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

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Blunders with Shoots, Blossoms 'n Roots
Where things either live or die!

Mar 3, 2011



Today was a beautiful, sunny day. A perfect day to start some seeds, so that’s what I did.

I’m experimenting with a Dutch method I learned about in one of Eliot Coleman’s books called multi-planting. Coleman only uses it on beet, broccoli, cabbage, leek, onion, scallions, and spinach.

I believe he does this in a cold frame, but I wanted to try it in 2” soil blocks to transplant out later. To start, you sow 4 or 5 seeds in one square (for me a soil block) and you won’t be thinning them. You’re growing transplants in groups rather than singles. In Coleman’s book he uses an onion as an example, so I will too. Sow 5 seeds and plan for 4 to germinate. When the onion seedlings are big enough to go into the garden, cut out the blocks and set them out with a spacing of 10 by 12 inches. When you sow singles they are set 3” apart. 4 plants in a clump every 12” gives them the same growing space as when singles are 3” apart. Same total space for each plant and the same yield. The onions just push each other out of the way as they grow and when it’s time to harvest you’ll find them in a little circle instead of a row.

Here is a table of the crops he does this with based on 30” wide beds






Beet 4 6” 3
Broccoli 4 24” 1
Cabbage 3 18” 1
Leek 4 12” 3
Onion 5 12” 3
Scallions 10 6” 3
Spinach 4 6” 3

*Info taken from Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman pg. 101

For my experiment I’m starting with broccoli and spinach. If I was to use it with onions, I’d use the cold frame as they have to grow for quite a while before setting them out and soil blocks might not work. The broccoli variety I’m using is a quick maturing one as some have told me that they haven’t had much luck with it here- it bolts, they said. When you use this method in a cold frame, as Coleman does, you cut out the blocks of plants- so I think the soil blocks will work, we’ll see what happens.

I like the idea of these multi-plants because it’s more efficient to plant 4 or 5 plants in one shot than it is one. Also, I decided to start with broccoli because one of the advantages of growing broccoli this way is that they grow 3 or 4 smaller central heads instead of one big one- I would prefer this as I just cut everything up anyway!

I also used a new organic fertilizer in my soil block mix today. It’s called Jump Start from Happy Frog. It has active soil microbes and is higher in Phosphorus so it’ll give the roots a good start. I’ll be sure to post a product report on this one.

And I purchased some seeds today (surprise, surprise). I just ran to get some more of those broccoli seeds and came back with these too- you know how it goes…they were 50% off…


I just love these colors- The Bellflower ‘peachleaf’ is one of my favorite blues. It is one of the very first plants I grew from seed in the rental we lived in. I think I had the white one too. They are beautiful in a bouquet (remember mom?).

I’ve never grown Foxglove (if you can believe that!) and it was such a pretty pale yellow I couldn’t pass it up…I’m not sure, but I think I actually heard it calling to me in the store! I’ve never grown Jacob’s Ladder either- what a beautiful blue, I just hope it’s true to color. Lupines I’ve grown before, but they were always a mix and never from seed- I really don’t like growing mixes with most things as you can end up with a big mess of mixed color if you keep getting them! They always had problems with mildew in Portland, so I’m hoping it’ll be different here. It seems Lupine takes quite a while to germinate- so if anyone has any tricks or suggestions about starting these, I’m all ears. I guess they’ll have to go into micro-blocks since they take so long. That way they don’t take up too much room.


Happy almost spring!




  • Corner Gardener Sue

    Hi Tessa,
    That method sounds interesting. I'm curious to see future posts about how it worked for you. I love the flower seeds you picked out. I can't keep lupines alive here. I don't know if I've ever started any perennials from seed. I hope they grow for you.

  • Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens

    I couldn't read the seed packet but the pale yellow foxgloves are very pretty and they are usually perennials. Keep us posted on the results.

  • CanadianGardenJoy

    Hello there Tessa girl !
    I love your selections here and wow .. I wish I had the energy you have to be into seeds like that .. I have lupins and foxglove .. but I think my foxglove has given up for this year .. those colours are so pretty I hope they are true for you too !
    You are one BUSY gardener girl ;-)
    Mean while back in the GWN it is SNOWING yet again ... aaarrrggghhh !

  • DirtDigger (Tessa)

    Thanks so much for stopping by all,

    Sue- I'm glad you like them. I'll be sure to update. I've started many plants from seed, including perennials- some are easier than others, but it's always fun!

    Carolyn- I sure will, and yes the foxgloves are perennials. We'll see how they do here in my colder climate.

    Joy- So sorry to hear you're having more snow. It seems everyone is getting extended winter weather. I'm sure we'll get more snow too. Stay warm!

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