Sattin Hill Market Farming Course Module 11: Seed Starting & Nursery Management (FSFS249)

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Episode Summary

This episode of Farm Small Farm Smart features the eleventh module of the Sattin Hill Market Farming Course, where Josh Sattin talks about the different ways to manage a nursery, as well as how he uses soil blocks to start his seeds.  

Today’s Guest: Josh Sattin

Josh Sattin is a farmer at Sattin Hill Farm in Raleigh, North North Carolina. As an educator and professional videographer, Josh has published hundreds of educational farming videos on his YouTube to help make a difference in the local farming and foodscape.

            Josh Sattin – YouTube | Instagram | Website

In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart

  • An overview of the Sattin Hill Farm Course Module 11 (00:40)
  • Different options for nursery management (01:23)
    • A dedicated nursery greenhouse (01:26)
    • Use part of an existing greenhouse (01:42)
    • Grow indoors (01:58)
    • Don’t have a greenhouse (02:25)
  • Why do you need a nursery space? (02:52)
    • Using a germination chamber (03:15)
    • Other uses for the nursery (04:18)
  • Think about nursery accessibility (04:54)
  • Sattin Hill’s nursery setup (05:30)
    • Features of the Rimol Bobcat tunnel (06:52)
    • Pros and cons of the Rimol Bobcat tunnel (07:33)
    • Watering inside the nursery (09:02)
    • Nursery table considerations (11:35)
  • Make sure your nursery can handle the busiest time of the year (13:30)
  • Using soil blocks to start seeds (14:02)
    • What is a soil block? (14:22)
    • The downside of using 10/20 trays (14:38)
    • The push and pull stress on the plant start (15:22)
  • The pros of using soil blocks (16:36)
    • Flexibility in transplanting (16:42)
    • Soil blocks air prune (16:58)
    • Quicker transplanting time (17:42)
  • The cons of using soil blocks and FAQs (19:08)
    • Lacking moisture retention (19:12)
    • Needs to be hand seeded (19:40)
    • Are they too long to make? (19:55)
    • Is using soil blocks scalable? (20:17)
  • Tools and materials needed to make soil blocks (21:48)
    • Buy good quality potting mix (21:52)
    • A container to make the soil block mix (23:36)
    • Trays (24:20)  
    • Soil blocker (24:51)
  • Creating soil blocks (26:30)
    • Plant more than you need (30:28)
    • Closing soil block tops (31:08)
    • Rinse the soil blocker immediately after (31:54)
    • Label your trays (32:13)
  • Timing when to start and transplant your starts (32:51)
  • Make sure to harden off your plants (33:41)
  • Last tips on seed propagation and nursery management (35:30)
    • Buy good quality seeds (35:35)
    • Only one seed per soil block (35:55)
    • Potting up starts (36:27)
    • Ensure good seed storage (37:06)
    • Keeping off rodents (37:30)

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FSFS129 (SHFC #10)

[00:00:00] Diego Footer: Welcome to farm small farm smart. I'm your host Diego, DIEGO. Today, it's module 11 of the sat and hill farm course taught by farmer. Josh satin in module 11, Josh is going to be talking about nursery operations. If you, in a watch this presentation you can do so on. Josh's YouTube. Using the link below.

[00:00:24] And if you want to read resources related to this, you can do so at paper, pot.co/josh, and I've also linked to it below. Now, let's jump right into the module. It's nursery management with Josh satin.

[00:00:40] Josh Sattin: Welcome to module 11 of the Sattin Hill Farm Course. This module is all about nursery management and seed propagation.

[00:00:46] And before we get into it, I just had to have a huge stakes to our sponsor paper, pod co without the help of Diego and paper, pod co, this entire horse, wouldn't be possible and more on them later in this module, I'll cover the needs for having a nursery. I'll talk about my nursery. Soil blocks, timing of transplants, hardening off and some other tips.

[00:01:08] A lot of people, when they get started with market gardening or farming, don't really put a lot of thought into their nursery space. And it's a huge part of the operation for a lot of farmers, you spend a lot of time planting seeds and propagating starts and all those sorts of things. You want to think about having a dedicated space for that?

[00:01:23] And there are a lot of different options. One of which is something like this, I'm in a dedicated nursery greenhouse, and this is actually too big for my little farm, but this is what I wound up with. And you can see behind me that I don't really have much in here right now. And that's because my season is ending pretty soon.

[00:01:38] And so I don't really have a lot more. Uh, to go out. Another option is to use part of a greenhouse. And I've seen this before, where part of a greenhouse is used for seed propagation or a wash pack. And part of it's used for growing. So you can definitely use parts of greenhouses and, and things. If you don't have a dedicated one, there are a lot of different options out there.

[00:01:58] The other option is you can grow indoors. So what I did for the first few years is I had a big racks with lights on them, have grow lights. I was using that for microgreens and also for starts. So that allows you to get started on the cheap. It takes up very little. You can do it in a garage or a, an outbuilding or something like that.

