We haven't had much rain in the past month so it has been pretty difficult to get new seeds planted out in the garden to germinate. I have had to water the bush bean area everyday to keep the top of the soil from crusting over. On days that I miss, the top layer of the soil dries out and the seeds can't break through. While dealing with this frustration I got to thinking, there has to be a better way.
What about my soil block maker?!
Beans and corn are two vegetables not usually grown indoors and transplanted because they have very delicate roots that don't take well to transplanting. Squeezing the seedlings out of a cell pack or wrestling them out of pots can be harmful to them. With soil blocks the transplant shock should be minimal or nonexistent!
A week or so ago I set out making blocks and planting seeds for my pole beans and my Mirai 301BC corn.
If you don't know what a soil block is, I wrote about them earlier this year. I got mine from Johnny's Selected Seeds. If you want to know more about soil block makers, Johnny's has a great PDF file explaining them better. Also, Jason, who has commented on this blog before, has a whole website devoted to soil blocks. He calls them potting blocks and his site is pottingblocks.com.
What will make soil blocks great for beans and corn is that there are no pots to remove, so the roots won't be disturbed. I can gently place the block in a small hole the garden and cover up around the block with garden soil.
The major difference in dealing with soil blocks under lights is the way you water them. As I have stated before, I am a big fan of bottom watering seedlings under grow lights. With the blocks, you have to spray from above daily to assure that the blocks don't dry out. After the plant roots have taken over the block, you can then lightly pour water into the block.
Here are the pole been seeds popping through the soil block:
Every seed germinated since I have better control over their conditions than if planted directly outside.
Here are the baby corn sprouts poking through on their first day:
What makes corn so difficult to grow indoors is that the taproots grow very quickly. Look at it sticking out of the soil block on day two after germinating!
These corn plants are already outside hardening off and will go into the garden very soon. The key is to transplant them only about a week after they sprout inside in the soil block.
So there you have it - soil blocks to the rescue with guaranteed germination. This morning the McCaslan pole beans were transplanted into the garden and the corn and other pole beans are waiting for tonight. Living in Kentucky, I have to grow Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans of course. My third pole bean variety is the crazy Chinese Red Noodle Bean that grows 18" pods! More on that later....