Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Build Your Own Soil Block Maker Tool for Next to Nothing But Don't Tell Johnny's Seeds (Employee Owned)

Do-it-yourself soil blockerAll Soil Block Principles remain the same, except this makes round cakes, not soil blocks. Makes a nice round 1-1/4" soil block. Total cost= $7.00-10.00 with easily found parts at any hardware store.

Try this "blocking mix" or soil cell mix:

  • 1 part milled sphagnum moss
  • 2 parts Vermiculite*
  • 2 parts Perlite

These ingredients work well for soil cells rather than soil blocks. Other than these low compression machines, DO NOT use vermiculite in a Ladbrooke soil blocker. The blocker will just crush the vermiculite rendering it useless as an aerated medium.

Warning: The whole soil block art & philosophy is about root growth in a compacted soil block. Anything that looks "much simpler or easier" can't compact soil enough to adhere to our science of soil blocking. Do it right, or don't do it at all.

Check out this link for another option on how to make free soil blocks. Very Useful. 5 star information www.toppers-place.com/soil_blocks.htm

 

parts-1-.gifWhat you will need:

PartDescriptionQuantity
A 1/4" PVC cap 1
B 1/4" X 6" threaded rod 1
C 1/4" X 6" threaded rod 2
D 1" wood screw 1
E 2" X 5 1/2" PVC pipe 1
F 2" PVC cap 1
G 1/4" x 6" hollow tube 1
H 23/32" compression spring 1
I 1/4" flat washer 2
J Handle for top of 1/4" threaded rod (see instructions #4)  
K Filler for 1 1/4" PVC cap ** See Special note in instructions  
Tools: Drill with 1/4" and 9/16" bits  

 

Assembly Instructions:

If you are unable to acquire the parts in their sizes or cut them yourself, ask if your local hardware supplier will cut them to size for you.

DIY soil block makerDIY soil block makerDIY soil block makerDIY soil block maker

Making the Plunger

  1. Take part A (1 1⁄4” pvc cap) drill a 1⁄4” hole in top center. This will allow the insertion of part B (1/4” threaded rod).
     
  2. Insert part B (1/4’ threaded rod) into A, then screw part C (1/4” nut) about a 1⁄2” onto threaded rod, pull threaded rod through A so nut is flush with inside cup. Thread second C onto B and secure flush to A, so threaded rod is secured onto A. (Assembly #1) set aside. (see pic.) **see FILLER info below.
     
  3. Take part E (2” pvc cap) drill a hole large enough to slip part G (1 1⁄4” hollow tube) through hole. (Assembly #2) set aside. (see pic.)
     
  4. Take part J (handle). This can be made out of anything, plastic, wood, etc. Anything that will give you comfort when pushing on the plunger. The one in this example is made out of a recycled piece of plastic, with a 1⁄4” drilled into it to received B as detailed in images and instruction #5.
     
  5. Take Assembly #1 insert into Assembly #2 through the bottom of G. Slip parts I (flat washer) and part H (spring) over G, which is sticking out the top part of E. Push H down enough to place second I on the end of B, which is sticking out of G, then attach J to hold all parts in place (see pic.)
     
  6. After A has been filled, take part D (1” wood screw) and screw into center of filler to create a divot you will need to plant your seed. If you opt not to do this and want to put a hole in the soil cell after forming the soil cell, you stand a good chance of breaking down the walls of the soil cell and you may have to remake again. Which gets easier and easier, once you get the rythmn.

Special Note: I was able to tap all the drilled holes to have threads so I could screw everything together. If you do not have access to a tap, some type of water resistant durable glue will help hold things in place.

**Filler for Part A – in order to have a flat surface on the top of the soil cell, the 1 1⁄4” cap needs to be filled with something hard. For my project I chose Resin. Which lends itself perfectly to making a hard surface that is easy to clean. In the center of the resin is where I inserted the wood screw, which gives the soil cell a divot in which to place a seed. The filler will ultimately secure C on to the end of B, which is inside the bowl of A. Make sure the measurements are where you want them BEFORE filling. If G is too snug, make the hole in E a little larger, but not so it is sloppy. Over time it will become less snug.

Making a cellMaking a cellMaking a cellMaking a cellCompleted cell

Saturday, January 9, 2016

How to Keep Track of Soil Blocks by Using Rite in the Rain Graph Paper

Here is a typical grid pattern drawn on your H2Opruf graph paper. This one represents the 2" soil block, but our water-proof graph paper is designed in 1/4" grids to represent all 5 soil block sizes.

Season Cycles

The Season Cycle Technique used with H2Opruf graph paper:

  1. In this example, each column represents a Mini 4, 2" block row. Sow at least 4 seeds of the same variety down the row(A,B,C,D). Or......
  2. Each column can be fitted to represents a Micro 20 (3/4")block, Maxi 1 (4") block, Mini 5 (1 1/2") block, or a Multi 6 (3") block.
  3. Write in the block space: the seed, variety, company, and date.
  4. If you are going to sow more than one row at a time and choose to fill up your flat, then go ahead and log all the specific information your seeds will experience in that moment for the whole sheet.
  5. Keep track of all plantings. Store Season Cycles in a 3 ring binder with plastic sleeves.
  6. Re-read often as you like, you'll gain great insight into the cycles of the garden and the season as it relates to seed sowing.

Tips:

  1. Use a pencil, and don't worry about getting the paper wet. Store in a 3-ring binder, hung up high in your garden space.
  2. Or, Use a clip board if you got one! String a pen to it, and ACT professional!
  3. Use a moon calendar and plant with the waning and waxing of the moon cycles.
  4. See FAQ for more information on why we should all be using Season Cycles for organization.
  5. Learn from your mistakes by finding out what doesn't work, and refusing to do it again.

More examples:

Label your Tray or Flat in numbers or letters and include that on your paper to match the flat/tray you're tracking. H20pruf is pecial Waterproof 1/4" grid paper and it is impervious to water and moisture. You must use a pencil, which you're seeding with anyway!

Waterproof season cycle chart in NotebookSeason cycle chart, waterproof paperSeason cycle chart, waterproof paperSeason cycle chart, waterproof paperSeason cycle chart, waterproof paper

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Online Master Gardening Course for Transplanting Using Soil Blocks or Biodegradable Pots

When do I transplant?