[00:02:16] Maybe somewhere you can regulate the temperature, especially in the spring time. When you are trying to get the starts out, you need it to be a little bit warmer for them to germinate. If it, if you live in an area that's much colder, another option is to not have a nursery. Um, and this is interesting. I think there's some.

[00:02:31] Farms that are doing this and if not their entire production, at least part of the production where they're just buying starts from a commercial greenhouse or commercial nursery. And they kind of eliminate that. And I think that could be a good way to go about it in your first year or two as well. If you're a little overwhelmed with everything and just, uh, want to focus on the growing and all those sorts of things.

[00:02:49] So those are kind of the different options. Now, why do you need. Nursery space. Well, you're trying to get these seeds that you're planting to grow. And the biggest thing is to regulate the temperature because seeds will need to germinate at certain temperature. So something like this, which I have in a greenhouse will stay much warmer and it'll also protect from rain and all that kind of stuff is that if you're in a garage or an outbuilding or something, and you're using lights, you can control the temperature a lot better as well.

[00:03:15] Some people will use a germination chamber, which is an excellent way of getting really accurate germination. Uh, the most common one I've seen is using a standup freezer, which has a dual controller, one to cool with the freezer. And then they put a Crock-Pot with water in the bottom, hooked up to the heating part of the two-stage cooler.

[00:03:33] So that's an option too, especially if you're an area where it's super hot and need a little bit cooler temperatures for things like lettuce to get germinated and those sorts of things, airflow. Is super important. And I think a lot of people overlook this. I think having fans in your nursing is a great idea for a few reasons.

[00:03:48] One is it keeps down the moisture around the plants because you can easily start growing, uh, you know, mold and like algae and stuff like that. And, and not have healthy starts for me. I'm lucky here. Part of my ventilation system is there's always air moving through here. Also. It makes the starts have, uh, they're stronger if there's a little bit of wind the, um, the stems and the roots are a little bit stronger.

[00:04:10] So when they get put out in the fields, uh, they're in a lot better shape. So if you're growing indoors, uh, I'd recommend putting some fans in there just to keep the air moving around. And you have a nursery like this, there were other uses. So this is a pretty expensive setup here. This is, as I said, more than I need and kind of a luxury, but if you have extra space, which you can see, well, I know I'm wrapping up my season here, but you can do other things in a nursery too.

[00:04:32] You can do grow bags or other ways of growing, uh, either. Different kinds of edible flowers or micro greens. There's other things you can use inside of a nursery. You can also propagate plants and cell starts like peppers and tomatoes and stuff. If you're going to a farmer's market. So there's a lot of good uses in a tunnel.

[00:04:48] And the other part of the tunnel is that I do all my seed starting and stuff in there. I'll show you that in a second. One thing you want to think about with your nursery space is make sure that it's as close to we're going to be accessing the farm. So for me, with my tunnel, This is the one that's closest to my house because you're going to be coming in here and more often than not.

[00:05:07] Part of the farm. So you want to make sure it's easily accessible and not a pain, because if things are difficult to do, then you're not going to do them very often in the ideas of permaculture. This would be like zone zero or zone one. So you want to make sure the nursery is easy access easily. And you'll go in there more often to check on things

[00:05:29] I want to go through and talk about my nursery set up here, because I absolutely love this setup. It's been working out amazingly well, and this space is bigger than I need for sure. Also, I have a lot of bells and whistles in this tunnel, a lot of luxuries, but absolutely love them. And I do enjoy a little bit of automation.

[00:05:44] You might need something less hardcore. You might, you might need something more hardcore depending on your operation, but I want to show you what I have going on here. So this tunnel is the Rimmel Bobcat, and this was a custom thing they put together for me. This is a 16 by 24 foot tunnel. They don't sell this.

[00:05:59] This is, as I said, custom w the coolest things about this tunnel is that it is a double one. Tunnel. So it has two layers of plastic on the roof, and it's separated and inflated with this blower motor right over here, which runs all the time. And what that does is it creates a pocket of air that creates an insulation for the tunnel and the end walls are not insulated.

[00:06:20] And when I asked them about that, they said most of the heat actually goes up through the roof and it's not actually necessary to, um, to insulate the end walls. But this has been working out really well. It's definitely warmer in here than in my, um, Farmers friend tunnels. And this is a very different tunnel than the farmer's friend tunnel.

[00:06:36] This is a lot more permanent in terms of the install. It had to be. Um, and we did that by having longer poles on this side. Cause they didn't actually level the ground. It just took a lot more time to put together, but it has a lot more features and I think it works great as a nursery. Now let me show you some of the features that absolutely love about this.

[00:06:55] This nursery has a sliding. Which I love, I didn't think I'd love this as much as I do. It really makes it feel very premium and really nice to use. As I said, there's a lot of luxuries on this tunnel, but when you're coming in, out of here often, especially in the cooler times, it's really easy to open it and close it and I'll show you how this works.

