Tuesday, February 23, 2010

DIY: Make Your Own Soil Blocks

This week I'm participating in the blog carnival "Works for me Wednesday", hosted by We Are that Family. If you're looking for lots of great links on saving money, this is a great place to start!

Well, it's time for another test. We planted our first set of seeds in cardboard egg cartons, using our own soil mix. We needed to start some more seeds indoors (tomatoes, peppers, celery, parsley, and basil). In the past, we've used a soil block maker -- but we haven't used it for a while. I figured, why not give it a try again so we can compare how each sets of seeds turns out?

Why would we want to use a soil block maker, anyway? The egg carton seems to work ok. First of all, you don't need a container, just a tray to put your soil blocks in. This should be a waterproof tray of some kind. As you're not using a container for each seedling, you avoid your seedlings getting pot-bound before they are transplanted into your garden. Then, when you're ready to plant, you just pick up the block and plant it into your garden. No pushing or pulling, possibly causing damage to your plants. Sure, you could use peat pots, or some other container that goes into your garden, but your plant has to work to grow it's roots through that layer, which affects your plant's growth. Soil blocks seem to be the best choice for the healthiest and most vigorous plants.

For this test, we're using the same soil mix as we used for the egg carton seedlings. This mix includes perlite and compost, for drainage and nutrients. Our soil includes amendments like soft rock phosphate, kelp meal, greensand, blood meal, and bone meal. Our seedlings should get all the nutrients and minerals that they need!

We have a soil block maker that we bought about 16 years ago -- if you go shopping for one today, they look *exactly* the same! Ours makes four soil blocks at a time, including making the indentation used to plant the seeds. My husband worked on making the soil blocks. He made them in a tray lined with some fabric. His idea is that the blocks will be watered from below, by capillary action. This will help with the blocks crumbling early on before the seedlings are developed, and there are no roots to hold the soil together, especially during watering.

Overall, making the blocks is a little tricky, but the blocks look good. Just like making sand castles, you can practice to see how much soil and pressure you need to use, before you're ready to do the "final" ones to plant your seeds in. Once you get the hang of it, make all the blocks that you need.

At this point, our seeds have been planted, and we're watering them using the fabric. I'll keep you posted on how they are doing as they grow!

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