Most of your blocks will be of the 2" block. Studies have shown that plants in blocks have the best growth transplanted at 2 weeks old. Different species, varieties, climates, conditions and markets will dictate the transplant time.

The most important factor to consider is uninterrupted growth, which means, the plant has a measurable amount of daily growth in relation to the size of the block which can not be disrupted or delayed. For example: Most seeds planted in the Micro 20 will have 6-10 days after they have fully germinated and shed the seed coat before needing to be transplanted. Most seeds planted in the Mini 5 will have 10-21 days until  transplant. Most seeds planted in the Mini 4 will have 14-28 days until transplant. Transplants held in the Multi 6 can last 4-6 weeks, and the Maxi 1 will hold transplants up to 2 months.

Germinating seeds in a greenhouse or row covers, like slitted row covers, or Agribon row covers can speed up the process. Transplanting out in the open may set your plants back if the weather is not warm and calm. Hardening off is highly recommend. A little exposure to the elements every day for a couple of hours will work miracles in the end!

Always transplant at dusk! This is a secret key to gardening. Your plants can adjust to the new home during the soothing hours of darkness. For all practical performances, always transplant before the block becomes root bound or the roots turn from bright white to brown.

 

How do I set out transplants?

Before "setting out" your blocks, make sure and water them very well. Moisture in the block is essential for rapid growth in your garden. It is even more important than the moisture in your garden. Only after the block is established in the soil, with it's roots, is the moisture in the garden soil will be more important as the roots go searching for water.

Set out plants on a cloudy day or bring shade, or wait until late afternoon. We transplant at dusk; hint, hint.   The key is soil warmth. A couple of sunny days before transplanting would work out nicely for you. You actually can begin to "harden off" your plants up to a week in advance of planting them outside. Soil blocks need very little hardening off compared to other methods, due to the roots being completely protected and "air pruned". Place your trays outside for a 1/2 hour to 45 minutes on the first day, and double that time every day for a week. This could be a lot of work, if you don't have an E-Z Wagon or a Vermont Cart, or a dedicated "hardening off" bench, shelves or tables, but well worth the trouble. Now, mark out your soil with the correct transplanting space and distance. A landscape rake with removable hard plastic tubes called row markers, that come on and off the rake teeth, can make real quick work of this task. Johhny's Seeds sells them, it's an Eliot Coleman design.

Next, you'll need to make a hole in the soil. We have found no better tool than the indispensable triangle hoe. It jabs the soil at the perfect depth and pulls the soil back and leaves a square hole.

homemade dagger trowelBut, the best home-made tool for setting out transplants is the dagger-style model using a bricklayer's trowel with a 2x5-inch blade. It's easy to make one: Cut off 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 inches to shorten the blade, then bend the handle down to below horizontal at about the same angle that it was above. (See here.)

They can be used to lift the blocks out of the tray, too. If the blocks are stuck together by their roots, bring a knife along to slice them apart. The Hori-Hori weeder/cutter works wonders and comes with a belt sheath.

Now, place the block lightly in the hole and firm soil all around the block, leaving no air pockets. Make sure to cover the top of the block, too, level with the surrounding soil. Soil contact is vital. You should not see the block anywhere. Some crops like to be sunk in deeper with soil covering more stem, like brassicas or tomatoes. After finishing your transplanting, water the garden thoroughly, but this is not entirely necessary for a couple days.

Interestingly, in Holland, greenhouse production of lettuce is done with soil blocks right on top of the soil. No hole digging! We have tried this method, and it works great. Keep it to the greenhouse, though, the outdoors would be too harsh.

Make sure and keep the entire block watered well. This method works well with the 2" block for baby greens, or the 4" block for full sized heads. They can sit on bare soil, plastic mulch with holes cut for the roots to penetrate the soil, or on top of cardboard. We also have placed blocks in thick mats of straw and hay right on top of the ground.

Layer up straw and hay or mulch about 6-8" in the fall and top off in late winter or early spring. Then, when it's time to transplant, just pull aside some mulch and set your block right on top of the bare soil. Pull the mulch around the block and cover completely, once again, leaving no air pockets and no tops of the block exposed. Keep your eye on moisture level, as the straw and hay act like air wicks and tend to dry out the blocks quickly.

The extra volume of potting soil in the blocks have another advantage. It puts valuable "organic matter" back into your garden. If you were to plant lettuce at a spacing of 12 inches by 12 inches, the amount of organic matter in a 2" block would equal 5 tons of compost or manure per acre! And, peat and coco peat lasts 2-3 times longer than manure or compost. The soil builds up extra organic matter planting after planting, justifying the added expense of using potting soil for block making.

When transplanting the 4" block into the garden, you'll need to use a post hole digger to create large deep holes. New to our farm is the ergonomic post hole digger by Fiskars. Finally, a smart design that eliminates knuckle smashing and it does not disturb the hole when you pull it out. It is well worth the investment if you plan on transplanting a lot of "hot crops" (grown in the 4" block) into the greenhouse or field.

For larger 4" block transplanting operation, the 4" should have been placed on a greenhouse floor covered with greenhouse plastic. Large reusable rubber mats can be custom cut and they last forever. You can also buy smaller rubber mats with rubber lips around the edges for extra water holding abilities. But, using them will impede your next transplanting procedure.

You'll need to have a manure fork ready to slide under the blocks and lift them up by the dozen onto an E-Z wagon or Vermont Cart. The mats with the lips get in the way of this smooth process, so don't use them if you plan on having more than about 150 4" blocks at one time. The angle of the manure fork is perfect for block transplanting. Less strenuous lifting is achieved by using a smaller manure fork.  

 

What are Multiplants?

Multiplants are the only exception to the "one seed per block" rule. Multiplants are the practice of planting many seeds in one block, known as the "multiplant block". Depending on the plant being grown, anywhere from 3-15 seeds are sown in one block with no intention of thinning. Multiplant growing saves time, greenhouse space, and is the most efficient way to grow certain crops.