[00:07:15] Sorry. It's a little bit of a mess in there. My season's ending up. Haven't cleaned up in here yet. Can also lock it too. I've never done that, but I don't know. You could probably get in if you want it to it's piece of plastic. So I love that the sliding door, I think it's a really nice feature. This greenhouse has some temperature regulation in it, and it's been awesome.

[00:07:33] There are some pros and cons with this, and I want to talk about those and talk about what I have going on here. So this. Louvers on both sides. Louvers are these things that open up and let Erin, and then there's fans on the other side. And these are connected in two zones with these thermostats behind me.

[00:07:49] This louver here is connected with the fan on the opposite side, and that'll create a cross breeze, which is, which is awesome. So I have these set up on two zones for two timers and the way this works. As the temperature starts rising in here, the first one will kick on and then as it gets even warmer, the second will kick on.

[00:08:07] And that does a couple of things. It just saves a lot of electricity because you're only running one when you need it. And it only is running two when you absolutely need it. So in the shoulder seasons, it'll often just one will kick on in the summer. They're both be running, but it allows you some flexibility there.

[00:08:20] And so I have that set up here. With two timers. Now, what are the negatives with this? Well, first of all, you have to run the fans and that's used electricity, but also it's very loud and it's something I initially didn't think about. But when you are running the fans all the time, it's loud out here. It might sound silly, but it's pretty quiet and peaceful here.

[00:08:39] And I hate hearing the fan run all the time, but in general, it is taken a lot of stress away from me because I know generally the temperature is going to be pretty regulated in here versus like opening, closing sides and doors and all that kind of stuff. And it also creates air flow in here, which I talked about before.

[00:08:54] So I don't have additional fans in here because it's a pretty small nursery and that air flow has been good enough for my needs for the. Now it's getting a watering in here. And first of all, make sure you have a good watering wand. I've been using this one. This is the wonder water. And I like this because it makes a really find missing.

[00:09:13] It's really gentle on the plants. I've had good luck with it. Uh, for one season, I don't know how long these last four, but it was a little bit pricey, but I do like it in terms of the setup here. There's one valve here to control, uh, basically how much water goes through. And then this one I just use for an on and off.

[00:09:27] I love these DRAM valves. These are indestructible. I use these all on the farm that totally pricey, but totally worth it. I'll leave links down below for everything. Like I usually do that. I mentioned in this video, so you guys can check them out. So in addition to the hand water, you make sure you have one of these.

[00:09:40] You definitely need to hand water. I also have. Automated sprinkler misting system. And I have one row for each of the rows of tables. And these have been working really well. These are the vibrant net, uh, MREs, and this was not a kit. I got these through Berry hill and I just pieced it together. It wasn't very expensive.

[00:09:59] Basically. You buy all the pieces that you need. And just put it together. Uh, they recommended, I think every three feet apart and that's been working out pretty well, except for, I then put the last one, one and a half feet from the end and it was too close. So definitely keep it a little bit further away on the end, but these are great.

[00:10:16] And a couple of upgrades here. So you get. Basically, you can run these into three quarter irrigation line. Like I mentioned, in the irrigation video, you've got these dropdown pieces here, and this was an add on where these valves definitely get these valves. You can shut them off, turn them on and off. One note about them is they're backwards from every velvet ever used in my life.

[00:10:34] So this, when it's running up and down, This is often we turn it across to the side it's on. So I was very confused when I got it. They come with these backflow preventers, which are great, like in the, uh, farmer's friend overhead kits. So he turned it off. It doesn't drip. And then these are the misters on the bottom that spin around and have this set up into a normal time.

[00:10:53] And it works out really well. Uh, the one thing like I keep saying with irrigation is that it's, there's no set it and forget it. You gotta make sure you set it for some time and then check it and check on your plants and actually feel the soil and those sorts of things. I think I have it going off, uh, four times a day.

[00:11:09] Cause that's what my timer can do. And I'll just adjust the number of minutes, every single on, on each time it comes on until like, until I dial it in. Now, if you get a hot streak, make sure you're watering enough. If you want to come in and just top it off a little bit with. Um, hand water that works well too.

[00:11:23] Or you can just make adjustments, but make sure you keep it on your starts because one, even one day where it's too hot in here and they don't have enough water, you can destroy them. And that's definitely happened to me before. So you want to keep that in mind. The other thing you're going to have in here are some tables and these are just tables that were built out of pallets.

[00:11:42] So they're all different shapes and sizes. A lot of these came with things I ordered and so we turned them into tables by just. Uh, pieces of top rail and scrap wood and stuff like that. One thing I've heard is you want to use metal legs on your tables to keep mice from crawling up them. Okay. These all have metal legs.

[00:12:03] And I still had mice problems in here when I was planting bigger seeds. So I don't know a lot of people will get really fancy nursery tables. And I think having that as awesome, it'll make it a lot, make you a lot happier to work in here, but frankly, like these have been working great. I know they're not super pretty and they don't match and everything.

