Seed Starting Methods

It’s that time of year when I can barely contain my enthusiasm over the coming spring.  Not to mention the fact that it is tax refund time and bonus time while I still work off the farm.  However, the seed catalogs have been filling the mailbox for sometime now and I have perused the best websites for my seed selection.

I have already ordered some and germinated some of my earlier crops (brassicas) such as cabbage, spinach, some lettuce, broccoli, and herbs.

The seed starting trays are on a heating mat to provide the correct temperature for germination
The seed starting trays are on a heating mat to provide the correct temperature for germination.

I also have used a newer method ( new for me) in the greenhouse where I created a containment area with old unwanted hay bales and filled it with horse manure.  I then built a simple table frame with furring strips across the top to hold 1020 flats that have mostly soil blocks in them.  The table is covered by plastic which is supported by pvc hoops.  The heat contained within provides the temperature for seed germination.

 

How exciting.  I used this idea after watching a YouTube video of “Muddy Fingers Farm” in New York.  I believe there location is colder than mine here in Pennsylvania.

Now that the table is built in the greenhouse, this weekend will be consumed by soil preparation and soil block making to fill the table with the goodies that all the locals crave after a winter such as ours.

Filled with fresh horse manure, the table uses composting heat to aid in seed germination.
Filled with fresh horse manure, the table uses composting heat to aid in seed germination.

This year we are using the soil block maker purchased from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  The first time I used this I failed horribly and was discouraged.  But my second attempt after correcting for soil moisture content and screening my materials yielded very nice and uniform blocks.  My mixture consists of well composted horse manure, decomposed double-ground hardwood bark mulch, perlite, and a touch of vermicompost.  The ratios are not necessarily important so don’t get hung up on them.  You’ll know a good soil when it’s in your hands and if you don’t, keep trying until you do.  Make sure you have plenty of moisture so the blocks will form.

I bought two different sizes, 2 inch square and the 3/4 inch.  I also bought the dimple kit for the 2 inch square.  This makes a cube in the top instead of the dimple so that the smaller block can be “transplanted” into a larger block when the time comes.  Brilliant!

These soil blocks are handy to make and use and 50 fit nicely into a 1020 flat.
These soil blocks are handy to make and use and 50 fit nicely into a 1020 flat.

If you try any of these ideas let me know if you were successful. Have a great spring.  Just go out and plant something and play in the dirt.  It’s good for your soul.

 

 

Sunshine Driving

 

Last Thursday while driving to an appointment just before noon, I was positively enthralled with the bright winter sunshine and crisp temperatures.  As I drove through the countryside nearing midday, I noticed the angle of the sun gaining ever so slightly higher in the sky.  What a great and positive feeling I experienced as I thought about the coming spring and all the activities that we would be undertaking on our farm.

 

It has already begun, making spreadsheets for planning the pastured poultry production schedules, building new processing equipment, purchasing supplies.  There is still much work that needs to be done.  Building a new brooder, building three new chicken tractors are some of the projects yet to be planned and completed.

We have burned through two cords of wood and have one remaining.  Hopefully our oil tank has been filled for the last time this year but the propane will require one more visit from our local propane provider.  The sun now streams into the family room at the perfect angle to prevent the room from getting too cold.

We completed our project this weekend of building our seed starting area in the new greenhouse.  We built a holding type area out of older unused hay bales and filled the interior with fresh horse manure.  We constructed a crude 2” x 4” frame and tacked some furring strips onto it.  This will be the table where the seeds trays and soil blocks will have the warmth to germinate our first seeds this week.  The top is covered with PVC hoops and plastic sheeting to retain heat.  This was a great idea that I saw on a YouTube video of the Muddy Fingers Farm in New York.  It saves money on electricity and reduces our environmental footprint in the process.

Seed starting area built from hay and fresh horse manure in greenhouse.
Seed starting area built from hay and fresh horse manure in greenhouse.

 

 

 

Another important project that is coming up as soon as the weather breaks, is the completion of the water line from the surface well to a pressure tank in the greenhouse.  We will also need to run supply lines to the two main growing areas.  Time and money is what I always say.  We are excited however to have these blessings and being able to do this work.

Check back soon as we post our successes and show you how and where great food comes from.

 

Go Nautral!