The concept is to clump the crops together for ease of seeding, transplanting, weeding, and harvesting and marketing. You will do the same amount of work for one block, except you will be growing 3-15 plants. These specific crops can grow in bunches in the same density per square foot as they would grow in a row. The onion is the classic example, and the model crop for the multiplant grower. If you were to grow large bulb onions in a row, you would need to plant one every three inches in a row, growing one foot apart from the next row. That would give you a total of 4 plants per square foot. With multiplants, you would seed one block with four onion seeds and place them every foot in a row, one foot apart. They will gently push apart from each other, creating large, healthy, blemish-free, bulbs. They get their space around them, and it makes for easy weeding. However, they do need to be transplanted sooner due to the increased competition for the limited space inside the block, and they need more water and be buried deep in the soil.

Seeding multiplants is most accurately done by creasing your seed packet and tapping the right amount in a measuring spoon or a seed spoon, and then dump them in the block.

The crops that have done the best in multiplants are onions, scallions, shallots, leeks, beets, spinach, pole beans, peas, corn and parsley. Crops that are normally bunched for market can now be bunched in the field, like scallions and beets. Crops that are rarely transplanted like spinach, beans, corn and peas can now be efficiently transplanted for a super early crop. Being the first in the neighborhood with sweet corn and peas will do wonders for your gardening reputation or market share!

In addition to these favorites, Europeans have successfully grown broccoli, cabbage, turnip, cucumber, and melon, but we have not had that good luck ,or trying it would not fit our farm model.

Make sure to read your seed package for proper spacing and then equate the same amount of plants for the recommended number of seeds per block given here.

Multi-Plant Blocks
3 seeds / block: cabbage, cucumber, melon, peas
4 seeds / block: beet, broccoli, corn, leek, spinach, turnip
5 seeds / block: bulb onion, shallots, parsley
12-15 seeds / block: scallion onions

Note: Start all seeds in the 1 1/2" or 2" blocks. Cucumbers and melons started in the 3" blocks. 15 seeds in the 2",3" and 4" transplant block. The 3 and 4 inch block will NOT need to be potted on later.

 

What about fertilizing?

If you do not use the base fertilizer, you will have to fertilize your plants in about 8-10 days after germination. The best reason to mix in a base fertilizer is to save time. The base fertilizers suggested are all slow to medium release. This gives your block plenty of nutrients over the course of days or weeks to grow vigorously. If you opt for the simple mix or a commercial mix without any fertilizer, you will need to fertilize with an organic liquid based fertilizer. We use our compost tea, a highly effective, all organic fertilizer, with lots of microbial action. We also mix this with cold processed liquid kelp. You can also use enzymatically digested fish emulsions, compost tea, manure tea, Earth Juice, or any other "cold processed, lab tested high microbial, enzymatically digested" organic fertilizer.   Read and follow directions carefully. More is not better.

 

Where and How do I place my blocks?

Soil blocks can be placed on a wooden board, plastic sheets, or existing plastic trays left over from your old system! Pieces of greenhouse plastic work great.

After your first row is ejected, you'll want to place the next row of blocks 1/8" away from the first. This keeps the air in between the blocks so the roots do not intertwine with each other.

Always have a small bucket of water next to your blocking station to dip your blocker in before each charging. This keeps the metal lubricated for easy ejecting, and keeps the acids from corroding the metal.

Our favorite method is to place greenhouse plastic over your thermostatically controlled heating pad. We love to use the big 2' by 5' thick orange rubber pad. (Email us to order them.) Cover completely, then frame the outside of the pad with 1"x 2"s or 2"x 2"s. The blocks will need to be moved one more time, though. (Use our Season Cycles soil block organization chart.)

You can make a specially designed potting block tray that can be stacked and moved around for transplanting. This tray can be made out of 1/2" plywood for the bottom and 3/4" stock ripped down to 2 1/4" for the sides. You only make three sides, as the one open end is used for easy unloading. The inside dimensions will be 22" x 8", so account for the 3/4" inch sides. The 22" holds 44 2" blocks, 75 1 1/2" blocks, and 21 3" blocks. A smaller tray can be made for the home gardener. It has an inside dimension of 18" x 8". It holds 36 2" blocks, 60 1 1/2" blocks, and 18 3" blocks. Nail with galvanized 1-2" finish nails or screws. All along the top 1/2" of the sides, drill small 1/8" holes every inch. This draws in air, and keeps the air moving along the tops of the germinating seedlings when the trays are stacked, which prevents damping off. See "Trays, Trays and more Trays" at our Blog.

Micro trays are made with 1x1" sides and are only half the width (4") of the others. You can keep two micro trays side by side for a modular effect.

 

How to seed and water potting blocks.

First, choose the right size pin for the seeds you will be starting. Use the seed pin for small to medium sizes, the dowel pin for large seeds, or cuttings, the cubic pin for extra large seeds or micro block transplants ("potting on"). After ejection, the block will contain a pre-drilled hole ready for seeds.

Since seeding in potting blocks have a 99% success rate, it is very important to seed each block with only one seed. Lay out some seeds in a dish or piece of paper. Use a sharpened wooden pencil, a matchstick or a toothpick, and dip in a small bowl of water. Then touch the seed with the stick and it will stick to it. Transfer the seed to the hole and touch the block. The seed will stick to the block because it is wetter. Wet the stick every few times. You can also use mini hand-held vacuum seeders (Tenax Pro-Seeder), seed spoons, seed sowers, or crease the seed packet and tap one in at a time.

You do not have to cover the seeds, but the brassica family crops do better with a layer of sifted (1/4") blocking mix over the seed. You can cover the entire tray or trays with black plastic. This works very well for the brassica family and lettuces. Some flowers need light, some dark. So read the seed packet carefully. Some seeds like a little sifted potting soil on top. Use a bonsai sifter, or some 1/8" hardware cloth.

Check every day until seeds sprout. They won't need any water for about 2-3 days. Then, they will need a very gentle watering. We use Fogg-it nozzle misters attached to Brass adapters sometimes on a regulator thumb valve. They deliver a perfect amount of water for every stage of growth. Use the 1/2 gallon per minute for seedlings. The main idea is to keep them moist. Water the blocks thoroughly. Leave no corner dry, pay attention to drying blocks as this could stunt them and make it very difficult to re-wet the block. (If they do dry out, soak block in a half inch of water for a few hours, known as "bottom watering".)