[00:12:20] But one thing about having tables is make sure you're not using a table that has a solid top. Make sure it has space for the air to get flu, uh, get through because. Super important. You don't want to have just water sitting there. It'll get nasty it'll rot and it won't be good for the plants because the nursery is larger than I need.

[00:12:38] I have space in here for a potting bench. So I do all my seed starting on here. And it's really nice to have that space, especially in your, in your nursery or in a greenhouse because. Lot of times when you're starting seeds, you're doing the big push for spring and it's gonna be cold out having a places a little bit warmer to work on that as is great.

[00:12:53] You can also store your soil mix in here and also have a, um, a little rack over here for trays and random stuff. And as you can see, it's very disorganized, but, uh, uh, it's the end of the season for me. And I need to do some cleaning up and tidying, but having something like this is great, allows me just to keep everything in one spot.

[00:13:09] And it's also very close to where the trays are going to go for when you're going to be growing these transplants. Um, so having this is awesome. Well, I want to break down all the stuff going on in my nursery here, so you can see what's going on. It's been awesome. I love all the bells. And when. And it's also been much larger than I need, but I bet you, if you asked most farmers, they've never said that their nursery is too big because you always need more space.

[00:13:30] And to that point, make sure that your nursery space can handle the biggest time of year for you, which is going to be in the spring, especially when you, if you're growing things like tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers, where you're putting them into larger containers, you're gonna need a lot of space.

[00:13:42] So that crunch time is always tough and you might have to scramble a little bit, but. Plan ahead for growth. Make sure you have a nursery that's bigger than you need. You'll be much happier.

[00:13:56] Now they went over a lot of stuff about nurseries in general. Let's get into seed propagation and starts. And those kinds of. And for me, I use soil blocks. I'm a huge fan of soil blocks. I started using them, uh, when we started the farm here, which was end of 20, 20, and beginning of 2021, I'm a total convert.

[00:14:12] I'm not going back. I absolutely love them, but there are a lot of different ways to start seeds. And you know, I'm going to show you as, as I've done throughout this course, what I do on the farm here, but I'll also show you some other options as well. So what is a soil block? A soil block. These are solvable.

[00:14:27] It's just a little block of soil that you make and you start seeds in them and that's it. You don't have to use these kinds of things. These, these cell trays here, and the problem with these cell trays, I think most people get started. And you hear them referred to as 10 20 trays. And that's because they're 10 inches by 20 inches, roughly.

[00:14:47] Um, and this is kind of how people get started for the most part, including myself, they're cheap, they're easily accessible. That's kind of what everyone knows and is comfortable with. There's a couple of problems with this. Uh, first of which is they don't last very long. I'd say three or four, maybe five turns on these and they start to crack.

[00:15:03] Right. And they're cheap and they fall apart and then it's plastic that you're just kind of tossing. I'd rather have stuff that's built better that, um, Yeah, that'll stick around longer and you don't have to replace. There's all other versions of these, like the wind strip trays, I think are another great option too, because they're a lot sturdier and there's some benefits to those as well.

[00:15:22] But generally speaking, I don't like using these, uh, not just because of the fact that they wear out, but when you are taking transplants out of this, you have. Have a system where you push them out from the bottom. Some people have like a tray with things to stick up and push all of them out at once or you're pulling the plants out.

[00:15:38] And when you're doing that, you're pushing, the plants are pulling the plants, it's causing stress on this little transplant. And so I think that the key with having really strong transplants, we on the field getting a good jumpstart, having minimal shock. I think all of that is sort of, um, it works really well with soil blocks.

[00:15:57] And so the reason for that is look like I just pick up the soil. Like this and they put them in the ground. Yeah. The roots on a, a small transplant are going to be very fragile and it can be damaged real easily. So for me, having a plant like this, that I can take out and put in the ground with middle Mont of transplant shock is fantastic.

[00:16:15] And I have noticed that when I switched over to soil blocks, I noticed that when I plant out in the field, Um, everything looks just great right away. I don't have things like hanging over and struggling and those sorts of things. So this is what Slovaks are. I'm going to get into all the details. We'll talk about pros and cons, all the gear you need, and I'll go through and show you how to make them

[00:16:36] start with the pros of soil blocks. And first of all, you get a lot of flexibility in terms of. Getting the transplants out into the field when you're growing in trays like this, that what happens is once the plant gets too big, it will get stunted. It will start to wrap its roots around and be very unhappy.

[00:16:55] The beauty about soil blocks. You can see the roots here, but what happens is they air prune. And what that means is once they hit air, they just stopped growing. And so that the plants stay healthier longer. And what happens is it gives you a little bit more flexibility into that window. I noticed, especially in the warmer months when these guys are ready, like, if I'm doing lettuce in here, when these are ready, they need to go out like within a day or two, or they get too big.

[00:17:19] This, I get a lot more flexibility. That's awesome. The other thing is if you pull them out and they are a little bit over. Overgrown like these needed to go out already. Uh, they're stuck together and you can see all the roots on the bottom here. But what I do is you can just pull them apart pretty gently.

