I’ll Take Everything Please.

Any gardeners out there?

Have you seen Johnny’s Selected Seeds 2022 Catalog? WOW. The front cover and images on every page will have you submitting your resignation letter and becoming a full-time farmer next week! Mine arrived a few days ago and I was afraid to open it because I knew I would want it all! Please.

Johnny’s is a standard of quality for organic growers, backyard to crop-size. You can order a packet or a pound of seed (that’s a lot). Some of my other favorite sources for organic seed are:

If you usually put in some vegetable plants around your home – in pots or in the ground – I suggest you buy organic and heirloom seed (if you don’t already)! Why not grow the very best flavors, colors, and nutrients? I’ve found that the germination rate (how often a seed actually sprouts and produces a plant) is usually higher than standard seed packets for sale in big-box stores.

Well, I made it through Johnny’s Seed catalog this afternoon. I circled my favorites and folded some pages, but before I make an order, I promised myself I would spread out my seed stash on the dining room table and see what I already have.

I plan to start with vegetables and list them in order of seed-starting-date. Some will need to be direct-sown; I’ll have to wait for the soil outside to warm up enough to help them germinate. But others will get an early start in soil-blocks and trays on a sunny table indoor with heat mats. The trick for me will be doing the math and making a schedule for when and how many seeds to start. Maybe I’ll print a big calendar and just fill in the boxes!

Next, I’ll unpack the flower seeds and decide if I have enough (there will never be enough). Truth is, I just can’t justify buying more flower seeds this year!

What do you plan on growing this year? Will you choose to go with organic seed?

Soil Blocking

Last spring, I transformed our dining room into a seed-starting project. We scooted between folding tables and chairs to get to the table to eat, and I had all my seed-starting supplies stacked here-and-there on half of the dining room table. Not the best scenario! I made a note to improve the process for 2021.

And then I discovered Lisa Mason Ziegler, of Instagram fame (I am just one of the 28,000 folks who watch her posts about her flower farm in Virginia).

She was talking about soil blocking and I was curious. So, I opened her website at gardenersworkshopfarm.com and read all I could about it. I learned that soil blocking would cost me a little bit to get started (tools), but promised to be easy, save time, take up less space than my cell trays, and make the transplanting process into the garden gentle on my baby plants.

I ordered the 1” and 2” soil blockers from gardenersworkshopfarm.com, and just a few months later, I saw Lynsey from Muddy Acres Flower Farm post a video on Instagram of her soil blocking project. It looked so easy-peasy! I couldn’t wait to get started on my own.

In April all we can do is dream and scheme about gardening where I live in Michigan. On April Fools Day this year it snowed! But it didn’t last long and last week I pulled out my new soil blocker tools, opened the bag of soil I had saved for this project, and got to work planting tomatoes and snapdragons.

I cleared a space on the kitchen counter and put soil in a 9×12 baking dish (it seemed the right depth and size). I added water until I could squeeze a handful of soil and get some water to drip out. It only took a few tries with the soil blocking tool to learn what was too dry, what was too wet, and what was just right.

I stamped the soil blocks onto a plastic tray and then opened my first pack of seeds!

Each soil block had an indention in the top, so I dropped a seed (or two) into each. And just like that I had started my Black Krim tomatoes.

I had my operation set up on the counter for less than an hour, and then put everything away, including my starts on just one-half of one folding table in the sunny spot of the dining room. The dining room table is actually clear this year!

I can’t wait to show you how they grow and transplant into my garden beds!

Getting Started

In my first season of Gwen’s Greens, LLC, I set out to do everything “the right way.” It was Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden that infused me with the inspiration and motivation to make my garden into a business; so, I followed Erin Benzakein’s recommendations 100%.

  • I bought the landscape fabric and made a template to burn holes for each plant
  • I ordered seeds from Floret and planted them exactly how the package instructed

And I was successful!

When it came to starting seeds indoors, I relied on our family’s experience gardening over the past 20 years and did a lot of searches on Google. I was most intrigued by @nctomatoman on YouTube and ordered his book: Epic Tomatoes. I modeled after Craig’s seed starting process and even tried planting in grow bags like he does on his driveway! He got me started on a journey of staking and pruning tomatoes. I had no idea how this would increase my yields!

Attributed to Gwen Hersha for Gwen's Greens, LLC

I share this with you, because it’s important to note that following an expert’s guidelines and advice has been incredibly valuable for me. I won’t share all the web links and books I reviewed and even patterned some of my practices after, that didn’t lead to success. And here’s why: not every good idea will work for you (it didn’t for me). But continually reading and following gardeners online and in your community will help you determine your own process and save you time by avoiding years of trial and error. As you research, you will uncover experts or true “sages” to model after, like Erin and Craig are for me.

This year I’ve discovered Lisa Mason Ziegler who shares her insights and resources on @gardenersworkshopfarm on Instagram. And she has introduced me (and her 27.7K followers) to soil blocking!

As soon as 2021 rolled around, I ordered some soil blocking tools and this week I am going to try them out! I can’t wait to share what I find out with this new process. It promises to be easy, take up a fraction of the space that typical cell trays do, and gentle on those seedlings I will transplant to their homes in the outside soil.

I may be late coming to the party! Have you tried soil blocking? What have you learned?