The older the seedling gets, the more water it consumes. Move up to the 2 gpm Fogg-it nozzle, when you notice rapid growth. Blocks are strong and can handle a good deal of water. "Be consistent and persistent, considerate and polite! Keep them moist morning, noon, and night, and you will be alright!"

At first, this seems to be a lot of work; seeding one seed at a time in each little block. But, this is almost the end of your work. Soil blocks eliminate the thinning process. Each seed is planted individually, each block is transplanted at the perfect distance. If a seed doesn't come up, no big deal, the loss of space is minimal and you can reuse the soil in the block. Just toss the block back into the tub to be joyfully compressed again.

If your seeds are old, or you need to test germination, germinate in another medium, and "prick out" the sprouts and place them in a block indented with the dowel pin and cover gently with a little sifted soil. So, remember, thinning is a lot of (back bending) work. But, bench top blocking and seeding saves time in the end.

Once you've successfully learned how to make really nice blocks, there's a tendency to make a whole bunch and seed them! This is a lot of fun! This is the time to make sure to log, map, or graph them out on paper or a computer program. Since there is not a pot to place a marker or a label, you'll have to rely on your map. Although you can slip a small, thin plastic marker in between the 3/4"micro block and the outside of the cubic pin hole on the 2", or between the 2" block and the 2" hole on the Maxi 1 4" cube. Since we are eliminating plastic "stuff" on our farm, we choose to graph our blocks on paper and slip them in a water-proof (oops, plastic!) jacket. Use a 4x4 Quadrille Ruled Graph notebook. They have four squares per inch. Depending on how you're laying out your blocks, use the 1" square to log info for the micro blocks, and 2" squares for the minis and maxis. Inside the square write down the name of the seed, variety, date of sowing, date of emergence, length of germination time. Keep a log down the side for pertinent information like temperature of flat and greenhouse, humidity, potting medium used, fertilizer used, and how the seedling performed. Or, you could try out our own Gardener's log, called "Season Cycles".

 

POTTING ON!

"Potting On" is like the nursery term "potting up", but in our case we are literally potting on top of a larger block. The smaller seedlings are set on top of a larger block for further growing.

Speedy germination of blocks using heating pads, are quickly transplanted to a larger block, making room for more seedlings. This is a tremendous advantage over pots. Time spent "potting on" is also reduced drastically. (Bare root seedlings take a lot of time to transplant.) The smaller block is simply placed right in the top!  

You will need grow tweezers to move the 3/4" micros into the 2" block. You can make your own by fastening two wooden plant markers on a 1" dowel. Or, two cedar shims with a piece of sheet metal for the spring wrapped with duct tape works wonders. We have used wooden tortilla flippers, but now we use our famous stainless steel tongs.

You want to keep the seedlings growing, so as soon as they come up, they should be on top of the 2" block. Seedlings started in the 2" block can be kept longer, but transplanted before their leaves overlap. All the hot crops (melons, cucumbers, eggplants, tomatoes, peppers) are transplanted in the 4" cube. The Maxi 1 4" block is best placed on a sheet of plastic and can be moved with a metal blade kitchen spatula, or a large, strong cedar shake or shim. Wet the spatula or shim and slip it under the block. Hold steady with the other hand, these blocks are heavy!

Block and shimSliding block on shimBlock on shim

Use a wide cedar shim to move your 4 inch block to a new location.
Use your other hand to stabilize it if it's too heavy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Lettuce is the most valuable crop you can grow. Do You Know Where Your Lettuce Comes From?


How To Grow A Lettuce PlantHow To Grow a Lettuce Plant by Doctor and Mrs. Amy and Matthew Hovland, Oregon State University

Scientist Documents the Use of Commerical Stand-Up Floor Models of Soil Block Makers

Scientist Studies Soil Blocks

Planting By the Moon Definitely Makes Plants Grow Better Because They Feel Smarter

Planting by the phases of the moon
CURRENT MOON
Planting by the phases of the moon - Key

Alan Chadwick’s
Planting by the Phases of the Moon
by John Jeavons

Planting seeds and transplanting seedlings according to the phases of the moon.

Short and extra-long germinating seeds (which take approximately 1 month to germinate) are planted 2 days before the new moon, when significant magnetic forces occur, and up to 7 days after the new moon.  Long germinating seeds are planted at the full moon and up to 7 days afterward.  Seedlings are transplanted at the same time.  Both planting periods take advantage of the full sum of the forces of nature, which are greatest at the new moon, including gravity, light, and magnetism.  The lunar gravitational pull that produces high tides in the oceans and water tides in the soil is very high at the new moon.  And the moon, which is dark, gets progressively lighter.  (See sketches)  The exact day on which you plant or transplant is not as important as generally taking advantage of the impetus provided by Nature. 

If you place short germinating seeds in the ground 2 days before the lunar tide forces are greatest, the seed has time to absorb water.  The force exerted on the water in the seed helps create a “tide” that helps burst the seed coat in conjunction with the forces produced by the seed’s swelling.  No doubt you have wondered why one time beet seeds come up almost immediately and another time the germination process takes 2 weeks in the same bed under similar conditions.  Temperature and moisture differences, pH changes, and humus levels may influence the seeds in each case, but the next time you note a marked difference in germination time, check your calendar to determine the phase of the moon was in when you sowed the seeds.  You might find the moon does have an influence after all!

Looking at the sketches of the moon’s phases, you can see that there are both increasing and decreasing lunar gravitational and light force influences that recur periodically during the lunar month.  Sometimes the forces work against each other, and sometimes they reinforce one another.  When the lunar gravitational pull decreases and the amount of moonlight increases during the first 7 days of the lunar cycle, plants undergo a period of balanced growth.  The decreasing lunar gravity (and the corresponding relative increase in Earth’s gravity) stimulates toot growth.  At the same time, the increasing amount of moonlight stimulates leaf growth.