[00:17:37] And they're fine. So it gives you, as I said, a lot of flexibility, uh, to get them out in the field. The other thing I love about them is it's quick. To transplant them. So for me, when I'm taking transplants out of a cell tray like this, I, what I would normally do is I'd sit, stand at a table or somewhere and I'd pull all the transplants out and then take that tray over and put them in the ground.

[00:17:59] The best thing about this is I just bring this tray with me out to the field and I just pulled them out and put them in the ground. So there are less steps, uh, in terms of transplanting and when you're transplanting, you're often leaning over and those sorts of things. And so anything I can do to simplify that.

[00:18:15] Uh, I'm a huge fan of now. The other thing about soil blocks, which I love is that these trees here are set up for certain sizes. So this is a 128 cell tray. You can get 70 twos. They come in all different sizes. But the best thing for me is that with the trays that I use for soil blocks, no matter what side of soil blocks I use.

[00:18:35] I use the same trays. So for me, it simplifies a lot about soil blocks because I don't need to have all these different trades. I just have one tray. And I love that too. Now what's soil blocks. A lot of people wonder about watering. You can use them with overhead watering, like I mentioned, with the water or with these automated systems, but you can also bottom water.

[00:18:55] You can put a tray underneath and water from the bottom. So if you're doing. You can also do them inside. If you, if you can't do overhead, if you're like growing on racks and stuff, you can still do soil blown.

[00:19:08] Now let's get on the cons and frequently asked questions about soil blocks. So the first of which is moisture retention, and this is something you have to be very aware of. What's all blocks because there's a lot more open surfaces. There's a lot more air flow, which is great for the plants, but also it, they tend to dry off pretty quickly.

[00:19:24] And if they do completely dry out, they're really hard to get, get wet again. So you have to be really careful about that. And one thing I found is helpful are these trees because they're solid on the side. So it keeps a little bit more, more, more moisture in when you're going through and seeding these trays.

[00:19:39] You'd have to do them by hand because the soil blocks aren't completely the same. Every single time you can't use something like a drop seeder or a vacuum seeder. Now on a bigger scale, that might be an issue. For me, I don't mind a hand seeding. It doesn't really take that much time. So I don't really mind that so much.

[00:19:54] Now, some of the frequently asked questions I get is that man solo box, they take way too much time to make well, they do take a little bit longer to prepare than a cell tray, and I'll show you my system. And there's some tools that can help you with that. But I have to say. That criticism, I think is a little silly because you save so much time on the transplanting side because you can literally just pull up the plants and put them in the ground that I think it's kind of a wash.

[00:20:17] The other thing is scalability. Uh, I think this comes up a lot in terms of like how big of a farm you can do with this. I know there are farms that are committed to doing sole blocks on over two acres. So for example, Daniel Mays at Frith farm, I think there are about two and a half acres. He's doing completely.

[00:20:33] At least the last time I talked to Daniel, he was doing. Uh, also a block. So it is scalable. Uh, there's some tools, as I mentioned, that help you along with it. But for a lot of people that once they start doing soil walks, they absolutely love it. And can't really think of it doing it any other way. So those are the, those are the cons and some of the frequently asked questions, but overall, I think.

[00:20:52] If you're careful about the moisture retention thing, then it's none of these really matters so much to me. Let me jump in here real quick and take a minute to talk about our sponsor paper pot co, as I mentioned at the beginning of this module, this entire course would not be possible without the help and support of Diego and paper pot co Diego is not just the owner and founder of paypal.co.

[00:21:12] He's also an unbelievable podcaster and YouTube, and I highly recommend you check out his podcast in particular farm, small farm smart and the new. Carrot cashflow also, please go to paypal.co and check out what they have for sale some great tools, equipment, and supplies. They really focus on having really high quality stuff and awesome customer service.

[00:21:30] And they're reliable place to buy things from also, in addition to that, there are additional resources over@thepaypal.co website. For this course, you can check them out at dot co slash. Big, thanks to Diego and pay pod co. Now back to the module,

[00:21:48] let's talk about some of the gear you need to make soil blocks. And the first thing is not unique soil blocks, but make sure you buy good potting mix. I can't say this enough. I hear all the time people ask me about, oh, what kind of a fertility you adding to your. Nothing. I just buy really good potty mix and it works really, really well.

[00:22:07] And there's a few reasons for this. You want to create the healthiest transplants that you possibly can. Going out into the field. They will grow faster. You'll have better yields and they'll just be healthier. All all around and you'll make more money on your farm. Investing in good potting mix goes a long way, and I know it can add up, but overall, it's not a huge cost on your farm.

[00:22:27] It might be one of the bigger inputs that you're buying, but I found it's really worth it to invest in good potting mix. Now there's a couple of reasons for that. One of which is when you have good potty mix, it blocks up really well. And it works really on the sole blocker. But the other thing in addition to having healthy plants is that this soil winds up in your beds and in your beds, you're trying to create living soil.

