Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Soil Blocking 101: A Pictorial

It happens every time. Me: “I’m going to peak in on the backyard; I’ll only be a few minutes.” Six hours later and this is what I did… Tada...

Get out your gardening gloves and let’s get blocking! First thing needed is soil. I use what Martha uses to start her seeds, Vermont Compost Company Fort Vee Potting Soil.

My husband bought me four 60 quart bags for my birthday. I’m down to two bags and I’m a little concerned.

Vermont Compost products can be found on several sites online or you can use your favorite seed starting mix.

Next, my weapon of choice is the 2" by 2" soil block maker. It produces 4 perfect little squares.

I own two other sizes: a 3/4" by 3/4" soil blocker that is suitable for small seeds like lettuce or oregano. I also own a behemoth 4” soil blocker(another birthday present). This big guy comes in handy when your seedling has outgrown its 2” block and you wish to raise stronger seedlings. Simply transplant the 2” block into the larger block’s divot.

Get your trays ready because you’re about to start blocking and rolling! I soil block directly onto standard size 11” by 21” leak-proof trays but you can use whatever size tray is best suited for your needs.
Dump your seed starting mix into a bucket. I recycled an old plastic drawer that was formerly used as college furniture.

Thoroughly moisten the soil by adding water and mixing with your hands. Continue to do this until a lump of soil can be squeezed and it’s able to hold its form.

Place your bucket on a sturdy surface and dunk the soil block into the bucket. This step requires a lot of elbow grease.

For uniform blocking scrape the soil blocker on the bottom of the bucket. This will pack the soil into the blocker.

Place the blocker directly on the tray, push down on the handle, and lift.

Y voila! Repeat about a thousand times or however many times it takes to fill your tray of choice.

The standard trays I use hold 40 blocks and enough room is allowed for proper air circulation and watering ease.

Time to reach into your seed vault. The last time I counted I had 112 vegetable seed packets. Since then I have added to my sick seed obsession. I store my seeds in a convenient tray in the fridge.

Let the seed sowing begin! Drop in a couple of seeds in each block. One seed per block is acceptable. I sow two per block because I like my seeds to have back up and I’m just crazy that way.

Repeat, repeat, repeat. When you’re sick of blocking it’s time to tuck in your trays. Keep them warm; a windowsill, any sunny spot in your home or in a hobby greenhouse. Some trays may be purchased with plastic lids which act as mini-greenhouses. Saran wrap can also achieve this effect. Keep your babies moist and wait patiently for your reward.


Kelli said...

Excellent! I am so inspired to get one, or three of those dirt blockers. I have been coveting for some time.

JennShaggy said...

Wow. You are a gardening bad ass.

chuck b. said...

Fascinating... Is this sowing mix very peaty? Because otherwise how does it hold together? I see at the link it includes sphagnum moss. I tried those peat pots nurseries sell for starting seeds, but they seemed really lame to me.

I usually make my own mix with peat (I buy a bale; it lasts two years), commerically bagged compost, and some perlite. I sow in flats or 2" pots that I recycle, but space is problem when I really get going.

Very interesting.

chuck b. said...

Oh, and I have turned a lot of my college furniture into garden tools too.

Tony Destroni said...

blockers are very good idea and very helpful in gardening , impressive one . have you try some garden accessories they were great too . variation of garden garden spinner and chime perfect to a garden .