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:roll: Another discovery :roll:

I sowed 9 microblocks of Irene's Green Cotton two days ago on 3/5 and four of them have sprouted already! :shock:
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Yeah, definitely need to start these in 2" miniblocks instead or try to upblock immediately.

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Still :roll: and wondering what I've gotten myself into.... :shock:

Started re-organizing the 2" miniblocks. A 1020 tray holds 50 blocks each.
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...on my way to 100 tomato plants...

Re-organized the microblocks into not quite ready to upblock seedlings (cooler top of the Tropical Paradise) and unsprouted tomatoes seeds started earlier plus the last bunch that were just started (middle shelf 83-5°F inside Tropical Paradise) -- will ultimately total more than 100 (but I have one more tray so we're OK :>) also upblocked some of Eric's TPS:

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...Upblocked sprouted cotton. Reseeded basils and marigolds that didn't sprout.

BTW, found another perfect container for the microblocks :()
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Last edited by applestar on Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Tomato jungle -- 46 miniblocks in the left tray.
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View from the other end:
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(Yeah, when I get the chance, I'm going to turn those labels around :oops:)

More upblocked tomatoes -- you can see the side of the block in the front... By next week, there will be roots peeking out 8):
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Roots about to be air-pruned:
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Upblocked True Potato Seeds... My experience from last time I grew them is that they take longer to get going compared to tomatoes, but they do grow into sturdy seedlings much like tomato seedlings:
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Winter Indoor/Late-Very Late/TPS consolidated microblocks tray:
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Celery microblocks:
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Sweet alyssum microblocks:
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...finding some aphids in celery and alyssum :x

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...so far, the healthy seedlings reminds me of my impression that seedlings grown in traditional clay pots exhibited much more vigorous and sturdy growth compared to plastic pots, containers, or drink cups a couple of years ago when I compared, and concluding then that it must be the "breathable" clay walls and that I would like to switch over completely to clay pots.

That particular ambition kind of dwindled due to excessive weight of a tray of little clay pot seedlings, the tedium of cleaning them, and easy loss to frost and freeze when accidentally left out. So I'm finding that the soilblocks are ideal alternative so far.

I'm quick to notice faulty design so when a set of tools is well thought out and designed, I'm very happy. What I received was a "set" with 3/4" and 2" blockers, replacement nubs and cube imprints for the 2" blockers, and 2 pairs of flat-faced serving tongs exactly 3/4" wide and 2" wide that really are perfect for the job. I added metal paint scrapers of various widths to help separate and push the blocks around, and am trying to decide if I want to "make" a block lifter out of a mason's trowel (Eliot Coleman design) or buy a manufactured one that is based on the modified mason's trowel deign.

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I love the morning misting time right now. :D
When I mist the seed miniblocks, the bit of these little beauties just lifting their hypocotyl loop is revealed 8)

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The chart on the right includes this morning's update so you can see which ones are up :wink:
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Oh yeah, I just posted an update yesterday. :lol:

...well...
Upblocking these overgrown microblocks today:
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Sprouted tomato seeds and more seeds:
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:flower:
Last edited by applestar on Thu Mar 14, 2013 8:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Here's something new --

Can you see the incredible purple color of these De Arbol pepper seedlings?
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I ran out of room in the house. :roll:
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The garage is barely warm enough (mid-50's during the day and while the lights are on, mid- to low-40's and have dipped to 38°F and 39°F overnight) but I had to Uppot more tomatoes that were growing in 3/4" microblocks beyond the size that could be Upblocked to 2" mini-blocks.

So here is my -- hopefully viable -- solution:
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Since the outdoor temp can get higher in the sun, I'm going to try to set these outside as much as possible (an aspect of the "Dense Planting" technique) I also used the dry planting in loose potting mix method borrowed from "Dense Planting"

Since they are half way down the clear cut off clear bottles and beverage cups, when positioned under the lights like this, they have extra warmth. The clear plastic channels the light so I think it will work even though the lights are higher up than ideal. But if it seems like they need more ligh than these 3-tube T-12's, I'll move them to the lower shelf which has a 4-tube T-8 fixture.

