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Soaking up Some Sun

April 18th, 2018

This time of year, I carry my flats of seedlings in and out so they can get some real sun. Like gardeners, they do much better when able to spend lots of time outside. Eventually, I’ll have a small greenhouse, then I won’t have to do this chore.

Typically, I’m already transplanting seedlings in the garden, but this year spring is taking a long time to arrive. That’s OK with me, it gives me more time to get some of the other necessary chores out of the way. Though I must say, space under the grow lights is becoming very limited!

How do you harden off seedlings?

Always Looking

April 2nd, 2018

I’m always looking for long lasting garden tools, especially when it comes to seed starting. The black plastic trays are ridiculously flimsy and won’t last long at all. They’re so flimsy, they don’t really work with soil blocks. I started using Perma-Nest trays about 8 years ago and really like them a lot. But they are plastic and won’t last forever, I’m guessing 10-15 years will be the max for them. Which is still great considering they’re not much more expensive than the black plastic ones that only last a season. Most recently, I decided to try half sheet pans with lids.

They sheet pans themselves are made of metal, so they should last for many, many years. Even though the lids are plastic, the don’t get as much wear and tear and should last quite awhile as well. They’re less expensive than a tray with a dome, even initially.

One issue I discovered (and thought about previously, but figured I could find a work-around) was the height of the lid. With soil blocks, there’s minimal head room. That’s not a huge deal, as I always remove the lids as soon as seeds start to germinate. The sheets fit the same exact number of soil blocks that a perma-nest tray does (40 of the 2″ soil blocks). There is no way that a plant tag will fit in the blocks, so I taped them on the lid to let me know which varieties were in each row.

Just so the lid wouldn’t get turned around, I added arrows on the lid and on the tray. When I remove the lid, I’ll transfer the labels to the corresponding row of seedlings. That should avoid confusion and only adds a bit more work to the seed starting process. I’ll keep you posted on this product to let you know. I already use chaffing dishes and sheet pans for holding larger pots and have found them to be quite reliable. Their strength is a major benefit over the plastic alternatives. I’ll keep looking for ways to decrease products that don’t last in order to produce less waste in my gardening.

Have you discovered any great products for gardening that aren’t really intended for gardening?

Seed Starting Station

February 5th, 2018

For my entire gardening career, I’ve started seeds on the kitchen table. It’s not a big deal, but here in this house we don’t have a light in the dining room. Thus we have a strand of Christmas lights. They’re OK for ambiance during dinner, but don’t offer quite enough light when starting small seeds.

This winter, I added a station upstairs for my mailing and other work projects. It happens to be PERFECT for seed starting as well. The counter height is perfect, no more stooping over. As long as I work during the day, the light is much better as well (though I still have a strand of lights for added light).
Overall, It’s the perfect space for, not only the work I do there, but for starting seeds as well. I’m hoping to add cork behind the tabletop for pinning up charts and other necessary items.

Where do you start your flats of seeds? Do you have a dedicated area for garden necessities?

Getting a Head Start

January 22nd, 2018

This weekend, I started four flats of seeds! YAY!!! My plans were to have flats of greens going under the grow lights all winter, but I never got around to it. On Saturday, I managed to get three flats of green and one flat of cilantro going.

For some I used soil blocks, but for others I just put soil in the flats. I’ll see which ones works best for this method of growing.

While I had the kitchen table turned into a potting bench, I decided to make a few flats of soil blocks to have ready for seeding. Last year, as I sowed seeds, I kept thinking it would be handy to have flats of block already made for quick seeding.

Now I have a nice little stockpile of flats of blocks. I managed to make three large flats and four half flats of soil blocks. I thought about making more, but decided I’d better see how this works before investing too much time this early.

Did you manage to get any garden related things done this weekend?

Experimenting with Potting Soil Mixes

April 26th, 2017

One of the things I love about gardening is being able to experiment. I’m always planting different varieties to see the difference between them. While I was at the feed store a few weeks ago, I spotted their Pro-Mix potting mixes. I’m a big fan of the 512 Mix from Johnny’s Seed and have been using that for quite a long time, but I decided to give Pro-Mix a try.

So I made a flat of soil blocks with each of the three mixes. As far as soil blocks are concerned, the Johnny’s Mix and the Pro-Mix Premium seemed to form better blocks. The regular Pro-Mix has a lot more perlite in it, so the blocks don’t seem to form as well or be as strong.

I seeded three different seeds in each type of potting mix to watch germinate and watering rates.

The seeds are just starting to germinate and so far they’re pretty even across the board. The Johnny’s mix definitely retains water much better than the other two varieties. Pro-Mix Premium is in second place and the Pro-Mix is in last place, it’s drying out much more quickly than the other two.

What experiments are you doing this gardening season?


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.