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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring Planting... sort of...

Today was the date for my second scheduled round of seed starting. On the list to be seeded were lettuces, but I didn't check my planting schedule first and my intuition has been saying "time to seed brassica" for a few days, so I mixed up enough potting medium for three trays of 3/4" soil blocks and figured that would be a good start.

PHOTO 1 - compressing potting mix
into the block maker.
This is the under side of the block
maker, filled with potting mix.
Let me digress for a moment, though, from the thoughts of planting to share a realization that came to me as I was popping out blocks for the second tray. "This is NOT hard work!" If you have never made soil blocks, this is not going to mean much to you. This is a simple little device that you push down into a container of rather soggy planting mix, compressing the mix solidly into the block maker, like so (photo 1)


PHOTO 2: Squeeze the handle
and lift gently; the blocks
stay behind in the tray.
Squeezing the handle pushes the little blocks of soil out, into place in the tray (photo 2).  Repeat 20 times or so to fill a tray.

This is my third planting season using the block maker. Last year, though, my only thoughts while doing this was "drudgery, damn... hard.... why did I ever try this idea!" At this time last year, though, I apparently was still full in the effect of a nearly fatal bout of anemia. It was being treated and I thought, at times, that I was regaining my strength and gumption, but apparently those who wrote that it takes a year to recover from this condition were right. This year the process was effortless, muddy and fun!

Transferring the most tiny seeds is
best done with a damp toothpick.
After making the blocks, of course they need to be planted. It is optimal to have only one plant... or possibly in the case of slow growing herbs, a couple, in each little cube. Most seeds I pick up, one at a time, with my trusty pointy-end tweezers. The baby block makes puts out 20 little cubes, so I plant 20 seeds of each variety. The very tiny ones (celery counted in this category when I planted them last month, and chamomile and snapdragons for sure this time around) are best planted by dampening the end of a toothpick and touching that to a few of the tiny seeds. Rubbing the pick gently on the soil block will transfer the seeds. The only hard part, when the seeds are small and dark, is remembering which cubes are done and which are not!

Herb seeds have just started to grow!
I really like plating this way, and transferring my started seedlings to the garden rather than direct seeding for many of the crops that will tolerate such handling for several reasons. I am a bit of a control freak, and that figures in, but mostly it's because I hate to waste seed... thinning crops before they can be eaten HURTS, even in the thinnings are choice morsels for the  bunnies and fowl. Each one of those baby plants is alive and as a witch, I see all life as sacred. I would also much rather keep the weeds from growing with mulch than have to hoe or pull them!

Today I seeded 20 each of the following:
Lettuce
Black Seeded Simpson
Buttercrunch
cardinale batvian
Green Ice Leaf
heirloom cutting mix baby
Italienischer
Outredgous
Parris Is Cos
Red Salad Bowl
Royal Oak Leaf
Salad Bowl
Sea of Red
Slobolt
Speckled Amish Bibb
Summertime Iceberg
Summer Mix
Waldmann's Dark Green
Webb's Wonderful head
Wild Garden
Kale
Wild Garden
Winterbor
 Rubine Brussels Sprouts
Broccoli 
 Calabrese sprouting
DeCicco
Broccoli de rapa
Hybrid Broccoli Blend
Martha Stewart Calabrese sprouting
Cabbage
Danish Ballhead
Golden Acre
Quick Start Cabbage
Red Express
Cauliflower
Early Snowball
Snow Crown
Candid Charm

kohlrabi Early White 55

Cool colors zinnia
red scarlet zinnia
tetra ruffled snapdragon
weld
helicrysum
calendula alpha
calendula resina
bodegold chamomile
cumin
sweet marjoram
giant of Italy parsley