I will have to guard against damping off, but I also borrowed another technique from a soilblock growing blog, which is to cut vertical slits in the sides of these containers. This iis intended to allow the soil to breath more and prevent roots from circling.

I think it was Ozark Lady who mentioned several years ago that she fills the cups with more soil mix as they grow -- I'll be doing that with these. 8)

Here's another picture. 18 of these cut off 1L and 1L 33 fl oz (?) bottles and 20 oz cups fit exactly in a Permanest Tray:
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Last edited by applestar on Sat Mar 23, 2013 2:32 am, edited 5 times in total.

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My onions are in the lower shelf right now. (32 miniblocks)
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Although they go outside every day, we're still not quite past the lows in the upper 20's. I'd like the lows to stay in the 30's before planting.

Eric's True Potato Seeds are also in the garage "V8 Nursery"
I uppotted two biggest seedlings that were growing in 2" miniblocks to 4" pots today:
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I have eight more smaller seedlings in miniblocks and tiny clay pots:
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And two more in-between size seedlings are in those other two 4" pots.

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These broccoli seedlings -- "Outer Banks" ... Garage outpost near the door, lit 24/7 with two tube T-12 fixture standing sideways and reflected by the mylar windshield cover on opposite side and above -- need to be planted out. They also have been going outside every day, but coming back in at night.

I may wait until this weekend's upper 20's low forecast is past to finish hardening off since, typically, my garden is 2-3° colder than forecast, which may mean mid-20's.
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I'm harvesting from the other container of spinach and other greens. :D

Other seedlings that prefer minimum upper 50's to 60's and above temperatures are inside in the "Winter Paradise"

Peppers and Basil, etc.
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Misc.
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I think the sweet alyssums and celery will be moving out to the V8 Nursery as soon as the onions move out.

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Snowy day today... I decided to count how many seedling Tomatoes I have so far....

1 extra tall fast and big Pineapple Pig in a 30oz super large drink cup plus 18 in 3-1/2" approx 20 oz recycled soda and large drink cups =19
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Plus 8x3=24 tallest 2" miniblocks and 30+40 permatray 2" miniblocks = 113 but subtract non-tomato basil and the 3 marigolds as well as that defective Victorian Dwarf = 108
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Plus 34 seedlings in 3/4" microblock Main tray and 2 more sprouted in the seed germination tray (marked with a diamond) = 144 :()
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Quite a few seeds didn't germinate (Too hot? Too wet?) :? Microblocks marked with stars are seeds that I was thinking about re-seeding since they are very early to mid season varieties and I might still have time to grow them. I did decide to give up on most 2nds (labeled -2) for which I already have a seedling and late season varieties that haven't germinated by this time... But New Big Dwarf and Variegated are Late to Very Late varieties that I'm still thinking about trying to get at least one of each to grow.... nutz:

...update...
When I moved the two sprouted seedlings in the germination tray to the main tray, I found that Japanese Black Trifele and Blondköfchen had sprouted since this morning, along with one of the Lovage. So the current total is now 146 :()

...another update...
Melon Ball was up this (Tues) morning (SO glad because I definitely wanted to try this one 8) ==> 147 :()

Also, Gixx recommended I definitely re-seed New Big Dwarf and Malachite Box. :bouncey:
Last edited by applestar on Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Eric's TPS update

Here are the biggest two growing nicely. The light color on one plant -- not sure what that is but it's kind of circular. I may have accidentally let the leaves touch the light?
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

Compare these to the March 22 photos :shock:
The ones in the cups are easiest to see the difference.

