Seeding Nightshades in the Greenhouse
We seed all of the nightshades - tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and tomatillos - into very small (1/2″ X 1/2″) soil blocks. The top photo shows the contraption we use to make the blocks. To use the machine one must cram moistened soil mix into the soil block maker and with a squeeze of the lever out extrudes 20 well organized blocks.
The small blocks are used for starting nightshades because of their love of heat; It takes sorcery to coax these tropical plants into growing in Northern Michigan’s tundra. We place 1000 or so of these little plugs onto a heat pad that maintains a soil temperature of 75-85 degrees F, the temperature needed for reliable germination of these southern bells. The small blocks allow us to have only one heat pad, saving space and energy. Once the seeds germinate and reach the height of about 1 inch, we bump them up into larger blocks and move them off of the heat where they will live until we plant them out in the fields in late May.