Saturday, March 12, 2016

Seed Starting and Soil Blocking

In an earlier post, I reported on starting seeds with a Park's Biodome. I was happy with it, but as an organic gardener, I had some doubts about the Styrofoam insert used to separate and hold up the plants. It also seems hard to disinfect between seasons, according to the directions.

Submerge Styrofoam in a bleach solution for thirty minutes? Really?

Last year Don and I also visited the Mother Earth News Fair, where Don attended a session on soil blocking. He was hooked! We use compost from our vermicomposting system as one of the ingredients in the soil blocks, too, which is an added bonus.

These soil blocks are a little wet, but adequate. The holes are for easy transplanting of seedlings started in smaller blocks.

The combination of the plant heating-mat and Biodome lid plus Don's homemade soil blocks is ideal for us so far. I can't believe how fast our plants sprouted, how green they are, and how healthy they look. They're growing incredibly fast. We have already needed to transplant some into larger soil blocks. Luckily, the soil-blocking system allows us to do this easily and with very little disturbance to the young plants.

Some of the basil and smaller tomato and pepper plants need transplanting into bigger soil blocks.

We started two kinds of basil, several kinds of peppers, eggplant, and several varieties of tomato. Three of Park's Maskotka hybrid tomato seeds actually germinated decently this time, too, so we're going to see how they grow this season. We will try some in our raised beds and others in our Earthbox gardening system. Weather is already warming up here in Virginia, so we look forward to a bountiful summer.
Getting ready to transplant

The transplants, right, and  the other plants go back under the grow lights.

Update on 3/19/16: These plants have been incredibly healthy and fast-growing. I have never grown tomato seedlings with such thick stems! Thicker-stemmed plants resist pests and disease better in the long run. I'm posting some pictures so you can see how well they are doing:

 The smaller tomato seedling with some peppers and basil plants.

Here are the taller tomato plants stretching toward the light.

Eggplant and tomato plants in my Earthboxes in July

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