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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

More update pics:

Herbs up above (basil mix, Mexican mint marigold/Texas Tarragon with a couple of Etkezi Paprika, toothache plants in the back with a red stem Malabar spinach, more basil, then densely planted 6 cell of Corno Di Toro pepper, eggplant mix, some Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, parsley, Purple Vienna Kohlrabi on the right)
Tango and Ventura celery, celeriac, Summer Savory, and alyssums down below with one densely planted Black Cherry tomato K-cup:
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Close-up of the celery in 2" miniblcks:
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It really helped that these UHP containers come with a built-in drain spout after these seedlings were left out in a heavy rain:
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

Corn and sunflowers pre-germinated in kitchen seed sprouters and then sown in 2" mini blocks are up. They are pale-looking because I was busy last couple of days with the Tomato Spiral and didn't check on the web flats covered with empty potting mix bags in the garage.

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The tall corn are in 4"x6" deep pots and were under the lights already.
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We had about 1" of rain today, just what we needed since the ground was starting to dry out. I plan on planting the sprouted corn and sunflowers tomorrow if it doesnt rain again, or day after tomorrow.

Peanuts were also pre-germinated (in a DIY sprouter made from McDonalds sundae cups :wink: ) and planted in 2" mini blocks. They have been inside with the peppers and eggplant seedlings.
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

Planted one tray of corn seedling miniblocks plus another 16 miniblocks and two 4"x6" high pots.

The corn seedlings grown in 6" deep loose potting soil had 6" or longer roots. They were harder to plant than the 2" mini blocks with no more than 2" stray roots sticking out. If I had planted both trays it would have been 72 miniblocks. As it was, I think I still planted something like 70 seedlings at exact distance apart I wanted. If any of these fail for some reason, I have a whole another tray, plus 8 more miniblocks and two more 6" pots.... :roll:

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I planted the corn seed blocks like this.
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

I also planted the true potato seed (TPS) seedlings. They were way overcrowded in their 4" round pots (3/4" microblocks >> 2" miniblocks >> 4" pots) and needing to be watered every day. Plus they were getting root bound so much that the roots had stopped up the drainage holes. :roll:

These two have burgundy red stems and veins:
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These have some color to the stems but not as much:
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And these appear to be just green:
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The seed potatoes that were planted in the ground are just barely starting to emerge.
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

Almost all 36 sunflower seedlings are up and ready to be planted....

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...this has been my biggest "problem" with the soilblocker method -- I'm ending up with way too many plants and I really don't think I have room for all these sunflowers.... :| these are Mammoth Russian and came from my saved sunflower head I grew in... was it 2010?

...yep. 2010 :arrow: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 81#p156181
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

Another view of TPS plants. Red tomato cages on their sides are for holding up the floating row cover at night:
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I protect the trays of biggest tomato seedlings in here during the cold nights (low 40's and below):
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The 3 mil sheeting on the gate is used to double-cover when temps are forecast to fall in the 30's.
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

Update photos of some of the seedlings that are still inside --

peanuts:
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Tray of Celery and alyssums, summer savory on the left;Tray of Basils, toothache plants, Mexican Mint Marigolds, Malabar spinach, densely planted and still waiting to be uppotted peppers and eggplants on the right (they sometimes go outside during the day):

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Main pepper tray which is having a lot of problems and is looking very delayed compared to the healthy densely planted peppers above :roll: Planning to uppot them once the tomatoes and the rest of the corn are planted out. Overall, peppers don't seem to like growing in soilblocks like tomatoes, though some of them are doing better than others.
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

Onions update:
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

Hi! applestar: I am still kind of confused about the upblocking... would you mind explaining it?

I would also love to hear how this garden is doing! I have been reading about your indoor tomato experiment and am fascinated!

I am also curious about, did you mention, peanuts? :eek:

And also, about the corn... how many plants did you grow? I got some corn seeds (a potted variety) for Christmas, but they got lost somewhere... I guess they will just have to be part of next year's plants... :roll:


Thanks so much apple!

