Saturday, March 7, 2020

Soil Blocking 101

Happy March, gardening friends!  
Here in central NJ (zone 6b), signs of life are popping up everywhere...
especially in my dining room!

The majority of cold hardy annuals I planted in September/October
have been decimated by voles/moles...a problem I've never had before!
So, needless to say, I'm playing catch up and trying to crank out
a few thousand new baby plants.

The method that works best for me is called soil blocking.
If you've never heard of's a quick How-To:
 You'll need a good seed starting mix, a soil block form, 
and some sort of tray that houses the seedlings and can hold water.
I use these styrofoam (meat) trays that friends recycle for me.  
They work great!
 Add water to potting mix until it's evenly moist but not too soggy!  
The form is then pressed firmly into the mix to fill in the 3/4" block molds.  
This model makes 20 mini 3/4" soil blocks per press.
 Position in place and pump the handle to release the blocks.  
These small trays will hold 40 seedlings. 
 I tend to seed 80/120 of each variety so that'll give me plenty of blooms to harvest.  
Succession seeding every two/three weeks throughout the season is a must
unless I'm buying in plugs from a nursery.  
You can't harvest flowers if you don't plant them!
 Plant names and dates are written right on the tray.  
The trays are then placed on heat mats.
Keeping the potting mix moist is key to good germination. 
 And always use freshest seeds possible.
Once I see germination, the tray then go under grow lights. 
Some seeds germinate in 2 days, others take a week or longer!
This is my 4th season of flower farming so
I've learned much through trial and error. 

 My grow room (read dining room) set up is just
a 6ft. tall/4ft. wide/5-shelf  rack from Home Depot 
with a few hanging shop lights....easy peasy, right?!

It's super important to water daily and not let the soil blocks dry out.
Weekly dose of fertilizer keeps these babies healthy and happy.
Amazingly, what you see above is about 1,800 seedlings 
in various stages of growth from the past 2 weeks.
The two bottom shelves hold 4ft heat mats and I actually have room
to add a 3rd light rack.
These more mature plants (that I bumped up into #50 trays) are hardening
 off on the deck.   They will be planted in their permanent home soon.  
Because they are winter hardy annuals, they'll be fine if
night temps dip in the low 30's.  
This bumping up step isn't necessary...I must've been bored..ha!
If you want to try soil blocking yourself, find info and products here! 

Lisa has been a great mentor since I started this flower farming journey
and if I can do it, you can too!  Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Bulbs in Crates

With a break from our chilly February temps this past weekend, I made it my mission to finish planting the last stash of bulbs, which have been taunting me from the corner of the garage!

These are the crates that hold my bulk orders of fall bulbs.
One crate holds roughly 500 tulips.
They come in different sizes but these measure 16"x23" and are 9" deep...
which works best for my planting purposes.
I line the perimeter with at least 4-5 layers of newspapers...
a good use of your recyclables...
to prevent soil from leaching out of those slats.
Fill the bottom with at least 3" of a good potting mix.
I do like to add a handful of bone meal to boost growth.
Depending on the size and variety of the bulbs, you can really pack them in!
Notice these tulips have started to sprout but they are firm and healthy
so they will be just fine!
Then add a 5-6" layer of potting mix on top.
 I will add mulch or leaves if I have any on hand.
The crates are placed outside in the garden through the winter
and just do their thing.
With the occasional rain and snow, no extra watering is needed.
By mid-late April, I'm ready to harvest...

bulbs and all. 
Easy peasy, right?! 
Stems are cleaned, extra foliage removed, they get conditioned overnight
and are ready for use the next day.
Spent bulbs are composted as I treat them as annuals.
 Blooms harvested with tighter buds (but showing color) can be held
in my flower cooler for up to 3-4 weeks.  Once in water, they plump and
color up in a few days.  This storage method helps extend my season of
cut tulips into mid-late June.
This is a crate of Spanish Bluebells.  I planted 400!
 Aren't they pretty?  (Internet photo)
I hope you enjoyed this quick tutorial.  Leave a hello (or question) in the comments.
If you have limited garden space, give this process a try.
We were back to a snowy forecast the next day so I'm glad I got this over-due chore done!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

And That's a Wrap!

Is it just me or does the sand escape faster
and faster through the hourglass as we get older?
Oh good...I'm not alone..ha!

2019 was filled with so many treasures for the photo album.
Hubby and I were lucky to enjoy not just one, but 2 major vacations!
February had us soaking up sun from the Big Island, Hawaii.
Days were filled with guided tours, luaus, and ocean front was heaven!
Then from late March to mid August, I was on auto pilot from sun-up to dusk,
seven days a week.  Down time was time behind the wheel...
driving from one field to the next...
planting, nurturing, weeding, harvesting.
And, yes, I do love it, but my body went on strike!
Weekly bouquets went out to CSA members, event designers,
two small grocery stores, not to mention the 3 farmers markets
I vended at each week.
It was a killer schedule.  One that I learned from and will be
making major changes this coming season.
There were new plants trialed and a few taken off the grow list.
These dahlias were grown by good friend and fellow farmer,
Katherine from
Aren't they gorgeous!
 At peak bloom (in July), I was harvesting enough
stems for 120 bouquets a was pretty crazy!
Hence the mid season burn out! 
It was time for a bit of R&R
We ended up here, in the historical district of Charleston, SC
what a quaint and beautiful place!  Such friendly people...and great BBQ!

 Then it was off to Hilton Head, SC.
 A sunset dolphin cruise is a must if you're ever in the area.
Last night of our stay, we had this view from our patio...sigh...
Thankfully, I was rejuvenated and ready to
tackle the last 2 months of hard labor.

With such a crazy growing and market schedule,
I did not have time to take on wedding designs except for one small
intimate party.  But I did get to free-lance with a few stellar local designers.
This was a wonderful learning day spent with
Deneise's team from
Perfect backdrop to say "I do"
The growing season finished by the end of October and I was truly ready.
A few weeks of catching up on household chores, paperwork and SLEEEEP,
I was finally able to tackle bulb planting...
so we could start this flower-filled life all over again come April!

Happy Belated New Year, friends!