4-Block and 20-Block Soil Block Makers at Johnny's Selected Seeds
So I'm thinking of buying a soil block maker, and I'd love to hear about any experiences you've had with them. Have you ever used a soil block maker? They're also called potting blocks, and I discovered them ages ago in the Johnny's Selected Seeds catalog but never actually ordered one. Then last year I read an interesting article about soil block makers in the special March gardening issue of Martha Stewart Living (which can be found online in its entirety here). When I was re-reading through that issue the other day and came across the soil blocks again, I figured it was a sign that I should finally take the plunge and just go order one already.
So what exactly is a soil block maker and why do gardeners love them? Here's an soil block intro from PottingBlocks.com, which bills itself as "The world's resource for soil block gardening:"
Potting Blocks, also known as soil blocks, are free-standing compressed cubes of potting soil which hold their shape without any container. Potting Blocks are made from a zinc coated stainless steel Soil Block Maker, much like an ejection mold. The block maker metal form is packed into a tub of pre-moistened potting soil and then discharged into nice, firm, blocks with a pre-drilled seed or transplant holes formed right into the top.
Potting Blocks are used for seed starting or germination, and transplanting. They have an amazing success rate due to the volume of soil compressed in the cube. The roots are naturally "air pruned" due to the air barrier of the "container-less" cube. They become the growing medium and the container! They are used for everything; herbs, flowers, vegetables, cuttings, and other transplants.
Potting Blocks have many advantages over traditional potting methods. First, they eliminate transplant shock! The seedling and root system stays intact and protected, a "home away from home". They will not become "'root-bound". They eliminate root circling. They replace plastic pots, trays, inserts,etc. They contain more cubic volume of soil than pots of the same top dimensions. They promote great air circulation. They have a major increase in space utilization than round pots. And, studies in Europe have shown that Potting Block transplants are superior in performance than container-bound transplants.
They sound pretty great, huh? Kind of makes me wonder why I didn't start using them ages ago.
Soil block makers are available in several sizes, from itty bitty to big and pricey commercial versions. I'm thinking of starting with the 2" x 2" 4-block size, which can be used for all sorts of seedlings. If I like how it works, I'll invest in the 3/4" x 3/4" 20-block maker (pictured above) and four soil block maker inserts. Each insert makes a defined 3/4" x 3/4" impression in the 2" soil block, perfectly sized to insert a mini block. How convenient is that?
There are many economical and environmental reasons to use soil blocks when starting seeds, and the only outlay of cash is your initial purchase—unless of course you become a soil block addict and need to acquire one in every size available. Apparently making the soil blocks is a lot of fun.
There are different opinions as to the best kind of 'soil' to use when making blocks (some gardeners use compost, others say you shouldn't ever use compost), but everyone seems to agree that they're a wonderful invention. I'm looking forward to finally jumping on the soil block bandwagon—especially since I'm already behind with my seed starting this year.
Article About Seed Starting with Soil Blocks from Martha Stewart Living
Soil Block Makers at Johnny's Selected Seeds
4-Block Maker at Peddler's Wagon
Jason Beam's PottingBlocks.com
Tips, Tricks, & Techniques on The Soil Blocker Blog
How To Make Your Own Soil Block Maker
So what seeds have you started already? And what did you start them in?
© Copyright 2009 FarmgirlFare.com, the germinating foodie farm blog where seeing seeds sprout up—whether in containers or directly in the ground—is definitely one of the most rewarding aspects of gardening. Right after eating your bounty of course.