During the second 7 days of the lunar cycle, the lunar gravitational force reverses its relative direction, and it increases.  This pull slows down the root growth as Earth’s relative gravitational pull is lessened.  The moonlight, on the other hand, continues to a peak, and leaf growth is especially stimulated.  If the root growth has been sufficient during previous periods, then the proper amounts of nutrients and water will be conveyed to the above-ground part of the plant, and balanced, uninterrupted growth will occur.  This time of increasing gravitational, moonlight, and magnetic forces gives seeds that have not yet germinated a special boost.  Seeds that did not germinate at the time of the new moon should do so by the full moon.  Alan Chadwick said it is during this period that seeds cannot resist coming up, and mushrooms suddenly appear overnight.

During the third 7 days of the lunar cycle, the amount of moonlight decreases along with the lunar gravitational pull.  As the moonlight decreases, above-ground leaf growth slows down.  The root growth is stimulated again, however, as the lunar gravitational pull decreases.  This is a good time to transplant, since root growth is active.  This activity enables the plant to better overcome transplant shock and promotes the development of a good root system while leaf growth is slowed down.  Then, 21 days later, when leaf growth is at a maximum, the plant will have a developed root system that can provide it with sufficient nutrients and water.  This is also the time to plant long germinating seeds that take approximately 2 weeks to germinate; they will then be ready to take advantage of the boost from the high gravitational pull of the new moon.

During the last 7 days of the lunar cycle,  the lunar gravitational force increases, and root growth slows down.  The amount of moonlight decreases and also slows down leaf growth.  This period is one of a balanced decrease in growth, just as the first 7 days in the lunar month is a period of balanced increase in growth.  The last 7 days, then, is a rest period of new life.  (Short, long, and extra-long germinating seed crops are listed here.)

A planted seed bursts its seed coat around the 28th day of the lunar month and proceeds into a period of slow, balanced, and increasing growth above and below ground, passes into a period of stimulated leaf growth, then goes into a period of stimulated root growth (getting ready for the next period of stimulated leaf growth), followed by a time of rest.  This plant growth cycle repeats itself monthly.  Plants are transplanted at the full moon so they may begin their life in the growing bed (or soil block) during a time of stimulated root growth to compensate for the root shock that occurs during transplanting.  The transplanted plant then enters a time of rest before beginning another monthly cycle.  The working of nature are truly beautiful. 

Planting by the phases of the moon is an ancient scientific gardening process that improves the health and quality of plants.  Anything we can do to improve our overall quality, health, nutrition, and abundance of our crops can all add up.  As Eliot Coleman puts it , “What must be understood is that a biological (or, in this case, astrological!) system can be constantly be adjusted by a lot of small improvements.  I call them “one percenters”.  The importance of these one percenters is that they are cumulative.  If the grower pays attention to enough of them, the result will be substantial overall improvement.  And, best of all, these one percenters are free.

…Rather than not acting because we can’t be certain, I suggest we try instead to apply what we hope we know.  The grower should try to take as many intelligent actions as possible to incrementally improve his crops and then be attentive to what happens.  Given our limited knowledge about all the interrelated causes and effects operating in the biological (and astrological) world, this seems to be the most productive attitude.”

