Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday Seedling Update

It is Monday once again. So I'm going to show you my seedling photos. As I do this every Monday I wonder if it is similar to being subjected to someone's travel slides. Seeing a few slides is so much fun, seeing hundreds makes you want to run in the other direction. Which reminds me, my husband uploaded all our travel photos from the Grenadines. So if you really want to be tortured with photos, go for it.

But back to the main subject, seedlings. They are still going strong. I can see small little roots protruding from the lettuce soil blocks. I think that means it is close to time to plant. The onions have no roots to be seen. I'm sure they are in there, but I don't see them coming out of the bottom of their 12 packs yet. Maybe they are just looping around on the inside.

The seedlings are now being hardened off. Yesterday they saw the late afternoon sun and wind for about an hour and a half. Today was cold. I'm not sure it will make it into the 40s or not, so the seedlings went under the plastic tunnel that I made yesterday in the garden. Right now it is almost 2pm and I'm starting to see a bit of brighter sky. Maybe it will warm up in there. If not, well get used to it seedlings. I've started my spring crops today and as soon as they germinate there will be no room at the inn for you. Life is cruel.

What seedlings did I start? As you can see above I printed out my own list of what I was supposed to be planting today. If I didn't, I'd forget half the seeds. Since you can't read that easily and I forgot some seed despite having a list, I printed out a table for you below. The number after the variety is how many blocks I seeded.

Lettuce Red Sails 2
Lettuce Merveille de Quatre Seasons 2
Lettuce New Red Fire 2
Asian Greens Purple Mizuna 2
Asian Greens Tatsoi 2
Asian Greens Fun Jen 2
Chard Bright Lights 5
Asian Greens Mustard Spinach 2
Asian Greens Tyfon-Holland Greens 2
Asian Greens Chinese Cabbage Rubicon 3
Broccoli Packman 4
Cabbage Gonzales Mini 4
Pepper Cayenne 4
Pepper Early Jalapeno 6
Pepper Serrano 6

I made soil blocks for them all. Though I made 3 too few so will start the rhubarb chard on the 20th when I start my flower seedlings. So far the older soil blocks are holding up OK, but not perfectly. The edges tend to fall off when you aren't gentle with their containers. Since I'm bringing their containers in and out everyday, the edges are looking a tad worn. I think it would be a better design to have a smaller hole for the seeds to go into which would make the edges a little more sturdy. It isn't like you are going to start bean seedlings in these. They are just too small.

My other complaint about the blocker is that you have to make sure the soil is wet enough and you have to really compress it to make it hold together. I think this isn't an issue with the smaller blocks. The blocks are small enough that the roots can get air easily enough. I would be leery of the 4" blocker though. I think I'll stick to newspaper pots when I need something bigger, like transplanting tomatoes and peppers. That big blocker is definitely off of my wish list.

I put the soil blocks in two flats, covering each seed hole with a little soil and misting. One flat was for the peppers so they could germinate with a heat mat under them. The other flat with everything else. I did make a little pair of block tweezers. They are about 3/4" wide. I wish they were wider, but I just flattened an old set of ice tongs that I have but never have used. They work so much better than than my fingers and can pick up a block in the middle of a huge tray. Now I just get to wait and see when things come up.


  1. It would be hard to bore me with seedling photos. Interesting to know about the soil blocker as once again, I was thinking about whether it would be worth my while. I just started some of those tomato seeds you gave me today. The rest need to wait until I get more soil.

  2. Looks like you have everything under control! I have the same feeling about the 4" block maker. I think I'll stick to plastic or maybe paper- I may do an experiment making my own that size as I saw great directions on another blog- now I just have to find it! Hope the weather cooperates with you!

  3. Ever since some of the lettuce sown in the coldframe germinated I have had to seed sowing bug. It seems every day I start something else.

    Your onions are looking good as usual, I bet you will have a bumper crop this year. I see you have started some chard, I should do the same. Maybe that can be my seed fix for tomorrow.

