresh seed. I'll reseed tomorrow, even though it's the wane of the moon. Next week I'll be doing root crops by direct sow, and cover with row cover, and plastic if temps drop that low. Then around March 14, time to soil block for the flower seeds!

Iluuuuuvvvv Spring!
I 💚 spring too!

One of the things I like best about pre-germinating seeds is that I get to observe the seeds as they change. First they swell up a bit, and sometimes the seed even changes colour; I am noticing that many pepper seeds sometimes take on a purple cast. Then when the radicle begins to poke out of the seed casing it feels like a personal victory, and it lifts my mood. Lol. I am also noticing that peppers sometimes have erratic germination, so if I start lots of seeds after a few days or weeks I can pick and choose the most vigorous ones to place in soil blocks. If all of the seeds that I select have visible radicles I know that they are ready to grow, and that most of their cotyledons will emerge from the soil at about the same time. Then any remaining ungerminated seeds just sit a while longer, until they show signs of life.

On the topic of spinach, a couple of years ago I stumbled on to what appears to be a very successful way of pre-sprouting the seeds before sowing them. You soak the seeds for 6 hours, drain them, and place them in darkness overnight to pre-germinate (an opaque bowl with a plate on top of it, placed on the kitchen counter will do the trick). The next day once they show signs of life plant the seeds 1/2" deep outside (good chance that there could be some variation in how long this takes, depending on which variety you select). I have had excellent success with this method; in fact I was shocked to see that many of the seeds had sprouted after just one day. I was also surprised to see that the seeds had more than doubled in volume over night. I think I soaked way too many seeds; I thought that I had only soaked a few, yet in the morning there seemed to be thousands of them. Lol. For this reason I recommend having a planting site or container prepped and ready to go before you soak the seeds-- because they just take off running. (And if you end up trying this technique please let me know how it goes for you).

My personal preference is to grow spinach in deep containers, so they can be kept out of the elements during poor weather (it can rain a LOT here during the spring). I tend to crowd the seeds in the pot, poking them in just 2-3" apart. Last year I tried spinach in 3/4" soil blocks and it did not go well at all; they germinated just fine, and then did horribly when I set the plants out in the garden. Seeds that were pre-germinated and sown in containers in mid-February produced spinach for us in early May. I think that in our Pacific Northwest climate direct sowing small successions starting in late winter is the way to go. We are also able to sow spinach at the end of August and still get a good crop as well.
 
Last edited:

flowerbug

Garden Master
Joined
Oct 15, 2017
Messages
15,951
Reaction score
23,928
Points
417
Location
mid-Michigan, USoA
I 💚 spring too!

One of the things I like best about pre-germinating seeds is that I get to observe the seeds as they change. First they swell up a bit, and sometimes the seed even changes colour; I am noticing that many pepper seeds sometimes take on a purple cast. Then when the radicle begins to poke out of the seed casing it feels like a personal victory, and it lifts my mood. Lol. I am also noticing that peppers sometimes have erratic germination, so if I start lots of seeds after a few days or weeks I can pick and choose the most vigorous ones to place in soil blocks. If all of the seeds that I select have visible radicles I know that they are ready to grow, and that most of their cotyledons will emerge from the soil at about the same time. Then any remaining ungerminated seeds just sit a while longer, until they show signs of life.

On the topic of spinach, a couple of years ago I stumbled on to what appears to be a very successful way of pre-sprouting the seeds before sowing them. You soak the seeds for 6 hours, drain them, and place them in darkness overnight to pre-germinate (a bowl with a plate on top of it, placed on the kitchen counter will do the trick). The next day once they show signs of life plant the seeds 1/2" deep outside (good chance that there could be some variation in how long this takes, depending on which variety you select). I have had excellent success with this method; in fact I was shocked to see that many of the seeds had sprouted after just one day. I was also surprised to see that the seeds had more than doubled in volume over night. I think I soaked way too many seeds; I thought that I had only soaked a few, yet in the morning there seemed to be thousands of them. Lol. For this reason I recommend having a planting site or container prepped and ready to go before you soak the seeds-- because they just take off running. (And if you end up trying this technique please let me know how it goes for you).

My personal preference is to grow spinach in deep containers, so they can be kept out of the elements during poor weather (it can rain a LOT here during the spring). I tend to crowd the seeds in the pot, poking them in just 2-3" apart. Last year I tried spinach in 3/4" soil blocks and it did not go well at all; they germinated just fine, and then did horribly when I set the plants out in the garden. Seeds that were pre-germinated and sown in containers in mid-February produced spinach for us in early May. I think that in our Pacific Northwest climate direct sowing small successions starting in late winter is the way to go. We are also able to sow spinach at the end of August and still get a good crop as well.

you're gaining a wealth of experience. :) fun to read your observations and results.
 

BeanWonderin

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Jan 21, 2021
Messages
128
Reaction score
587
Points
135
Location
Upper Peninsula, Michigan
Trying my first soil blocking this year!
IMG_3517.jpeg
 

GottaGo

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Oct 13, 2020
Messages
163
Reaction score
503
Points
135
Location
NE Tennessee
*sad sigh*
I'm losing my broadleaf sage seedlings. One just collapsed the other day, and now 3 more are toppling over. Only 1 out of 6 germinations looks like it's going to make it. I'll be potting her up so I can regulate water/temp/sunlight better. I'll start some more, but a small single tray may be used for the re-start.
 

Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Dec 2, 2022
Messages
1,399
Reaction score
4,461
Points
175
Location
Southwestern B.C.
*sad sigh*
I'm losing my broadleaf sage seedlings. One just collapsed the other day, and now 3 more are toppling over. Only 1 out of 6 germinations looks like it's going to make it. I'll be potting her up so I can regulate water/temp/sunlight better. I'll start some more, but a small single tray may be used for the re-start.
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. 🧐
 

Latest posts

Top