Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Excited about my new Soil Blocker!

The time of year is fast approaching where I start hundreds of seeds indoors with my grow-light setup. Last season I wrote a post documenting all the things you need to start seeds indoors and one of the main things I listed was cell-packs or pots.

Now I realize that you don't even need them - if you have soil block makers!

I first read about soil block makers 10 years ago in my all time favorite gardening book The New Organic Grower, by Eliot Coleman. Eliot Coleman is the leading expert in effective organic vegetable production. I have implemented many of Coleman's organic techniques and alternative tools over the years in my garden but I never had a soil blocker until now.

I don't know why I waited so long. I used to spend hours packing soil into little cell packs. Now I can just create blocks of soil as the pots. Now that I see it in action I am going to buy the other sizes of block makers too. You see, the beauty of the system is that you can start a seed in a small block and then transplant it into a larger block when needed. The larger size soil blocks are made with indentations the exact size of the smaller block! I bought my soil blocker from Johnny's Selected Seeds and they have a great PDF file on their website that explains this better.

If you're not following how the blocker works, it is designed to compact the seed-starting medium into the blocks and then "press" out the blocks with a spring-loaded mechanism.

I used to think the soil blocker costs were too high but now I'm reconsidering that. The smaller sizes run around $30 each but the larger 4" size is over $100. All I have now is the medium size but I may spring for the smaller size this year too. I will probably have to pass on the larger size and use pots and make-shift containers for my larger tomato transplants like I did last year. Although I do think the complete soil block maker system is so cool that I will save up and get the larger one for Christmas and have it in production for 2009! I know, I know, we still have all of 2008 to go. I will post about the smaller boil blockers when I begin using them next month. I can hardly wait!

8 comments:

Meg

I've seen soil block makers before and really like the idea of them. It's good to hear confirmation that they work well. Thirty bucks isn't bad, especially when you think of all the stupid fragile little pots you won't have to buy anymore, ever. Thanks for the report!

Elizabeth

Are they really solid enough to stay together long enough?

I still garden on a small enough scale that it's no problem to just scoop the soil into reused containers (though I sometimes resort to the peat pellets for starting larger jobs), but I could really see a block maker coming in handy if they stay together alright.

I just pot in whatever I can find, like you did last year. My baby strawberries are in small pots ranging from reused plastic nursery pots to soda bottles cut in half. :)

Anthony

Forget about gardening, I'm going to buy one of these to make soil cubes for my kids to play with. :)

Glad to see some posts come from the Garden Desk lately. Nice to have you back.

Marc

meg - I am excited about not having to use the little cel packs anymore.

elizabeth - I haven't used the soil blocks for growing plants in yet but I was surprised how solid the blocks were. I could pick them up without them crumbling. You have to have plenty of moisture in your seed-starting mix. I'm sure if the medium was too dry they would crumble. After the plant gets established, the roots will help hold the block together too.

anthony - You are right about kids liking this! My 10-year old made and crumbled soil blocks all night while I was getting this post together.

Curtis

I remember reading about them a while back my self. Let us know how they work out.

pottingblockguru

Ecstatic about my Soil Blockers! Nothing, and both me and Martha Stewart agree, beats a soil blocker. Soil blockers unite and read all about the fascinating study on soil block gardening at http://www.pottingblocks.com

Anonymous

I've been using them for a couple of years, still trying for the right mix but they are great. Some people have a problem with watering but I place my blocks in a bake pan (got from wal-mart pretty cheap) on level ground or table and fill with water or water with nutrients. The blocks suck up the water great. Come planting time I just prepare the soil and stick them in. If you have a problem with cut worms you can take a 2 or 3" strip of newspaper and wrap around the block with an inch or so above the top of the block and secure with a rubber band or string.

Lisa Ziegler

If you like the 2" blocker you should try the 3/4"- it is even easier to use and very space savvy. I've been blocking for 11 years as a commercial cut flower grower- I start 10,000 of thousands of blocks. We use the 3/4" blocker for 95% of all seeds- I can fit 240 blocks on a serving tray (like a cafeteria tray) and love it. When you use the right recipe of mix the blocks are incredible durable- recipe is 16 cups sifted peat moss, 4 cups sifted compost, 1 cup greensand, 1 cup rock phosphate powder. Mix dry. Then mix 3 parts of this dry mix to 1 part water when making blocks. It needs to be wetter than you think. Checkout my website for more info and a demo- www.shoptgw.com

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