Sunday, July 27, 2008

Succession Planting In Soil Blocks.

Succession planting means to continue to plant as the season progresses, at timed intervals, without stopping. I didn't used to plant in succession. I was one of those gardeners who started so early, loaded up on every seed I could, and transplanted, and waited for the harvest. Sound familiar? Then, after all the lettuce was eaten, and all the corn was gone, and all broccoli was done, we had nothing left to eat(or flowers to gaze upon). I loaded up my spring with way to much work, after sitting idol all winter staring out the window at the snow. Sound familiar? Now, I plant in succession, slowly but surely, staggering the things I like to eat all year long. I keep planting, without fear of failure, as failure with some crops is inevitable. I plant all year long with the help of soil blocks, of course! Soil Blocks are the perfect medium to plant a succession garden. First, when you should only be planting a few seeds at a time, you just block up a set of 4 in the Mini 4 2". Like 4 lettuces a week, ALL YEAR LONG. Or, 4 kales, 4 broccolis, 4 green beans, 4 corns, 4 herbs, 4 flowers.....The Mini 4 is so perfect for this task its worth it's weight in gold. In the heat of the summer, while you think it's too hot for anything but lemonade, most seeds will germinate without any heat mats, lights, or greenhouses. The summer temperatures are your perfect germination temperatures. Thus, seeding in soil blocks becomes so easy, as nature is doing all the work. You just pop the block in the ground when it's sprouted. No hardening, no thinning, no competition from weeds, no lights, no heat mats, and no electric bills. Set up an outdoor potting bench. For me, it is two rubbermaid tubs: one to store dry blocking mix and it sits on the bottom, and one to make the slur which stacks on top for easy "charging". Next, I use two cheap aluminum saw horses with two 2 x4's spanning any length(mine are 12'). Then, hopefully you have a bunch of your little plywood trays made up. And, if not, I just use plywood scraps, without sides, without any particular dimension, just as long as they can fit 4 2" blocks in a few rows and can straddle the two 2 x4's. Although, it is nice to have some 2 x2's around to border your blocks for extra moisture retention. I just make some blocks and seed and cover with a sheet of black plastic, or a large garbage bag, and check back in a couple of days. After the seeds have sprouted, I decide if they can hang out in the block for a while, or do I need to go and weed the garden or till or make some potting soil for some container gardens. I've got time. They'll be fine in these blocks, provided I water well three times a day. A lot of people have remarked, "Why don't I sow directly in the garden all summer long?" Direct sowing is a very important skill, not to be undermined. I admit, it might be my weakness. I am a soil blocker to the very end of the fall and start of the next season. I choose to start all my seeds, in summer and fall, with soil blocks for the following reasons: 1.) If, and when the seed comes up, it's guaranteed to grow in the space I will plant it in. No gaps in my garden. 2.) Better germination rate. They're safe from rodents and insects and dry spots in the gaden. 3.) Faster germination due to the warm soil in the heat of the summer suspended and covered with black plastic. Note: Don't let it get too hot or you'll cook your seeds. Try covering with peat instead. 4.) The soil blocks will inoculate my garden soil with the ingredients I've used to create them. This can be anything from organic matter, like compost and peat, to mycorrizae fungus for outstanding root growth, to rock dusts, to fertilizer or fertilizer pellets, to moisture absorbing pellets, to lime, to fish emulsions, kelp meal, soft rock phosphate, greensand, etc. Whatever my garden needs to be productive, I'll add it to the blocking mix. Or, perhaps I'm suspicious of toxic build up of something, I'll inoculate with BioZome. That means, I don't have to spend time on my garden plot except to clear it out and till it up. Whatever it lacks, I'll build up it in my blocking mix. I refer to this technique as "inoculating the soil with soil blocks". I can eventually be adding tons of organic matter in my fields without ever having to shovel manure or compost. 5.) Less work to transplant than it is to seed: Just jab and plant, jab and plant. No machines, no seeds plates, no numerous passes to make furrows or trenches, and way less stooping. 6.) I get to choose the strongest most vigorous seedling to plant without having to watch them struggle in the rows. Thinning blocks are A LOT EASIER than thinning rows of plants. 7.) Succession planting=less work, less often. A tray of 4-12 transplants a week is hardly any work in comparison to thousands a week with normal spring fever. But, if you are in that situation, check out my new Free ebook called "Transplants in Soil Blocks" by David Tresemer (a $9.99 value) @ click Free Ebook. This is an excellent handbook for using a garden cart. 8.) Mulch is not needed during a drought. Just make sure and close the air gap around the soil block transplants. 10.) The block protects the roots for weeks from marauding animals and pests. 11.) I can set the block in much deeper in the soil. This means, I can getter a bigger root system and hence more yields. (See today's picture.) I always plant deep enough to cover the seed leaf, right up to the first true leaf. The red circle indicates where more roots will grow, giving you a bigger root system for better nutrient uptake of microbes hanging out in the top soil. If you have a soil blocker, try this today: Seed a row of four with four varieties of salad greens. Do that every Sunday. Make it a rule, a discipline, a hobby, a habit. Next thing you'll know is; your eating salads every day of the year, provided you stepped up to a little season extension. More on that in Fall. Try planting 4 sweet corns every Sunday throughout the late spring and early summer. Whatever your favorites are, get into the habit of soil blocking in succession. My motto is "less work, less often= more harvest, more often." Are we there yet? Tell me your stories about succession planting with soil blocks. The guru predicts soil blocks to be all the rave in America in a few years. Just you wait. So, until next week, the guru says, "Pot on, Pot often, Pot all year, Pot on a smile." and stay tuned, we're taking numbers!

1 comment:

  1. I would love to see an example of all the different tools you use in video form :). I now own a 3/4" blocker and a 2" blocker, and would love to see the little gadgets you have come up with to work with them (like the little wooden contraption used to seed pepper seeds).