It is time for week 2 of "What I'm Planting". This week I'm planting cabbage. We do things a little different with cabbage and all brassicas, we use soil blocks.
Ah, soil blocks, I am so grateful for you! You are so affective, and the way you reduce the use of plastic is spot on!
Soil blockers really are a fantastic invention, but before we get into that any further lets take a look at what seeds we are starting this week.
Varieties: Red Express Cabbage and Premium Late Flat Dutch Cabbage
When to plant: 10 weeks before last frost date
Seed depth: 1/4"
Days to germination: 7-10 days > We keep our house pretty warm with the stove so ours usually only take a few days.
Plant out: 4 weeks before last frost date
We have been growing Red Express cabbage for years now, and it is certainly one of our favorites. The heads do not get huge, but they perform really well in our climate. They are sweet, grow quickly, and for some reason the flea beetles do not seem to bother them. The flea beetles have no issue finding the other brassicas we plant, but the Red Express doesn't seem to attract them. I highly recommend this variety.
Premium Late Flat Dutch is a new variety that we are trying this year. We chose this variety because they grow to 10 - 15 lbs, are said to be delicious, and are great for storage. Some varieties just store better than others.
We eat a lot of cabbage. At least several heads a week, and we also like to make sauerkraut. I have included our favorite cabbage salad recipe at the end of the post, don't miss it. This is a recipe that my daughter has developed. It is super good so be sure to give it a try!
As mentioned earlier, I use a soil blocker for starting all my brassicas. I never pot them up, they go straight from the soil block into the ground, and it has worked very well for us.
Another thing I appreciate about the soil blocks is that there are no plastic cells or pots involved. Less plastic is always a good thing.
They come in several sizes. I have the 1 x 1 in size and the 2 x 2 in size. They also make a
4 x 4 in size. Each block has a little hole in the center for the seed, or you can start the seed in the 1 x 1, then "pot it up" by placing the 1 x1 block in the 2 x 2 block, and then "pot up" the 2 x2 block into the 4 x4 block.
I have never done that, and I find that the 1 x 1 block is too small. It dries out quickly and it is just so tiny. I use the 2 x 2 and don't really see a need for us to have the 4 x 4, which is good because that one is expensive! It is just under $100!
You can get the 2 x 2 for around $30. I think this is well worth it seeing that you aren't going to need to be buying the plastic trays anymore, and the soil blocker is going to last pretty much forever.
It takes a little time to make the solid blocks, but it really isn't bad, and it is well worth it to eliminate the plastic. You get such healthy plants that are super easy to transplant from them.
I use boot tray to hold my soil blocks. These work really nicely. They fit well on the shelves I have, and the boot trays I use have a raised pattern on the tray so this raises the soil blocks up a little. When I water the soil blocks aren't sitting directly in any excess water, but can draw the water up as needed.
You can use seed trays, or what is really popular in permaculture, is wooden trays. I start my seeds inside before taking them out to the greenhouse so the wood tray won't work for me. I need something that is not going to leak water.
To get started you want to wet your planting medium. Add some water and mix it all up. You want the planting mix to be moist enough to stick together but not soggy. You will know you've added enough moisture when the planting medium holds it shape when gently squeezed together as seen in the picture below.
Now that your soil is the right consistency, you are going to fill the soil blocker. Some people do this by pushing the blocker into the prepared planting medium and wiggling it around a bit. I've never been very successful with that method. I just fill the soil block by hand. Simply push the soil into the cells making sure that you do apply some pressure so that they stick together. You don't need a lot of pressure, just a bit. Then level the the bottom removing any excess.
Now you are going to squeeze the handle thing which pushes the soil out into the little planting block.
You can see the little hole it creates in the top of the block. No making little ditches or holes. It is all done for you, which I actually find pretty handy.
Here is what the tray looks like when it is all done. I squish mine in there a little snug. I like to get the most out of the space as possible.
All seeds in the brassica family look pretty much the same. Small, round, and brown to black in color. I aim for 1-2 seeds in each soil block. I'm not too concerned if a get a few extras in some of the cells. Once they sprout, I thin them out and eat them as micro greens.
Once I have all the seeds in, I go back and rub my finger over the hole to cover the seed. The process goes pretty quickly.
The last step is to water... If you need to. If you got you soil medium a little on the wet side then I would skip watering. In this case, I did get mine a little wet and skipped the watering. The soil needs to be moist but not really wet. Remember that too much water can cause issues such as damping off, mold, and rot.
I planted these a few days earlier and look, they are already popping up. If you find that one cell never gets a sprout, or one of your little ones comes along and up roots one or two or three, just go back and plant new seeds.
This is the same process I use for all my brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage), and usually the cardoons.
Now for an update on the seeds I already started. You can see that the cardoons and onions are doing well. It is time to give the oinons a hair cut. This builds stronger plants. If you want to learn more about trimming onions, check out my post Trimming Onion Starts for Stronger Plants.
Don't those cardoons look great? For some reason I did not plant my cardoons in soil blocks this year like I normally do, so now I have to get my butt in gear and pot them up!
One more thing before we go, Elly's Very Tasty Cabbage Salad!
Elly's Very tasty Cabbage Salad
Chop the ingrdients for the salad and mix in a large bowl.
In a seperate, smaller bowl, mix the ingredients for the dressing.
Pour the dressing over the salad and mix throughly. Done!
It is best if the salad can sit for at east an hour. Mix again before serving and enjoy.
Now, this does make a large salad, so you may want to consider cutting this in half or you can just have the leftovers for a tasty lunch!
Print the recipe
How is your seed starting going? Do you have any special techniques that you could share? We would love to hear all about them in the comment section below. Let us know if you try the salad.
Happy planting, friends!
P.S. There are more great posts all about gardening on the way. Be sure to sign up below so you don't miss out!
Hello, I'm Jaci. I look forward to sharing my gardening and homestead adventures to help you reach your gardening goals! If you have any questions then don't be shy, I'd love to hear from you. Send me a message and I will be glad to help!