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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

Hmm... I guess I missed this last post in the thread. Sorry about not answering. :(
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

This year, I'm combining the soilblock method with the pre-sprouting in seed zip bag method :()

Subject: Starting pepper seeds >> spoon in zip bag germination
applestar wrote:Tomato seeds love this. They demonstrated one objection I have wirh this kind of pre-germination method. I was busy yesterday and today -- this evening, came home to a mess of sprouted, cotyledons fully extended... MUST BE POTTED seedlings :roll:
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This meant starting my first tray of 2" mini soil blocks :()

...I also already have three 8 miniblocks @ 2 1/2 gal rice milk containers of peppers and eggplants, another 4 and 6 miniblocks of tomatoes, plus one more block... 30 tomatoes in miniblocks and 17 peppers and eggplants.
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

I'm reviewing my notes and trying to decide what the best way to use the microblocks would be.

- off hand -

* I had trouble with peppers because it's too hard to maintain ideal conditions for the tiny blocks for a lengthy period. Easy to dry out, but invites mold and damping off fungus if kept in enclosed containers. Quick to dry out COMPLETELY.

* tomatoes need to be upblocked almost immediately because they grow very long taproots. Then the microblocks designed to fit exactly in the cubic hole made by the mini locker adapter prevented deep planting which really helps to grow strong tomatoes with extra roots that readily grow up the stem.

* microblocks uppot perfectly into recycled K-cups. But plants that outgrow K-cups need to be uppotted again before planting out. CELERY grew really well in this sequence, though this year, ai opted to grow the seedlings in community K-cup and pudding cup, then separate and uppot to K-cups.

:idea: I might try growing lettuce in microblocks, then K cups. I think lettuce would meet the criteria I'm thinking of for microblocks:
> tiny, surface sown seeds
> that germinates readily without too much fuss
> small root system that will grow to transplant size in K-cups
> and/or can be planted out early in cool weather before they outgrow the K-cups.
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

Tomato soilblocks needed to be separated from the tightly packed 4x5=20 half lasagna pan and 5x10=50 2" miniblocks per web tray:
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I planted cauliflower seedlings that were started in a community container in 2" miniblocks. To make the process easier, I washed most of the soilmix from the roots by dunking. I had 19 seedlings. :-()
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Later, I planted a Purple Peacock broccoli seedling in the spare block.

...as you can see,
I'm starting to use the "EGGCRATE" light diffuser underneath the soilblocks and web flats to ensure proper air pruning. You can cut 5 pieces plus some useful scraps from each standard panel (which I used under the cauliflower and under the paper pots mentioned in "Recycled Containers" thread. I used tin snips.
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

I couldn't find my microblock picker upper -- a pair of tongs that came with my set of soil blockers... And you REALLY, REALLY need the tool to handle them. :?

:-() ...so I made my own... :-()
image.jpg
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

I decided to try something new to upblock the 2" miniblocks this year.

Last year, I wanted to try stacking the 2" miniblock on top of another one, but I was confounded by the fact that simply stacking the growing block on top of a freshly made block was unstable. I ended up making half filled half-height blocks for them to sit on to give them just a little bit more soil than the cube that the blocker makes.

....but for this year's upblocking, it came to me as I was falling asleep! You should have seen me this morning I was so eager to test it out! Image

First I needed a right kind of container -- my MIL buys cut up watermelon for the kids whenever we visit -- all year round. I had asked her to save me the containers. It turned out that the Larger of these containers holds exactly 9 miniblocks with a little space in between -- PERFECT ! Image

...as you can see, I arranged the blocks in the container upside down <<that was my EUREKA Image>>
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Re: I started some too :) -- experimenting with soil blocks

I sowed lettuce, escarole, arugula, and some herbs like rhyme and chamomile in microblocks.
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Key to using microblocks is to upblock as soon as seedleaves unfurl:
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