Starting a Commercial Nursery Business Using Soil Blocks and Soil Block Makers

Introduction to the Soil Block Nursery Transition...
Here is a series of questions and answers from a recent consulting gig for Penobscot Potting Shed, Maine.  Many of you are coming here in search of "How-To" information on starting or converting your nursery, greenhouse, or farm into a soil block seedling, transplant, and propagation business and commercial enterprise.  Read here how one Maine farmer turned a vegetable seedling start-up business into a full blown soil block nursery business using these strategies.  Enjoy!
But first, a little about them. We are a small family run organic nursery business. There are three of us, myself (Andy), Tania and Tobin (4 years old). Tania and I met in South Korea teaching English and when Tobin was 6 months old we decided it was time to move along and settle in Maine to have a small farm. We quickly decided to change our plan a little and focus on being an organic propagation nursery. We got certified organic last year, our first year, and sold a few thousand plants. But mostly worked on infrastructure. Everything we grow is organic and we are focusing on heirloom and open-pollinated vegetables, flowers and herbs and also native plants grown from seed. Last year we were accepted into the MOFGA Journey Persons program. It is a two year program. A part of that program is the education/mentor program for which MOFGA provides a small stipend. They insisted our first year be with a local farmer, but agreed that this year we could broaden our range since nobody locally was doing quite what we are trying to do. So we contacted you.
A little about our nursery. We live on just under 3 acres. That is part of what directed us to being a propagation nursery instead of a farm- lack of land base. We currently have two 19x48 foot single layer poly greenhouses with benches we grow plants out in. One is finished and up now (under heaps of snow!) with wire benches we salvaged from an older nursery down the road. The other has its frame up but we are awaiting spring to put plastic on and will probably build wooden benches. We also have one 21x28 double layer inflated greenhouse in our driveway. This will be a heated house (propane heater still to be installed this winter but onsite) that we will start plants in and then hope to transition to a growing/retail space come spring/summer. We begin seeds indoors on "metro-shelves" and move them out to the heated house. We also use the metro-shelves as display carts that we supply to our wholesale customers at natural food stores, etc. We also start native seeds from seed in potting blocks and then plant them out into the field to grow our for the year and dig them up the following spring for potting up into Cowpots.
A little about our goals as a business. Currently Andy works off farm full time. The end goal is to support our family with our nursery.
Most of our plants start life in a germination block or 1.5" block and then are typically potted up into a larger block. We then pot up a lot of those plants into Cowpots. Last year we experimented a little with selling soil blocks at our local Farmers' Market. We had kale and flowering Johnny Jump-Ups to introduce customers to the idea of soil blocks. We had a lot of education to do but encouraged customers to 'bring their own container'. At market they selected the plants from the 1020 tray and put them into 'beer boxes' (the shallow boxes that canned drinks come to grocery stores in) to take away if they didn't have their own. As far as experiments go it was a huge success. A lot of the local farmers use soil blocks themselves, but they had never thought of offering them for sale to customers. We had great feedback about the soil blocks and a lot of repeat customers and a lot of questions about what we would be offering in the future...
We would like to sell more soil blocks- they are obviously the best choice for the plant and we use them in the beginning stages of everything we sow. Building various sized wood seedling trays branded with our logo is a great idea! And a great way to reduce our use of plastic. We have spoken to our local sawyer and he is able to supply cedar or other species of wood down to a 1/4 inch thick. We would love to learn more about your building process and are brainstorming jigs, etc. now. We were hoping to develop a cut list to supply several sizes of trays and order them in the widths that we need and whatever lengths the sawyer has them in. Then transport them home, cut them to length and assemble. We would love to learn more about your building process, screws and drill vs staples and air gun, jigs, etc.
The Consulting of a Soil Block Business...
-Growing: do you prefer wire benches or wood in the greenhouse? Do you use flats on the benches or do you just put the soil blocks straight on wood slats or wire?
I prefer wire: Called quail fence where I'm from it is a 1/4" by 1/2" heavy duty galvanized wire sold int 24" width up to hundreds of feet. All you do is roll it out over the greenhouse bench frames, which, by the way, is made out of ALL galvanized pipe same as the greenhouse. The all galvanized set up is 24" by the length of the greenhouse with cross braces every 2'. Wood can be used for benching, but guess what? Rot sets in and you'll be swamped with the redo when sales are busting out. Do it all galvanized to start if you can. Now, l love starting on pure wire, but with a plastic flat, like a 1020, or a 17" x 17" mesh bottom trays. This is because I use heat mats, and a LOT of heat mats to start seedlings. My suggestion is heat mats, but with the foil bubble foil radiant barrier underneath them. Heat mats are on side and you just keep the trays sliding down off the mat like a production line.
-Wood trays: Do you use wood flats from the beginning or only for retailing? Is it possible to bottom water with wood flats? We hear they help retain soil moisture but what about damping off? What happens to the roots on a solid surface? Do any species of wood retard growth?
Wood trays ONLY for retail, use wire and mesh flats for greenhouse work, or nothing at all. No, rots, warping, and leaks makes wood unsuitable for Bottom Watering. Bottom watering is a watering system, a business is going to go into like a hydroponic garden: LEVEL MONO TRAYS with ebb and flow type timing. It is a serious investment of time and expertise. It is good, no doubt, no worries of damping off, which, by the way is solved by 4 things: 1: Proper seed germination heat for rapid growth. 2. Light, and lots of it! 3. Fans, Fans, and more Fans! 4. Greenhouse CROSS ventilation.
