August is a tough month. It’s hot and busy with gearing up for the new school year. There is a transition in the garden that I learned last year is critical for a successful Fall and Winter garden – tearing out the old and spent plants, adding compost, and starting new plants. But I am really forcing myself to do this, to invest, knowing it will make a difference. But, my feet are dragging and I am tired!
Soil Block Issues
This is my second year starting my own seeds, and I have encountered a new problem. As you can see below, I have some plants that are doing quite well, like my Brussels sprouts, some cabbage, a few kale, and a few tomatoes I want to try to trellis in my greenhouse as the temperatures drop in the fall. The majority of my soil blocks are empty. These were all started around mid-July.
If you look closer, there appears to be mold covering the soil blocks. It is actually a fungus and common, although not so common with me. It is clearly killing and preventing my seeds from sprouting. Oi!
What to do? What causes it? From what I read, it is due to humidity, and symptom of over watering. I didn’t think I was guilty of that, but maybe so! One suggestion was to put a fan on the trays. In one forum thread, I read where microwaving will sterilize the starting soil. Another suggestion was using peroxide and cinnamon!
“I water with 10:1 mix of water and peroxide. i use this mix for everything- moistening the soil, regular watering, filling the trays. The extra oxygen molecule helps feed the plants and prevents pathogens from growing. I don’t worry about sterilizing anything any more. My last trick is to sprinkle cinnamon on top of the soil after sowing or potting up, which also works well as a fungicide, and prevents gnats.”
Another gardener confirmed that, so I think I will give that a try. I can also scrape it off, too. They said the fungus would not inhibit the growth of the seedlings, but could compete for resources. With so many of my blocks empty, I am just not sure about that actually.
Direct Seeding Outside
The other thing I have been doing this August is ripping out the old and spent, tilling in compost, and direct seeding. Mentally, I have forced myself to stay on track and not procrastinate. This is just a part of diligence. Starting seeds indoors is easy peasy, but out in the heat is tough. Staying consistent with water is tough. My biggest concern with direct seeding is the heat and lack of constant water, which could cause my seedlings to wither.
For method, I have “scatter seeded” before and this completely offends my OCD. Can’t do it. Ever. This year I have tried over seeding in the spots I want the plants to grow. In other words, after determining the spacing, I seed 5-10 seeds in those spots. When the temperature is in the 90’s, one of them has got to live, right?
I have seeded herbs like cilantro and parsley, and Brassicas like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and kohlrabi. Here is some Red Russian kale, doing well with some with their first true leaf!
And some Napa cabbage and small Brunswick seedlings at the upper right. I am definitely seeing a difference in sprouting rates. I have also learned to differentiate between a weed and a Brassica cotyledon.
I have direct seeded lettuce throughout the summer to see if I could get some to grow, but I have not been successful. Even with the latest seeding, I am not seeing very much growth. This past week I decided to just grow starters inside under my lights. Since it is cooler inside, this is probably the best plan anyway.
In June, I did a carrot sprouting experiment where I seeded Muscade carrots in a lane of peat moss, covered soaked burlap and tried to water constantly. I only got a few seeds to sprout. Below is the extent, but it was probably both the heat and my not so constant watering that led to limited success. But about 3 weeks ago, I put some more Red Core Chantenay carrot seeds in the gaps, and was more diligent with watering, and you can see in those gaps below the small little cotyledon arms of carrots!
Below is a 2 ft x 12 ft row that used to be eggplant. Those plants were spent and ripped out. About 2 weeks ago I seeded with Cosmic Purple carrots, and this morning I could see some of them starting to sprout.
So, in general I a pleased with what is sprouting and growing for fall. I absolutely love carrots out of the garden. I need to keep doing this for the next 4 weeks so that plants can get established for a fall harvest. I need to then continue to see for the next 4 weeks after that to establish plants for a winter harvest. Then it will be nice and cool and I can have a nice break!