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=en&q=damping+off
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.