For vegetable and flower farmers the growing season doesn’t start in the garden. It starts long before the soil can be worked in greenhouses and indoors, in pots and plug trays. In our case, this year it started in our retro 1960s bathroom.
Our greenhouse hasn’t arrived yet, so our lovely pink bathroom with plenty of counterspace (bathroom counters?) acted as our potting shed and germination chamber this year, and is working so well I may start the season this way every year even once we have our greenhouse built. It’s like the bathroom counters were made for this!
This year we are starting our seeds in soil blocks. Soil blocks are individual cubes of potting mix that are made using a form, and eliminate the need for plug trays which are very plastic, and last only a season or two before falling to shreds and leaving bits of plastic all over your farm. But less plastic isn’t the only thing going for soil blocks.
Soil block makers (or “soil blockers”) can spit out tiny little 3/4″ blocks in which to germinate seed. Once the seedlings have germinated, the mini-blocks can be popped into 2″ soil blocks. The 2″ soil blocker even makes a mini-square in it that perfectly fits the mini-block! This means that the seedlings take up much less space, and therefore much fewer resources to get going in those early days. Or in my case, I can fit all my germinating seeds in my bathroom huddled around our radiator.
Soil blocks are also better for the plants by preventing them from becoming root bound. There is much less transplant shock and the plants recover more quickly, ultimately resulting in early and better yields.
I’m also able to bottom water my planties really easily! Bottom watering conserves water and does a better job saturating the soil. It also helps prevent dampening off – a fungal disease that can kill young seedlings. All in all, I’m pretty excited about this system!
A few nights after sowing our first onion seeds, I dreamt they sprouted. Low and behold, when I checked in the morning they had.