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What a great garden club meeting! Thanks folks.

Posted Sunday, February 6, 2011, at 11:46 AM

Plants starting from soil blocks 5 days later
jbillswms gave us a thought provoking approach to "winter seed sowing" In a nutshell, this method relies on containers nature's method of re-seeding to produce the strong, healthy plants we see in our garden from dropped fruit or vegetables.

Regrettably, weeds do this too, but this method gives you the same advantage. jbillswms, do you have the web address for us to learn more?

Have you ever noticed that a "volunteer" tomato seems to be way ahead of the one you babied and coddled, or bought at the store? They seem to handle the weather adversities better and even the BUGS.

Jere showed us her recycled, 2 liter bottle, self watering container. We had some fun with her preciseness for centering the label, but it gave us plenty of free planters that reduce the chances of damping off and also reduce the chances of letting your new starts dry out. Here is a Google search for damping off http://www.google.com/search?name=f&hl=e...

And I brought some dirt (good potting soil) to play in. Not as good as the mud pies we used to make as a child but still dirty. What we did was experiment with making soil blocks. This method eliminates the need for starting containers, air prunes the roots and allows for planting without disturbing the new plant.

I made 35 blocks this morning and seeded, peppers, tomatoes, onions and several Chinese cabbage varieties. We will see where they are next meeting, which will be Friday the 18th of February. Nice segue, huh?

What you can not see in the picture is that a small indentation was made in the center of each block to place the seed. This was done at the time of pressing by a small plastic piece in the press. Trying to open a place in the block so soon after making will increase your chances of it falling apart. (I know from personal experience)

Sprinkle a little dirt on top to cover the seed lightly. The roots will quickly fill out the block to hold it together and watering from the bottom will wick water up to avoid washing the block apart, disturbing the seed and reduce the damping off mentioned above.

You can buy a hand soil block maker (kind of expensive unless you make a LOT of blocks) or some people make single block makers out of things around the house. We can discuss some of these if there is interest. Here is a pretty good discussion of soil blocks: http://www.pottingblocks.com/info.html

By the way, different mixtures of soil ingredients and practical experience turns out better looking blocks than the ones I have made here, but these are functional.

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Holy @#$% farmer John! What were those chickens eating??

Someone spread chicken manure on their fields this morning and WOW! I have breathed in the essence before but this batch smelled like burning garbage. (or maybe it was burning garbage?)

The farmer may still be in the field, overwhelmed by the intensity! Maybe I should check on them?

I got a load of chicken manure the first year we moved onto the farm, but had the good sense to dump it about 4.5 football fields away from the house. Give me horse, goat or even cow manure, but chicken and hog has to be left to the professionals.

-- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Feb 12, 2011, at 9:31 AM

I took a picture a few days ago of the plants that had come up but that has changed, as you might expect. I would have revised it again this morning but alas, I let the battery run down.

Three types of cabbage are up and going, all oriental types, I am not into most head cabbage. This is mostly a taste preference. The one exception so far is Napa.

Cabbage seeds are tiny and while I thought I was limiting one seed per block, apparently I slipped a few extras in. All but one block has sprouted, so maybe I did not get anything into it?

I am not surprised the tomato, pepper and onions are not sprouting yet. Onions are notoriously slow and the other two are still within parameters, but I would not be totally shocked if the tomatoes did not sprout at all. (old seed)

The surprise is that one whole row of of "Long Green Petiole" oriental cabbage has not shown any signs of life. I would have expected them to be similar to the others.

A balmy 30 degrees out there today. I re-checked the extended forecast and it looks good for this week. A few days ago it showed a extreme dip to 11 degrees on Thursday night but I figured it was a typo. This morning it is gone so that makes me feel warmer already.

-- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Feb 12, 2011, at 8:43 AM

Today 10 of the 12 cabbages listed above are up.

The outer blocks seem to be drying faster so I paid a little more attention to them with water. About two drops directly on the center top and then 2.5 cups of water poured in the tray.

Pouring water in one area would not distribute evenly so I poured water around the edges and down each 'aisle' of blocks.

On this cold 15 degree morning it was heart warming to see the new growth.

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Feb 10, 2011, at 9:31 AM

And the winners are: NAPA cabbage http://search.store.yahoo.net/evergreens... and Chin Chang cabbage http://www.evergreenseeds.com/chincabhyb.... These are the first seeds to poke their heads from the soil blocks.

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Feb 9, 2011, at 8:14 PM

Hmmm, mushrooms huh?

Back in my youth they used to make brownies with something funny inside but I did not think it was mushrooms. Then again.............

-- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Feb 8, 2011, at 8:15 PM

Steve, These look like logs used to grow illegal mushrooms.I think I see some sprouting out.Better watch yourself.LOL

-- Posted by mytaxesaremine on Mon, Feb 7, 2011, at 6:47 PM

Thanks jbillswms.

Compared to what we were doing at the meeting, they ar getting better. I just fiddled with them a few minutes ago and they have firmed up a little more from original making.

Not grown anything yet, but just like a watched pot, things seem to happen slower than when you just put it aside and come back later. These are right in front of my desk and see them hour by hour.

-- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Feb 7, 2011, at 10:44 AM

Those blocks look pretty good!

-- Posted by espoontoon on Mon, Feb 7, 2011, at 9:26 AM

A good site is www.wintersown.org. It's easy to find information there. The gardenweb site is organized around specific questions and answers by other gardeners.

-- Posted by jbillswms on Sun, Feb 6, 2011, at 10:31 PM

The forum I've been using is http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/wtrs...

-- Posted by jbillswms on Sun, Feb 6, 2011, at 10:13 PM

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Steve Mills and his wife have one daughter. They previously owned two coffee/ice cream shops, currently operate an internet sales company and teach classes, but his primary job involves the paper industry worldwide. Hobbies and interests lie in gardening, photography, recorded music and of course, their pets.