Friday, March 18, 2011

Seed Starting

The seed flats are starting to really spread out.  Last count we're up to 21 trays that we've reasonably timed for placing outside, not including the six varieties of Potatoes we're greening up before planting next week.  This is the most prepared we've ever been for the garden and I'm hoping we can produce a larger yield to share with friends and family with less routine maintenance.  We're also using Quick Hoops for the first time, which will really give us a boost with an early start from frost protection and later on significant pest control.  Last year we lost 75% of the squash and melon plants due to squash beetles, which the row covers should help with.

The peppers we started in late December didn't germinate well, so I have a fresh batch I'm trying before I break down and buy plants from the store.  The quick hoop bender and row cover arrived this week as well, so the planting is about to begin.  Last year was a bit of an anomaly with the last frost on May 15, but I'm planning on May 1 as the safe frost free date.

Seed flats with southwest exposure
Years ago I read about soil blocking in Eliot Coleman's "The New Organic Grower" and I purchased a micro and a medium blocker this year.  I'm really enjoying this process over using plastic pots.  It's much more flexible and there's far less plastic waste.

Soil Blockers

The micro blocker is really neat because it sets 20 3/4" blocks in a group, fitting 300 blocks in a single tray.  That's a lot of seeds on small real estate and I'm testing several varieties inside that I would ordinarily sow outside, which should help out a ton with weed control.  Last year I tilled in the entire parsnip crop because the weeds took over so badly.  Giving the crop a head start makes a huge difference.

300 spots for Lettuce, Tomatoes, Broccoli and Cauliflower
I was a little hesitant with the micro blocks because you simply drop the seed on top of the tiny little piece of dirt and I wasn't sure how germination would go.  So far I'm very encouraged and the only issue I've run into is the cat walking through the seed flats and making a general mess.  The turnips are sprouting after only three or four days and I'm delighted that I can get them in the ground properly spaced and mulched all in one shot.

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