Garden Tips: Soil Blocks, Watering, Succession Planting
The HDT garden crew, Dave and Anna, recently took a video and some photos as they worked on soil blocks. The resulting blocks were moist and crumbly and ready for seeds. They looked…well, delicious.
What does it mean when a fresh tray of soil blocks looks BETTER than a tray of brownies? Well, for one thing it’s been a long winter. But it can also mean that the satisfaction level of seeing gardening efforts resulting in new plants is very high.
You can learn more about soil blocks from this blog post (with video!)
Last month’s Garden Tips blog had some suggestions on which seeds to start in March. If you have started seeds, here are some pointers for watering.
Water seedlings once a week or when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch.
“It is best to have good drainage for your seedlings so they don't stay wet too long,” advises Dave. “Drain holes in your pots are essential. Plants that are too dry will show signs of wilting. Plants that are too wet will also show signs of wilt and begin to turn yellow and die.”
Seedlings that are in a warm sunny location (or under lights) will dry out faster than plants that are in a more shaded area.
Potting soil that is wet for too long will cause problems for your plants. “One problem is the growth of unwanted fungus in the soil that attracts fungus gnats. Using sterilized potting soil will reduce these fungi and pathogens. The fungus gnats lay eggs in the soil in which their larva then feed on the fungus and the organic matter that is present in the soil. The larva can damage the plants by feeding on the root hairs of the plants and also burrow into the plant,” said Dave. Fungus gnats can also spread harmful pathogens that cause a symptom know as "Damping-off" or "Wire stem" where the stem of the seedling will begin to get thin and rot at the soil line or will even rot the seed before in sprouts.
To avoid issues with fungus gnats it is best to let the top of the soil dry out before watering.
Watering your plants at the base of their containers is a good alternative which minimizes the moisture at the soil’s surface.
Adding a layer of sand on the surface of the soil can also help by drying quickly after watering.
Sprinkling cinnamon and working it into the surface of the soil will act as a natural fungicide, thus taking away the initial food source for the fungus gnat larvae.
Succession Planting Keeps You in the Greens
According to the University of Minnesota Extension Service, succession planting is the practice of seeding crops at intervals of 7 to 21 days in order to maintain a consistent supply of harvestable produce throughout the season.
Dave and Anna plant Romaine lettuce every 10 days for succession planting and is ready to harvest at 45 days. They also plant loose leaf lettuce in succession. In the photo, it is approximately 15 days old. It will begin to be harvested in about 15 more days. ”Loose leaf lettuce is a ‘cut and come again’ lettuce, meaning we can harvest this lettuce multiple times (5) before it needs to be pulled and re-seeded” shared Dave.
Planting Calendar and Other Resources
Dave and Anna have compiled a colorful planting calendar for use in the Pine River area. If you are in the Driftless Region or some other part of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Extension service has guidance for the whole state.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, seed libraries and community gardens are great places for beginning gardeners to learn just about anything! And both are currently gearing up for the growing season in the Pine River area. To learn more about the Pine River-Backus Community Garden, check out PRB Community Education, or call 218-587-2080.
It is easy to get overwhelmed when planning to garden, but by starting where you are, a little trial and error, a lot of patience and advice, you may find yourself eating produce that tastes better than you ever thought possible.