Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Gardening Season Has Officially Started

All cleaned up

Tuesday I finally got off my derriere and started cleaning up after last year. All the trays I use to hold my soil block were still dirty. I always mean to clean them up in the summer and fall when I'm done with them, but of course that never happens. I always put it off until the last minute. I don't use chlorine. I know all the gardening experts tell you to. But I hate the stuff and I just use dish detergent and water and a lot of scrubbing.

I finally got them clean because when I was making my schedule I looked at last year's records. My onions turned out great last year. I had planted them on January 21st. It is already past that date. So I had to get a move on. I wanted more onions than I had last year. On Wednesday I planted two and a half flats of 1 1/2" soil blocks. There are 72 in a flat, so that was 180 blocks. I probably don't need that many but it can't hurt to have them. I'm pretty sure I will still have enough room under the lights.

The tops of my blocks always look a bit strange. I like to put cinnamon on the surface to help prevent damping off. I also cover the seeds with vermiculite so it will be easier for the seedling to push up. Then I cover them with plastic wrap until I see the first sign they are germinating.

There they are - the first three flats off and running. Some of the seed is a year old but it should still germinate. I didn't do a germination test. But if they don't germinate in a week, I'll reseed with newer seed. I do store my seed in an airtight container in the fridge. So onion seed usually lasts more than a year.

Just to record the varieties: 54 Copra, 54 Redwing, 36 Alicia Craig, 36 Varsity. The yellow storage onions are Copra and Varsity. I grew them last year and they are just starting to have some problems. Some are rotting; some are sprouting; but most are fine. I'm sure for not much longer since I keep seeing more with problems. The Redwing is a red storage onion. I've not lost one of them yet. They will be the last onions eaten since they store so well in my questionable storage area. I keep the braids at the top of the stairs to the basement. It is cool there, but not really cool enough. Next year I ought to store the braids at the bottom of the stairs where it is much colder.

And since I usually get questions about blocks. I'll leave you with a link to my last post on soil blocks.


  1. We started the first of our seedlings last week, some lettuce for the cold frames. I guess I need to get off my tail and get some onions planted too. I usually just end up buying starts of onions because I never seem to get around to starting them myself. Thanks for the reminder.

    I've been thinking about soil blocks for a couple of years now. Maybe this year will be the year?!!

  2. I want your shelf unit! If Lowe's has them in stock, I'll have one by noon. If not, I'll be ordering one. I'm itching to start something else, but I know it's way too early. Oh well, I still have a lot of interior painting to do that will keep me busy for a while.

  3. looks great!! Can't wait to see then all start to grow!

  4. I left my trays on the potting bench on the back patio. Our tiny, adorable puppy turned into a Great Dane. Kudzuki is so tall he can reach everywhere. I no longer have trays, or a watering can, or pots. He even ate the giant (truly giant!)pot I grow potatoes in!

    Grace wanders away muttering "I love my dog. I love my my dog I love...why I oughta!"

  5. I've been itching to get things planted too! I have a new dilemma this year..we have two new cats that only 8 months old. Where am I going to set up my trays?????

  6. Traget sells very similar shelf units and sometimes they are on sale for $50.

  7. You're off to a great start. How long did it take you to make so many blocks? Do you find the drainage screen beneath the soil blocks to be necessary? I don't own any and would rather not have to buy them if I don't need too. What do you recommend?

  8. Yippee for the Official Start of the gardening season. I am finding watering the most difficult part of the blocks. I am going to do as you did and then use self watering material under the blocks. I used to do this with the pots and stopped doing it last year. I raise the top tray a little and it works great.

  9. That's a pretty comprehensive propagation unit! I note the electric fan. Presumably this is to assist with hardening-off the seedlings.
    My first seeds sown this year were some mixed salad leaves. I expect they will go very leggy since they won't have the benefit of lights like your arrangement.

  10. Carol, in a room with a door that can be shut. Or they will just have too much fun.

    Jody, I'm not sure how long it took me. I guess next time I'll have to time it. And yes I do find it necessary. I use the internal tray to water the blocks. I have one outside tray set up with water and I just bottom water all the trays. I remove the inside, dip it into the tray of water, then remove it. It makes watering easy. BTW I didn't own any either. But I asked my friends. The inside trays are just ones that you get when you buy seedlings from the nursery. I had a friend that had a pile of them and was happy to get rid of them. The screening I bought. BTW you don't need the internal trays if you water another way. I've just found it to be the easiest way.

    Mark, yes the fan helps to harden the plants, but it does more than that. I love the word for it - thigmomorphogenisis. The plants grow stockier if they have regular touching. It could be from the fan, or from my hands. Usually with onions I just use my hands every day. I run them over all the plants. It is good for the plants and I can cackle gleefully over them.

  11. I think many of us are guilty of not cleaning trays as we empty them. I am always as you go in the spring. You are ahead of me with the onion count. I only started 100 seed.

    I like you little fan. I am trying to find one and haven't yet.

  12. I start onions and garlic Oct-Dec. I'm still experimenting with the best time and varieties. also my soil is not yet at it's best for onions.

    I have lots of tomato babies under the lights now; old seed that I planted just to see if it would sprout. Amazing, seed over 8 years old still had better than 50%!

    I know what all the experts tell you to do, but I usually ignore them and go my own way. I never wash anything, pots, flats, whatever. Knock the old soil out and they sit about until I need them. Put in fresh soil and off we go. But I live in such a dry climate we never have damping off or much trouble with virus or fungus or things like that.

    I do have a long article on Squidoo about making and using soil blocks with lots of photos. I'll send you the link if you like.

  13. I have only started my tomatoes...I try to do a little at a time since I garden year round. We are lucky enough NOT to get snow. My garden is already full and I luckily my pepper plants died so I can replace them with my tomatoes. Otherwise, my garden is very tight on space!