Roots on a solid surface can end up mingling with others causing a slowdown at transplant time when one wants to transplant due to root tearing. Always use air gaps and proper spacing on solid surfaces. No species of wood in my experience retards growth when used as a bench. But, of course, NEVER EVER in a block mix.
-Watering: Can you bottom water in wood flats? Do you bottom water?
NO. I DO, I DID, I DON'T Anymore. I Did it all. I LOVE automatic overhead and under wire bench MISTING, FOGGING.  The oxygen content makes plants EXPLODE into growth. If you are present with your plants use Fogging on timers. We can cover this later.
- Soil mixing: We currently blend our own mix (based on Eliot Coleman's recipe) and are experimenting with an OMRI approved pre-blended mix from Vermont Compost Company this year. What do you do for a soil mix? Different mixes for germination blocks and larger blocks? Do you screen the soil for germination blocks and down to what size? Andy is particularly interested in how many blocks you can process in an hour for the different sized blockers. Do you mix soil in a cement mixer? Is there any special equipment you use or can recommend? We are trying to decrease our use of peat by using composted aged bark instead that is available locally already mixed with loam (soil) and compost.
Now here we go with the absolute SOUL of the business: SOIL! Ahhhh, how it will make or break you in so many ways, we must cover this perhaps on the phone....But, I'll give it a shot! First off, after your infrastructure is built, your soil is the one thing you have to keep making or buying, right? Expensive soil reduces profits, but cheap soil loses customers. Its an art how to do this to be profitable and sustainable.
I do not know how well Vermont Compost is with their pre-blends. But, I ALWAYS did EXTENSIVE trial runs before turning over soil blocks to customers. So, How is it??? I made my own Eliot recipe until I found a local source very, very similar. That was lucky! Maybe you'll get lucky too! But, remember: The soil block has to have enough compost or vermi-compost in it to keep a lazy customer's soil block seedlings fertilized until they plant it. So, treat your trial runs like the grower and the negligent customer. (YOU WILL THANK ME FOR THIS PRICELESS ADVICE!!!! Hee hee hee, think how they'll be running back to as a repeat customer when you've made them look so good, versus a dead plant because of a dry, weak soil block.)
Careful with compost, it could be drying, and drying compost in the hands of a customer is dangerous. I advise you to find someone to make it for you if Vermont is not up to standards. I always use coco coir and peat moss (skip the debate for now, going too green, too early, could be risky) and worm castings, perlite, and the Eliot base fertilizers. The germination blocks, 3/4" soil blocks, will use a germ mix and be sifted to a 1/4", which is basically without the nitrogen fertilizers, so one size could fit all, but I had 3 mixes: 1 germ (3/4"), 1 soil block (1.5,2,3"), and the BIG BUDGET BLOCK MIX (4") as the tomato, pepper, eggplant, and even whole herbs, lettuce heads and celery, etc., could be soil in a 4 inch soil block, but wow! the amount of soil is a money pit! Use budget ingredients like larger bulkier items that don't need to be sifted. They key here is: The smaller the soil block, the better the long-term nutrition and water absorbing mediums like coco coir and worm castings should be, because the roots can be nourished through that block. The 4" block is providing stability more root growth and top leafy growth. One mix can do it all, but then, it will have to be sifted to 1/4". I think that would be fine, especially if we are going to get you scalable. You must keep investigating local sources of ingredients, mixers, makers, and work on bulk buying deals. Invest heavily upfront when you find the soil block mix that works for you. This is number crunching time here!
Well, I can do 1,000 per hour of a 2" soil block, but 2 people can do 2,000. Think production line: Wet the soil, feed the soil block maker, moving the trays down the line and/or ready to seed. System, system, system, and staff, staff, staff. I was a one man show, but I did have periodic help: Training someone and then losing them next week loses time in the long run.
I can say that each soil blocker on my website has that technical detail. Those rates are normally for one experienced blocker or 2 regular workers.
Yes, use a cement mixer for both the mixing of the soil and wetting the block mix. Shop Northern Tool out of Minnesota for their LARGEST electric mixer, I forgot what mine was in terms of cubic foot. Don't worry about the poor remarks and reviews. This tool has gotten better as of late, and it is only going to be used for potting soil, NOT cement, so it will work like a summer breeze!
Please stay away from composted bark, it will set you back weeks and cause major problems. The peat issue is, at this point, still a debate. Eliot Coleman believes in it, shouldn't we? It is mostly hype right now, and the ONE BEST WAY to feel good about using peat, which is going to be vital to your upstart business to gain on margins is BUY PEAT MOSS FROM COMPANIES WITH THE CANADIAN SPHAGNUM PEAT MOSS ASSOCIATION. You'll be safe, the environment will be safe, and you will have the BEST blocking mix.
Cocopeat, Coco Pith, Coco Fiber, Coconut growing mediums are an extremely variable product with numerous manufacturing processes leaving many end results in quality, consistency, textures, ph levels, and potential salts. Thoroughly investigate each and every Coco Peat dealer or manufacturer to uncover their process and credibility through other growers, and then get samples and grow plants from seeds before investing in their bulk products. Cheaper is not better, go with reputation and other growers’ results and your own test runs before using.
Ideally, here, if this business is to work on profit, you must make your own blocking mix and even your own compost or worm castings in the future. This insures a solid branded one-of-kind soil block transplant that can not be duplicated by competitors. Just by seeking me out, you're already miles ahead of any competition in the future. So, I will say this: Perfect your compost making techniques so that when the compost is finished, IN AND OF ITSELF, ALL BY ITSELF, it will be your blocking mix! There is time and strategy to go into this method, so practice NOW. So, in 2-3 years, you have an endless supply of blocking mix, and you will be free of all inputs to your farm.
This "compost block mix" is a technique me and a few other growers have worked with and the results are in. It works! We'll talk about the procedure later. Let me know you're interested by saying show me the way to "compost block mix".