    I fallowed suit and did a seedling monday update as well. If I was only scheduled enough to do it every week, I could hardly keep up with GBBD last season.

  4. Hi Daphne, I am drawn to your Monday seedling update like a moth to a flame, but the travel photos, thanks, but maybe some other time. :-) Your tongs sound like the best tool for moving the blocks. I still don't see how they keep from falling apart. Trying to get my seedlings out of the 36 cells packs has been a nuisance, lots of soil loss even with many roots. I like how your are showing the seedlings tough love under the tunnel. Mine are mostly in a cold frame made from a glass shower door and scrap lumber. But our temps are warmer than yours. The lettuce has been planted in the ground and is growing well. The tomatoes are still going in and out. They are too big for the cold frame, but they are worth the extra effort. Peppers are in the cold frame as long as it stays above freezing. Isn't this fun?

  5. Daphne, I really like the look of your soil blocks. The square shape lets you get more into a particular space.


  6. Everything looks great, Daphne! So beautifully organized, too. I appreciate the update on the soil blocks; they always seemed a bit dubious to me. And, like Frances, I love the idea of the tongs. Ingenious! Keep those seedling photos coming!

  7. Ottawa Gardener, Well the jury is still out om the blockers for me. I love the idea. I really do hate those little plastic pots everywhere. I would love to never have to buy anymore again, but they have their advantages. They can be moved around and turned easily. You don't have to be gentle and they never fall apart. They come in all sorts of different sizes and still all fit in a flat together. They do have other advantages besides getting rid of plastic pots. The roots don't loop around the bottom, they are air pruned. Supposedly they have very minimal transplant shock and don't need to be hardened off as much. I really don't believe that they should only be hardened off for three days as I've read. I would think after being inside they would get some nasty sun scald if you didn't harden for at least 5 days. I could see shorter if the weather is going to be cloudy for a while.

    Tessa, I can see making a 4" one to try. I really don't think you would even need to build a real blocker, just a container without a bottom would work. Compact the soil in there and use your hand to push it out. Usually you need plungers, but with a 4" pot, my hand could push it just fine. I keep thinking of doing this just to try it out and see if I'm right about newspaper pots being better.

    Dan, that is another disadvantage of the soil blocks. Since I have to get the soil just the right wetness and clean everything off afterward, I just don't want to do it every day. Luckily except for this week, I will be only seeding once every two weeks. And I noticed that you joined the seedling update day :> I actually do it on Mondays since later it will be a harvest update and that is when Ottawa Gardener does it (well once we actually get a harvest). In May maybe I can do both at the same time.

    Frances, They don't fall apart for the same reason you aren't supposed to work your soil when it is wet. Everything gets pressed really tightly together like a jigsaw puzzle. I'm guessing there are also some partial bonds formed with the help of the water. My mix has peat moss in it which has long thin strands and probably help weave the soil together very similar to a cloth. Wow you have tomatoes that are too big for the cold frame already. I should start mine soon. My schedule says 4/3, but I'm so chomping at the bit. I might sow a couple of early tomatoes sooner.

    EG, That is one of the reasons I bought the blocker instead of making one. I could have made round ones, but I wanted it all to fit perfectly with no wasted space.

    Our friend Ben, Thanks, I will keep with the updates. It seems half of my comments on blocks ended up in the comments section though, so read them too if your interested.

  8. I've used soil block makers in all the sizes, and I really like them. The 4 inch blocks are perfect for tomatoes and peppers. I like to start tomatoes in a 2 inch block that I have shortened by 1/2 inch. when I pot them up into the 4 inch block I can fill in the half inch around the stem and get stronger plants and root systems. Haven't had any problem with them crumbling or being to compacted. I use rotted leaves as well as peat in my mix. The rotted leaves make a pretty good sticking agent so I don't have to pack them so tightly to get them to hold their shape. Keep experimenting. (You have to do a lot of transplants to justify a 4 inch block maker. They are a bit pricey.)