Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Seedling progress

This weekend, youngest and I planted out about 150 snap peas. We planted them three abreast in a 1' x 8' row.

Peas in morning sun in soil blocks

Peas in garden bed

Garden bed covered with ag-cloth

I also transplanted celery, parsley, marigold, and cilantro from micro to mini-blocks. Some straggler tomatoes and basil were planted from micro into regular blocks. The process is very fast when the soil blocks are made with the micro-block dibble, otherwise each plant needs to be inserted into the mini-blocks with a chopstick or a similar tool. Because I used the latter method for most of the seedlings, this took a couple of hours.

When I ran out of seed blocking mix (512 mix from Johnny's), I tried an experiment by purchasing regular potting soil mix and then adding sand. Note that the sand is brown and says "for molding". The sand needs to be "sharp" to hold its shape. The soil blocks are working but they are not as strong as those made with 512 mix. I have been using three quarts of soil mix to one pint of sharp sand, using a yogurt container for measuring.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Seedling setup

This has been the best year yet for seed starting. I feel like I have a system that works well and requires minimal effort. Here is the basic outline:

Starting with five trays:
  * one tray of micro-blocks (3/4" - 224 to a tray) with bottom heat set to 72 deg F, including tomatoes, peppers, parsely, cilantro, kale, chard, choi, basil, celery, and marigolds. These are transplanted to regular or mini-blocks once they are at least  1/2" tall.

  * one tray of lettuce in mini-blocks. May be planted more densely than one plant per block since they can be separated and replanted when transferring to the garden. These can be transplanted to the garden when they are 3 or 4 inches tall and have more than one set of true leaves.

  * three trays of peas planted in mini-blocks (1.5" - 48 to a tray). The peas are first soaked in a wide-mouth half-pint mason jar overnight and then rinsed a couple times a day until the radicle (first root) begins to separate from the seed. These can be planted outside as soon as the seedlings are a couple of inches tall.

Peas with radicles ready to plant
Peas planted in soil blocks

The trays are setup under 4' fluorescent lights that are suspended about 3" above the blocks. The lights are set to be on 16 hours each day. There is also a fan standing at the same height as the seedlings. It is set to come on at a medium setting for about 45 minutes, three times a day. This provides stimulation that the plants need to grow strong so that they will be able to stand up to wind and rain when they are planted out.

Here is the seed starting setup --

Bottom heat on top left tray. Thermostatic control on far left.

Lights should be only inches above the seedlings.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Seeds started

We started the seeds listed below on Saturday. We made a tray of micro-blocks for most seeds but put the choi and lettuce in another tray of mini-blocks. The micro-blocks will be transferred to regular blocks once the viable seeds sprout. The mini-blocks will be planted directly outside once the seedlings are strong enough to withstand insect pressure. The peas are soaking and will likely be planted in blocks this evening. The trays are stacked on top of a thermostatically controlled rope light set to 72 degrees F with the micro-blocks on the bottom. As soon as they start sprouting, I will place them under the lights and set up a fan so that they grow up strong (thigmomorphogenesis). I am going to follow the method of this study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC35122/) and turn the fan on three times a day for 30 minutes.

3 Beefsteak tomato
10 Brandywine tomato
12 Cherokee tomato
12 Red Cherry tomato

12 California Wonder pepper
12 Biscayne pepper

16 Giant Italy parsley
20 Curly parsley

20 Calypso cilantro

10 Sweet Italian basil
10 Sweet basil
20 Genovese basil

20 Tango celery

20 Rhubarb Red chard

20 Nash Green kale
5 Toscano kale

10 Joi choi

10 Tatsoi

20 Romaine Ridgeline lettuce
20 Muir lettuce
20 Oakleaf lettuce
20 Red Sails lettuce

50 Peas

Friday, March 3, 2017

Indoor gardening

Our very mild winter will be coming to a close shortly which means that we will soon be starting seeds under lights in the basement. The past few weeks, we have been getting our kitchen in order and growing quite a few things indoors. Our Omega Juicer has made it very easy to regularly make whole wheat and lentil sprout bread. Once the wheat and lentils are sprouted, it is simply a matter of running them through the juicer with the blank insert, then squeeze into a loaf, coat with sesame seeds and bake at 250 deg for a couple of hours. One of the best things about this bread is that it can be baked in our mini-crockpot, thus saving energy and saving worry about having the oven on for an extended period.

We are also regularly growing trays of sunflower and buckwheat microgreens, and jars of alfalfa, broccoli, and cress seed mix. I am putting together a spreadsheet that will help me to figure out how to have a steady supply of these indoor greens and that will allow me to report on cost and yield.