[00:22:48] So if this has extra nutrients and minerals and things like that, then this will help feed your soil because that little block goes into your bed. And that can also feed your soil. So I think that's something that people often overlook. Now, what I've been using lately is, uh, Kosta mains, organic seed starting mix, which I buy locally from my local farm store.

[00:23:08] I've used a lot of things in the past. Uh, happy frog is great tilts soils. Awesome. If that they're near you, they're in Ohio, uh, places like Tilth and Vermont compost, where. They're potty mix is based on compost that they make gives a lot more biology and a lot more nutrients and stuff. So if you can find something like that locally to you, that's great.

[00:23:26] And also, if you can find a supplier that's regional or local, that is also a win because they don't have to ship it as far. So invest in good pot and mix. It goes a long way. You also need a container like this. Um, not like this in particular, but something that you can put the mic, the soil in, mix it up with the water and then do your blocking out of this is an old feed pan that I had from when I had chicken.

[00:23:47] Uh, I just had it. I had been saying for over a year, now that I'm going to get a better one, but I just haven't yet. This one is too small. Uh, something bigger, maybe someone rectangular would help. Uh, you can use a wheelbarrow if you're doing a whole bunch at once. That's a great thing to mix a bunch of potty mix in.

[00:24:02] So. Yeah, something like this, you also need trays. And, uh, these are the trays. I like these. I got these from Johnny's, which I showed you just, just a little bit earlier. The nice thing about them is that they're open on the bottom, which I mentioned before. You need to have airflow to make that air pruning happen and also create airflow.

[00:24:19] That's healthy for the plants. The nice thing about these is that they're solid on the sides, which is nice because it helps keeping some of the moisture. So they're not super heavy duty, but they've, I haven't had any break yet and it's been over a year. So overall, I like the. If you have these laying around these Daisy baskets, they're a little bit more flimsy.

[00:24:37] Uh, these will work too. Uh, but the, the negative here is that they're open on the side. So. Less moisture control, but these can definitely work. So those are the main things you're going to need for that, the tub, the potty mix and the trays. And the next thing is going to be a soil blocker. And there's basically two types of soil blockers on the market.

[00:24:55] Right now there's a hand blocker like this, which is great. If it's a size blocker that you don't use very often. So this is the two inch block and I don't use this nearly as much as the other blocker, but this one is great for us in terms of size for like cucumber. Or squash or scale sometimes where you want like a bigger block.

[00:25:16] Uh, the two inch block is nice, but I use the one inch or it's like one an eighth, I think for most other things, if you want to give sole blocking a try, like you just want to dabble with it, or maybe you don't do a lot of starts, then a hamburger can work it's as much smaller investment. It's very. It takes a lot of labor and it to make, to fill up trays.

[00:25:34] But for me, I bought the hand blocker for the larger size. Cause I don't use it nearly as often. This one's probably like about 40 bucks or so now if you want to get into this for real, you got to get one of these stand up, soil blockers. This thing is a beast. And. I would say, if you're going to get into this or any sort of production, this is a necessary investment.

[00:25:53] This is like 250 or $280. But I think it'll last, like forever. It is super solid. And the speed in which you can crank out soil blocks is incredible. So this does 35, 1 inch blocks at a time. And three of these will fill up one of these 10 22. So you can work really, really quickly, very consistent. There are going, omics are fantastic because you're using your body weight to compress the soil.

[00:26:16] Um, this is something that is a huge investment for me, but has been great and I highly recommend it. So with all this in mind, this is the gear that you need. Let's get into making some soil blocks.

[00:26:30] Let's make some soil blocks that are potty mix in our container here. And we're just going to add the water. And I think when you're getting started with soil blocks, it can be a little intimidating. A lot of people aren't really sure how wet to make it. And I think that's understandable cause it's not really a set.

[00:26:47] But the nice thing about it is that if it's too wet or too dry, you can always add a little bit more soil. If it's too wet or you can add a little bit more water if it's too dry. So once you do it a few times, you'll get, you'll get a hang of it. I think you really want to get decently wet. And I think a lot of people will tend to make them too dry.

[00:27:08] At first, if they're too wet, they'll just fall apart. And as I said, you can just add. A little bit more potty mix. And as you can see what I'm doing here, I'm just adding some water. I'm mixing it up, taking a look at it, right. You can go slow. You'll get used to it. If you're doing a whole bunch at once, of course, this saves time by mixing up a bunch at once.

[00:27:37] This is looking pretty good.

[00:27:45] So what you want to do a good rule of thumb is if you pick up the soil block and you squeeze it, you'll get a little bit of moisture coming out.

[00:27:56] This is pretty good. It could be a little bit wetter, but that's about good. So you just want a little bit of moisture coming out. You'll know you'll be in good shape. And once you have it all dialed in, then you can start making blocks.

