Monday, March 23, 2009

More Soil Blocks

I'm getting better at making soil blocks. I think I wasn't getting the mix wet enough before. Previously I got the mix as wet as a damp sponge. I could squeeze out a drop of water if I really tried. Now I'm adding more water and it seems so soggy. It really disturbs the gardener in me that has been trained not to play with wet soil. However it works.

I still have issues with getting all five of the compartments equally filled with soil. I've taken to jamming the block maker into the soil then checking with my hands to see if there is one or two that didn't really fill up, which for me is usually the case. For those blocks I finish filling them my hand. With these two improvements ALL the blocks now come out usable.

Yesterday I seeded:

  • 2 borage - for the bees, I may direct seed more outside if I find space
  • 12 marigold, Ground Control - to control my nematodes
  • 3 monarda, Panarama Mix - for the bees
  • 6 tithonia, Fiesta Del Sol - for me, I was surprised to find so few seeds in the packet, only about 18? maybe. I used 12, two in each cell. I hope they all germinate.
  • 3 parsley, Italian flat leafed - I usually don't seed them. They self sow every year in my garden, but last year with the rain very few came up and they didn't grow well. I'm making sure I have parsley this year.
  • 5 chard, Bright Lights - I was going to do the red chard, but decided I'll just do all Bright Lights. It is pretty. So I sowed some more. I want about nine plants total (sowed 5 a week ago). I'll sow more if I don't get enough germination from these.

I put them on the heat mat since I had it set up already and the peppers are gone. I put the flower blocks in a brownie container left over from my husband's birthday party. It fit 23 blocks which was good. The chard and parsley went on a lid from one of my plastic containers. I would have put it in the containers like my lettuce seedlings, but the bottom of the containers is not flat. It has a rim that does down farther along the outside and the blocks keep tipping into it. The blocks don't hold together well when they are always tipping over. So I'm on the lookout for things with flat bottoms. The lids are pretty good and hold 8 seedlings pretty well.

The little seedlings aren't up yet. Nor would I expect them to be after just one day, but I'll check them every morning and put them in the sun once they start to germinate. The ones that don't germinate immediately will get covered with saran wrap or an old plastic bag to keep them moist and I will mist them every day to make sure. For now they are covered with lids that keep them all moist.


  1. Oh! Borage! Be sure to post some pics on that- I've been wanting to grow that for my bees. I guess mason bees really like them too. With my soil blocks, I've found that pressing the mold twice into the soil does the job of filling them well- and I've found that the soil has to be pretty wet too! Your blocks look great, Daphne- can't wait to see all the little babies growing :)

  2. Your blocks look great! Like everything else it takes practice, by the time you are finished you will be an expert I am sure! I am taking the easy way out with Dixie cups!

  3. My borage self seeds every year. Not only do the bees love it ( bee balm) but the chickens have a lovely time picking the flowers - keeps them amused for hours as the flowers are taller than they are, so they have to 'jump' to get to them.

  4. I was given borage seeds and plan to grow a few because the plants are so pretty. I didn't know it attracted bees too. Thanks for that information.

  5. I stuff the soil into my block maker with my hands and press it in with my thumbs. Sometimes I think I get them too tightly packed, so I really need to practice pressing it into the soil instead. I found perfect sized plastic trays at the dollar store. They are sturdy and have a good rim to hold the moisture wen bottom watering. I bought a half dozen or so, they are so easy to move around.

  6. I love borage, I planted some about 4 years ago and it nicely pops up all over the yard on its own. I should pick up some herb seeds as well. I recalled last year spending almost $4 per 4" pot for herbs so there is money to be saved there. Should I start the chard now, inside, outside or in the coldframe?

  7. Tessa, I grew it last year and have one really pretty photo in the blog somewhere. I started it too late so it never went to seed.

    Sheila, I'm sure in a year I'll have figured it all out lol

    Cosmic, Oh I want to see a video of that. I can see the chickens now.

    Cheryl, yup and you can even eat the blossoms, though I've never done that before. Oh and now I've found out my tithonia attracts butterflies. I can't wait until summer.

    Annie's Granny, I have to find some good trays too. I find that flats are too flimsy. When I pick them up the blocks move around and bash into one another. I need something with a sturdier bottom.

    Dan, I love flowers that just pop up on their own. They make life so easy. Well last year I started chard outside in my beds, but it took a while to get big, so I figured this year I'd start it inside. I hear that it is an early plant and can take lots of frost, so it seems that starting it outside but very early might be the way to go. I'm not sure yet. Last year was the first year I grew it.

  8. You are tempting me to try a soil blocker. I'll have to do some research....

    BTW, I learn so much from your blog, thanks for sharing your years of gardening experience!

  9. What do you think of the Fort Vee potting mix? I'm trying it this year, too. I was impressed to find itty bitty little pieces of granite in it. Does it work well in the block maker?

  10. Ali, So far it works fine in the block maker, but I'd need to use the mix you are supposed to prepare to see if it compares with that. I'm not going to this year. I have plenty of the soil to use. I'm thinking it could use a little more peat moss so it would hold together better, but I think most of the troubles I've been having are moisture related (as in not enough) and not the fault of the mix.

    My biggest issue right now is what I put them in. Most people make flats out of plywood. Those would be good, but I would like something lighter. I'd like plastic but it has to be sturdy plastic. The flats just don't make it. I need a plastic that won't bend on the bottom. I'm still looking.