Odoriferous Seed Trays

In the Flog this week:

  • My planters attract insects, hopefully the beneficial ones! (pictures)
  • Seeds of all the main crops are finally in the ground!
  • Update on the seedlings that survived the bird attack
  • This week’s Foliar Spray of the Week
  • My unconventional seed trays that might be a big [smelly] problem

The first thing I did after getting the soil into the planters was inoculate with a compost tea. There are a ton of benefits microbes add to the soil – a ton! Two major benefits are pH balance and soil aggregation. Plants prefer a certain pH range, mostly around neutral or a bit to one side or the other. Microbial activity balances the pH in the soil and ensures it doesn’t experience large fluctuations that would kill plants. Another major benefit is soil aggregation. Aggregation is when soil particles bind together to form aggregates. Now, one way or the other your soil will experience aggregation. Having microbes do it ensures it forms nice porous aggregates rather than the compacted hard-as-a-rock kind you get from repeat watering with no microbial activity.

But another effect of the compost tea is attracting other organisms! Every time I use a tea, I notice more activity around the beds. And I live on the 20th floor of an apartment building in Manila! It’s neat, brewing up a nice batch of tea, watering the garden, and then seeing life spring up! Here are a couple examples I caught this week. Not sure about the beetle(fly?), that might be a bad one I hope someone can identify it (on the left) from the picture:

Planter Boxes - Part 1

Insects enjoying the garden. What fun.

Also this week, everything is planted! I just did direct sow of the carrots and onions in their planter, here is the shot of the planter after patting it down and poking all the holes for the seeds. Two things to note: you can also see the cucumbers growing fast and looking great, and the update to the end of the balcony – a table for the potted plants!

Planter Boxes - Part 2

Planter boxes just before direct sowing the carrots and onions

I have red onions, spring onions (great in Asian cooking) and baby carrots as per the hand-made seed packs, haha:

Planter Boxes - Part 3

Future veggies waiting to happen

For the sage pot, and refill for the rosemary pot(since I see some roots showing), I need some more soil that drains extremely well, so I made a little batch of fresh soil using rice hull instead of burnt rice hull. The fresh rice hull is less fine than the burnt rice hull powder, and I think the resulting soil drains a little faster/holds less water. This soil also contains burnt rice hull for it’s nutrient and microbe holding capacities, as well as some worm castings and a little garden soil. It’s somewhat similar to the soil mix I made for the planters, but with a little more drainage.

Planter Boxes - Part 4

Another custom soil mix for the remaining pots

Just a quick update on the bird attack survivors. They are looking good, I haven’t sown any more herbs (basil) into the planter yet but I will. I netted the row so at least they are safe for now. The sprouts are over transplant shock and are starting to grow well!

Planter Boxes - Part 5

The seedlings are over their transplant shock and are starting to grow well

Foliar Spray of the Week: Neem + BIM. I mixed 1tbsp of Neem plus 1tsp of BIM into my little 2L sprayer full of clean unchlorinated water. I used that to foliar spray all week. I had noticed some web-type stuff on the Rosemary and I was worried it was spider mites (a constant problem here). The Neem is to combat the spider mites and the BIM is to take advantage when they become weaker, and establish a healthy microbe population on the leaves. I sprayed everything in the garden all week, in the evenings and sometime mornings. The ingredients:

Planter Boxes - Part 6

BIM and Neem straight from Gil’s farm. Good stuff.

Now regarding my unconventional smelly seed trays… I didn’t have enough room in the store-bought seed tray so I used egg cartons. These are great free seed trays (I saved myself a whole $1.50), but more importantly they are common and might be wasted otherwise(though there is no need to trash them if you compost).

However, the egg cartons I had lying around were leftovers from the roach composter (Cockroach Composting is a separate topic, coming soon). When I changed the bedding I put new cartons in and pulled the old cartons out. The roaches live in the egg cartons and they get “a little” dirty. But after pulling the old cartons out, they dried in the sun and now were quite scentless.

I dutifully packed the cartons with my seed starting mix and watered down to make the soil moist. Well, those trays got wet and man they have some smell left in them! It’s actually an ammonia type smell, its terrible and now my office stinks! This means a couple things:

  • The ammonia type smell means the cartons are a rich source of Nitrogen – too rich and the seedlings will die/won’t grow well/won’t sprout/other bad things
  • The cartons are probably an awesome source of microbes for the seed mix. They dried out and everything went dormant and now that they’re moist again the microbes will awaken and populate the soil – great!
  • I’ll have to keep my office door closed until I plant so my wife doesn’t “catch wind” of this little development :)
Planter Boxes - Part 7

Egg cartons make great seed trays, especially cockroach cartons preseeded with microbes and nutrients!

I can’t wait to see how the trays work out – I hope they don’t kill the seeds/sprouts! Let’s see next week!

Has anyone used egg cartons to start seedlings? How did that go? Another thing I’m curious about, what different kinds of seed starter mix do you use and what were the results? Seems like most of the seedling mixes in the store are all “soilless, completely sterile!” but I don’t really like the ‘sterile’ approach, it’s unnatural. Plants are going to the great outdoors at some point, might as well get them used to it now.

  • Henry

    Patrick,

    The BIM bottle looks like it’s commercially made…..??

  • Patrick

    Hey Henry,

    Yep! Gil makes all his recipes here in the Philippines and sells the products to anyone interested in getting some samples from “the source”. Right now they are only available in the Philippines.

    Cheers,
    Patrick

  • Tony McDonald

    Patrick,
    Use a little lactic acid bacteria and spray the egg cartons. The stuff thrives on ammonia
    and should leave a healthy nitrogen boost when you plant up your seedlings.
    Tony

    • Patrick

      Ha, of course!! I didn’t even think of it! A good soaking with a lacto solution will do the trick for the smell for sure.. Thanks Tony

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