[00:28:15] All right. Let's make some soil blocks. So we got our soil mix here with the water in it that we already mixed up and we are stand up blocker. And for this I'm just pushing down and twisting and you can see how this is moving around. So as I said, a bigger container worked well and I need to upgrade, but.

[00:28:33] As I like to have it on the ground because I can really like push down and use my body to generate more force. Um, I get a lot more compression that way with the sole blocks. And when I have it ready, I just move it over to the tray, pull up the handle and there are my sole blocks. And you can see that, like once you get this system dialed in and you're rolling, it can be pretty quick.

[00:28:57] You'll get the hang of it. I think at first, just getting the moisture level right. And getting the field tool is part of the battle. But the great thing is, is that if you make a mistake, you can just throw the soil back in the container and start over. So when you're first getting started, or if you're not paying attention one day and the moisture levels not right, or what.

[00:29:21] You can just throw them back in the container and start blocking again. So you'll see here that this works out really well. Did I get three rounds in there? So that's 105, one inch blocks per 10, 20 tray. I want to demonstrate the hand blocker as well. Uh, as I said, this is not something I use often, but you want to do the same sort of thing as the standup.

[00:29:48] Just want to work the soil in back and forth, really trying to compress it as much as possible. You can see how much more work this takes us four blocks, although these are bigger blocks than the standup locker. So once you have it all worked in, you just want to press it in wipe off any extra soil, and then you can pop these in your tray.

[00:30:08] So you can see these two inch blocks are quite a bit like. After you get your soil blocks made. Of course, go ahead and see them. And you'll start to learn how many trades you'll need of each crop per bed. So for example, for me, I know I need three trays of lettuce going out for one bed or three and two thirds, trays of beats going out for one bed.

[00:30:27] And you'll figure that out over time. Now make sure you plant more than what you need. So if you need 400 transplant, don't play at 400 plant like four 50 or 500. Plant more than you need, because you'll lose some and we'll be mistakes. You'll have bad germination or whatever, make sure you have more than enough that way you're filling up your bed.

[00:30:43] And then eventually you can start dialing it back and saving a few blocks or a few seeds. But overall, it's not a big, big cost to do that. Now, one thing I love about solo blocks in addition to all of these, I already said is that the machine creates this little dimple in the end of the soil block. And the seed will sit right in there.

[00:30:58] When I was using the cell trays, I would pack the soil. And then put my fingers in there to create a little dimple, but this does that already for you. So from that, after you seed everything out, a question I get all the time is what do you do on the top of the soil blocks? And you have a few different options.

[00:31:15] One is you can just pinch the top. You can let's pinch it close, like. That works. Some people will add more potty mix on the top just to close it off. My preferred method is using what's called vermiculite and I buy this from my local farm store. It's inexpensive. I think I use one to two bags a year.

[00:31:33] It's like 20 bucks a bag. And all I do is sprinkle it over the surface like this. I probably go a little bit heavier than I need to, and vermiculite is great. It's great for moisture retention and I've had great luck with germination, so that's what I like to use. And, um, yeah, it's been working out well for me.

[00:31:54] And another thing I want to mention here are a couple more things I want to mention here is when you are done making your soil block. Make sure you go rinse out your blocker. In fact, I'm going to do that in a second because once this sets on here and gets hard, then it's really hard to clean and make, keep it from operating correctly.

[00:32:10] So rinse this out immediately. The other thing I want to mention is to label your trays. And so I just use painters tape and just put the date on it on the end here. Now, if you have a lot of different stuff going on, you can write what the crop is, but for me, all I'm transplanting is the same lettuce mix.

[00:32:27] And I can always tell when they come up, which one is which, so make sure you put a date on it. It's really helpful because you might forget when you planted something and you'll say, Hey, that's taking too long or it's not, or it's, you know, the timing's not right. And you'll have a sense of what's going on the nursery because you can lose track of things really quick.

[00:32:41] You'll think you'll remember. When, when you planted that, but you won't. So make sure you put the date on it. It's really helpful

[00:32:51] as you're starting to think about getting your transplants out in the field, there's a couple of things you need to consider and take care of. First of which let's talk about timing because people ask me all this all the time. Well, it depends like pretty much everything else in. If you're starting starts in the winter time, uh, of course they're gonna take a lot longer because there's less heat and there's less light.

[00:33:08] If you're in the spring and summer, they grow a lot more quickly. Generally speaking for me during the middle of my season, things like lettuce and beets take about three or four weeks, but of course it will depend on what you're growing, where you are, temperature, light and all those sorts of things. You want to make sure that the transplants are large enough to go out into the.

[00:33:25] And survive, but you want to make sure they're also not so large that they're starting to struggle inside of their cell trays or soil blocks. As I mentioned earlier, one of the best things also blocks as you get a bigger grace period or a wider window to get a transplanting done, which is another reason that I love them in addition to getting the timing.

