This week's 'dig'
Kate at High Altitude Gardening reports a neat thing happening in SLC, UT

You know you're a gardener when...
Blunders with Shoots, Blossoms 'n Roots
Where things either live or die!

Mar 26, 2011

I Can’t Tell You the Importance of the Right Nail!


You’ve heard the saying “The right tool for the right job”, well how about the right nail for the right job? Yep, that’s what I needed and 4-penny common nail- now where do you suppose I put those when we moved? Lucky me! I didn’t have to look far because I was smart enough to put most of my gardening ‘stuff’ in the same place, even as fast as we packed and moved. A nail, in gardening stuff? Let me explain.

When I sow seeds in the 200 cell plugs there is only one way to get them out- a nice nail just barely smaller than the hole in the bottom. One of my many favorite gardening books I read years ago, written by Mark Freeman called Gardening in Your Greenhouse had this advice, and it has continued to be one of the easiest ways to start seeds to date! Great little book. I really need to get some more of these plug flats as only one came with us in the move- the rest were getting cracked because I’ve had them for years.

So ‘Marvel of Four Seasons’ was potted up yesterday. I was going to put them in paper pots, but I just didn’t have it in me to make them. That and I can fit more under the lights with 6 packs. I have more lettuce to pot-up and I may try to fit them in 9 packs. Lettuce is one crop that does better, in my experience, when it is potted up once or twice before setting out- for whatever reason.




I managed to get spinach and beets in the ground in the new tunnel. Now we’ll see if they live! One of the timings will be the right one- but it is all about experimenting this year and keeping really good records- that and it’s a weird year, so much wind and about 8-10 degrees lower than last March. I still need to buy my snap clamps so making the tunnel into a chenille was my best bet to keeping it from ending up down the street!

I said my usual prayer and that is that…I’m sure you all have read my subtitle ‘Where things either live or die’.


I mulched on the ends for added protection and plan on adding more. I want to mulch after the soil has a chance to get some heat- anyone have a favorite mulch for veggies. I have straw, hay, and a lot of pine needles (they take forever to break down and my soil can use some acidic help anyway.) All of them need to be chopped up I think- that will take some time.

These plants are the multi-plant experiment I started a few weeks back. The roots look really good- we’ll see how it goes.

As usual with early transplants, these have been fertilized with a high phos. fertilizer- to get the roots off to a good start in cool soil- even though they’re under the tunnel and the soil is a little warmer there.

I harvested a little bit today too- yummy!

A local produce store wanted to see my Mache, the owner had never heard of it, including it’s various names, so I took her some today. While I was there I told her that I’d harvested some baby spinach, lettuce, and radish too- she asked me if I’d be able to provide her with small bunches weekly with my small bed in the greenhouse or elsewhere- she had to pay a lot for the ones she had and the green tops had to be cut they looked so ragged. We’ve talked before about the possibility of supplying her with various things, once I’m up and running. And she knows I’m still working on soil quality, and experimenting with timing and varieties. It will be exciting to see what comes of it.

Let’s see what else- Oh, I started the second round of beets, and a few broccoli. And the first round of chard.

Nice sturdy soil blocks and yummy beets and chard on the way…guess I better work on more beds! The micro blocks will be sown with some flowers later.

I need to work on generation 2 soil block flats this year as I want them to have more air- which is why I put more space between them in the above group. The roots just gather at the bottom instead of getting air pruned- These wooden flats are Eliot Coleman’s design, but I’ve since seen special flats for the soil blocks at Johnny’s- probably Coleman’s idea, I’m sure. If they’re transplanted in a timely manner they’d be fine, but holding them off in these is not working as well as I’d like.


I hope your seed starting is going well!


Happy gardening,



  • Chandramouli S

    Using a nail to pick the seedlings is a great idea, Tessa!
    Good luck with your seedlings! Happy Spring Gardening!

  • Rosey

    Those soil blocks look like they would work great. I need to add that to my wish list. I have been using ugly milk cartons for too long. :)

    I haven't tried Mache either... you eat it raw a salad? I am always looking for new greens to try. This might be another that will grow well at our altitude.

    We have had a lot of wind also...but not much precip. Lots of fires and worries. I am hoping for spring snow, even if it slows down spring planting for me.

    Always good to hear from you, thanks for your comment on my blog.

  • Daphne

    What a pretty harvest. I'm going to have to get my 2" soil blocker up and running again. I need to put the inserts back in as I'm going to start some mini blocks in about a week.

  • DirtDigger (Tessa)

    Hello Chandramouli, happy spring gardening to you too. The nail works great and is actually inserted into the bottom of the plug flat below the roots to pop the plant out :)

    Camille (Rosey), Yes! Add them to your wish list and let me know so I can help you with getting the soil just right to make the blocks. Mache (also called corn salad or lamb's lettuce) is great! Very cold hardy. It was weed in Europe and they cultivated it. It grows in a rosette and you harvest it whole and add to salad (raw)- great crop! I'll just hope for rain or snow for you!

    Daphne, Thanks. It's not much, but it's a start and was yummy! I'm hoping I can get another 2" soil block maker as I really don't like changing out the inserts! I finally just stopped doing it.

  • Li'l Ned

    Hey Tessa,
    I just finally bought my first soil blocker thingy, after wanting one for years and years. Don't know why I never got around to it before now, but at last I will get to try it out. I know Jim Fields (Fields Farm in Bend) uses them, and I know you do too. What soil mix do you use with yours? Johnny's (from whom I bought the blocker) has a recipe online that seems very complicated. I was thinking I might try some good regular organic potting soil from the nursery, maybe augmented with some peat moss, but maybe you have a super recipe already organized?

  • DirtDigger (Tessa)

    Hello Kathy- So glad you finally got one! Did you get the micro size too? The soil mix started out with was Eliot Coleman's that you make. When I can't make my own, I use Black Gold Coco (there is an organic one too) and I sift it to get the large sized perlite out, using a sifter that will leave the smaller perlite. I have a video on here that I made a few years ago- Since then, I've made some adjustments and I really need to make a new one as you're not the only one asking! Thanks for the reminder.

    I did find Coleman's original videos on Youtube. (I watched them years ago on his show Gardening Naturally)
    Just do a search for him you'll probably find all the rest from his show.

    I'll send you an email for more info :)

Post a Comment

Don't hesitate leaving your thoughts! My comments are highlighted in light green. I support the No-NoFollow/DoFollow comments movement, so you all will get some well deserved link love! As always, happy gardening to you :)


Fight spam not blogs! Read more here