[00:33:41] Right. Make sure you're hardening off your plants. So let's talk about hardening off. Now. There's no set rules with this stuff, but if you think about it in terms of taking care of your plants and giving them the right environment to grow in. If you're taking them from a productive space, like a greenhouse, or maybe, you know, under grow lights, they're not very stressed.

[00:33:59] There's not a lot of conditions like wind and, and, and heavy sunlight and stuff like that, that they're getting bombarded with. Right. So when you take them in a very formal. Protected environment and you put them out in the field. Main things is going to be when and full sunlight is going to be very harmful for them.

[00:34:14] Now, one thing which I mentioned earlier is having air flow in your greenhouse or wherever you're starting your starts. And that motion on the plants helps them have stronger roots. And also, um, their stems are stronger. So when they get out in the field, they don't struggle as much now full. It's tough on a crop, even in a greenhouse where reducing the sunlight a little bit with the plastic, of course your grow lights are going to be different than the sun.

[00:34:37] So one thing you need to do is try to ease that transition, and there's no set rules for this, and you have to figure this out, but a lot of times it's as simple as putting a table outside of your green. Or outside of your garage or whatever, and transferring the trays on there for a few hours the first day, and then increasing that time each day until they're ready to be outside for the full day.

[00:34:56] And once that happens, you can put them out in the field. Now for me, I'm actually not hardening off my plants because I'm going from a greenhouse to a tunnel, which is a very similar environment. So actually don't worry about it. And I also have wind flow in here. So with hardening off, as long as you think about creating an easy transition, you'll start to realize how that works, because if you just.

[00:35:15] From inside a protected space like this, and you put it right in the field, they will die and you'll get very frustrated. And you think you don't know what you're doing. So make sure you're taking up time and energy to harden them off and get them ready to go out into the field.

[00:35:30] I want to give you a couple of last tips about seed propagation nursery management, first of all, buy quality seeds. And this goes along with my discussion about buying really quality potting mix. I think a lot of people try to cheap out on seeds of. But when you have high quality seeds, they germinate well, they grow really well in the field and often give you better yields.

[00:35:48] So even though you're spending a little bit more, more money on seed, you'll wind up getting a higher yield and have to put in less time. When you are seeding out your trays, put one seed in her sole block or port per cell tray. I think a lot of gardeners have this tendency to put more than one seed in there because they don't have really good germination techniques.

[00:36:08] So. Moisture good potty mix. Get those things dialed in and you won't have to go back and thin because thinning is a waste of time, increased disturbance in your soil blocks or in your cell trays. And no one wants to do thinning. That's just, it's just something you don't want to do. So make sure you just do one per cell tray and focus on getting really good germination questions.

[00:36:27] Also come up a potting up, or when you take a small transplant like this and put it into a larger container. So if you're doing things like, um, Peppers or tomatoes, you might want to do that. And so what I do is I've been using these little, I think a three and a half. Pots inside of this Daisy basket here, Daisy tray.

[00:36:44] And this has worked for me really well because I already had this. You can also just take a bunch of soil and make a ball out of it with your hands and put one of these in their feet to lock that up. Um, a lot of people wonder about these falling apart. Trust me, they don't fall apart. They work really, really well.

[00:37:00] People ask me that all the time. So if you need to put them up something like this works great, or just soil balls. Now, in terms of seeds, I mentioned buying really high quality seeds, but also keep in mind about seed storage. Keep them sealed up as best you can and put them in the refrigerator. I made this mistake my first year and I didn't do that.

[00:37:17] And I watched the Germany. Germination rate dropped very quickly throughout the course of the season. And even to the next season, when I tried to use seeds, the germination rate was pretty bad. So make sure you store your seeds in the fridge. They last a lot longer. And one of the last thing which I talked about briefly was, you know, rodents or, you know, mice, things like that in your, in your nursery.

[00:37:35] Now I didn't have any trouble with that at all. With things like lettuce and beets, when the seeds are really small, but I thought. Okay with that because of the metal legs. And I still had a problem with that the spring, because when I planted out squash, which are a bigger seed, that's where the mice really like to get in there and rip things apart and eat them all.

[00:37:51] So what I did, and this is just like a little hack right now is I had these old, uh, humidity domes, and I just put them on top and put a little bit of weight on them. And that kept out the mice until they, until the plant's germinated. So just for a few more days, the one thing about that is that obviously the moisture isn't getting there from the overhead systems, you have to make sure your hand water it.

[00:38:08] So those are all the main tips that I have. For all this stuff, uh, dial in your nursery game and you'll save time, have bigger yields and make more money. Remember there are live Q and A's every 3:00 PM Eastern on this channel. And the next module module 12 will be all about transplanting, which will be a great followup to this discussion. Hope to see you there.

[00:38:30] Diego Footer: There you have at farmer, Josh satin on nursery management. That was module 11 of the sat and hill farm course. If you want to watch this module or read some of the resources related to this module, you can do so at paper, pot.co/josh, that's all for this one. I hope it helped. And I hope you enjoyed it until next time.

[00:38:52] Be nice. Be thankful and do the work.

 

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