-Plants: how to plant 'transplant sensitive plants'- e.g. cilantro or dill- how deep so they don't get leggy, do you cover these seeds- would it be better to multi-plant a block with the intention of them putting into a container as the final product? Selling the plants younger? Which kinds of seedlings lend themselves to being planted deeper in the final planting e.g. kale, beets, chard, tomatoes, ground cherries etc.?
OK, I love your spirit here....However, there is nothing sensitive about any plant when one uses the soil block system and provides air gaps and air-root pruning techniques, right? Legginess is ONLY due to low lighting....YOU BETTER START ALL YOUR PLANTS IN A GREENHOUSE and start them ONLY 10 days before there will be 10 hours of daylight: Consult the farmers almanac or Eliot Coleman's books! Trust me, you'll catch up to anybody anywhere when you follow this timing (and the moon cycles, too, which we can elaborate on later).
MULTIPLANTS are for the produce market gardener, NOT nursery sales. Why? They consume too much water and feed, and look to messy and customers will not get the spacing right. The market is not ready for it, please don't do it.
I offered up different stages of growth for more or less money, it is up to you, but the point is, you can't charge the same for different aged plants, because they'll all buy up the BIG ONES and leave the small ones for next week. (And, next week means taking plants home for the night after a day at the market, or wholesale delivery, or stocking retail outlets.) I would aim for one size, one price, that is what I've learned. Make 'em bigger, make 'em better, and sell 'em for more, keep the lil' ones at home until they grow up. People like lots of green!
You can almost plant any plant deeper at final planting, and that should be taught to your customer. Except for what I call the "heart plants", the ones that have a edible heart: lettuce, celery, radicchio, spinach, you see?
-Selling: What size blocks do you sell and what do you charge for wholesale/retail for each block size? Do you price by the flat? Discounts? We have several wholesale accounts that we sell to, direct retail off farm and at a farmers market.
The question is: What will the market bear? Because too cheap, and you're out plants and not much return capital, just the opposite for too expensive. What is profitable? What takes the least amount of time for the most margin? I will only throw out some ideas, but your area is specific and your customers YOU MUST KNOW. Surveys are great, remember these words! For Retail Try 2 bucks a 2" block, 3 bucks a 3" block, 6-8 bucks for a 4" soil block. (Because, if they're rooted and stable, they don't require any special handling) and save a buck or two when bought in the 3,6, and 8 pack flats. Allow retail to mix and match. Keep enticing all accounts to buy more, by offering price breaks. Wholesale should be sold by the flat trays, which you need to know how much fit in for all sizes. Keep sizes separate when pricing. We can keep brainstorming these ideas, I probably need more info on your markets. When they come to you at your farm or market, keep the price lower. That feels right to me. Consumers have to pay for the convenience of the store.
-Wooden trays- we would love to learn more about your construction techniques. We are really hoping to have wooden trays this year.
As far as the cedar flats are concerned:
Wholesale will not need these "cedar flats" as long as they do their own point of sale....If you do the point of sale for them, DON'T use cedar, as they won't be returned, you'll lose too much investment in time and money. Find a local plastic pot garden flat salesman with the size you need for 2" and 3" inch blocks to be sold in 6 packs.
Retail Hopefully, these are you own customers. There will be 3 main sizes for RETAIL: 2" 3", 4" That is because they will last longer on the shelves without worry of root space. I made cedar flats only for the 2 and 3 inch size: 1 size will fit all: 6-8--2" and 3--3" But, your system can be tailor made to whatever you're doing, I was doing vegetable starts only.
Size (Interior) Approx. 8-1/2" L by 4-1/4" W by 2-1/2" H. Why? You can easily load them with the Mini 4, and seed directly for most crops, and the space allows for air gaps that keep roots pruned. Many crops will be started in the 3/4" Micro 20 and transplanted into the 2 or 3 inch soil blocker and then hand selected and loaded into the cedar flat for retail.
Get the sawyer to make you the 8-1/2" boards, and you'll cut them up into the 3 pieces using a table saw with pre-marked clamps for your three sizes.
Use an air tack gun preferably with staples or copper nails for looks.
Its is assembly line type of stuff, but worth it.
Now you'll make the carrier flats, use a comfortable weight of the amount of 6 packs one can handle. I am strong, so I loaded my carriers up with 64 2" soil blocks which was 8-8 packs. That was a 18 by 18 inch tray! Too much weight, but the tray is all about the system. The system of transport, unless you got customers coming to your farm, but you never mentioned that. Truck farming soil block starts STARTS WITH THE TRUCK, and designing it to haul heavy soil blocks, so decide what the carrier trays will look like, what they will be trucked in and develop rack and shelving for easy loading and unloading.
It is a farm overhaul, I know...But consider this: You'll be the ONLY one doing it this way, you can charge higher money and get more customer by becoming a solution orientated service business. I guarantee the demand will outstrip your supply, so here's what you DO NOW: Design and build the system that right for you and your staff. We can work on that later.
Always charge a dollar deposit on the flats. Do not lend out carrier trays, continue to use the beer flats for multiple pack sales.
-Species- are there any species you do not grow in potting blocks? Any odd ones you do? Andy thinks corn potting blocks would be an interesting novelty. Do you do any multi-plant blocks like Eliot Coleman recommends (e.g. beets)? What about tomatoes- How do you deep set them into a 4" block?
I've grown and sold all species and varieties. But, to be profitable, you might want to follow the trends and markets, and keep an eye on Johnny's Seeds for ideas. Just don't skimp on the seed cost. The seed is the cheapest part of the whole system, and yet it is the most important. Its ok to buy the good ones! Corn is very sale able! I think 5 gallon bucket corn would sell all day, every day. That is container sweet corn. I used Orchard Baby, but there are others. Include instructions and market it.
Again, skip the multiplants for nursery sales.
Yep, deep set, but lets get technical for a minute: You won't have time "deep setting" a 2 inch block into a 4" block. Why?  It requires smashing down the square hole another inch with your fingers, no, that won't do. All you have to do is this: Rotate the 2" block one turn and bury the stem on its side. DONE! NEXT! DONE!
We can talk further on the wood packs and trays, that is fun stuff. I will recall a few things here.
First this was an experience that moved from trial to serious demand, but was quickly replaced by the soil blocker tool business, so I did not "tool up" properly for a wood shop. I found that single brad nails are more attractive than staples. Use a small brad nailer air gun and pancake compressor. Size up the brads according to the thickness of your cedar. Mine were probably thinner than what your sawyer has, so go with what is recommended for that thickness, as I went with the smallest possible.
I used a table saw for everything, but perhaps a band saw would be better: saves material, cleaner cuts, quieter, etc..
I would tool up first, maybe investing in good tools, a dedicated wood shop and trained labor. If demand hits, you've got the supplies. Get your cedar sourced and make sure your sawyer does it just the way you like every time. Work with him to keep the cedar and sizes available. Soil blocks and seeds are the easy part, marketing and transporting with the wood tray system should be created properly from the start, as this will differentiate your farm and sales will boom.
I would have a custom made wood burning farm brand logo iron made for you now. Search the internet and invest in this. It is waaay too time consuming to do burn wood logos and letters on trays with a wood burning tool; take my advice!!!
-What sizes of seed trays did you use? We thought we would have a larger one that holds quite a few soil blocks on carts for our wholesale accounts. But of course also wanted to have smaller sizes for customers to buy smaller quantities of soil blocks directly at farmers markets, etc. and to have on a shelf below on our wholesale carts with the deposit system for the trays. Did you have standard tray sizes? What were your favorites?
I had two tray (pack) standard sizes: 6 pack of 2" blocks Or 8 1.5" blocks, and 8 pack of 2" blocks or 10 1.5" blocks, or 3 3" blocks. They are roughly 6.5" x 4.25" x 2.5", and 8.5" x 4.25" x 2.5" BOTH worked well, and sold well, although the 6 packs sold faster.
-How high were your soil block trays? This is what caused us to pause ordering the branding iron. I suppose we can experiment endlessly with the horizontal sizes of trays really, but the height will probably be fairly uniform. We thought the higher the side, the larger the brand could be so we wanted to see if you had a suggestions about a good height. Is slightly more than 2 inches good? Does a 1/4 inch extra help with anything such as transportation/stacking before they sprout, protecting the blocks, etc.?
2.25"-2.5" Yes, Yes. Remember, for seeding, the choice is yours if you want to start in wood, or start in plastic, hand pick the best and place in wood packs for sale. Then, wood packs go to transport via wood flats which go into the transport shelves in vans and/or shelves with casters.
-We are hoping to get 1/2" or less thick boards. Our sawyer said if we get 1/4" thick the only risk is that knots might slip out. I am tempted to try this option and consider knots when cutting down to size if necessary. My question is if I use 1/4" thick boards for the bottoms and sides, do you use a thicker board for the ends for nailing into for a more secure hold?
Yes, thinner boards go to the long sides, thicker short sides. Knots are fine if they aren't on the edges.
-I have been looking at brad nailers and pancake compressors. I also agree that brad nails look better than staples. Did you find they held as strongly as staples? When was talking to the people at the hardware store they were thinking maybe a brad nail in an 18ga nail gun would shoot right through a 1/4" cedar board. Did you use 1/2" brad nails? You did not use glue did you?
No, they do not hold as strong as staples. It was all about touch, and I used a brad nail gun using 20 gauge nails at 1/2". You’ve got to go easy on them, two or three to a side, 4-5 per side on bottom. I used to use glue. Again, way too much time, as customer weren't returning the trays, so yes, you are right in charging more and they can keep the tray!
-Did you heavily favor one block size over the other for retail? For example the 3" block? Just thinking for production terms of what to focus on.
MOST crops will sell in 2", greens in 1.5", and tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, celery, squash, melons, cukes are sold in 3" blocks. But, then again, have smaller tomato plant in 2" blocks in 6 packs and cheaper, giving people options and tracking sales to find out what the market is bearing. Focus on variety and price-points and let the customer sales speak, and adjust accordingly. If one can not afford the trial and error method, STAY WITH 2" SOIL BLOCKS, and offer high priced 4" soil block transplants of tomatoes and peppers only.
-You talk about 'European-style' seedling sales, but when I Google for images I'm coming up short. Could you offer some more direction/ do you have any images of your own that you think might be useful.
That was my slogan, and I don't have pictures of my artisan hand painted signs found at farmer's markets, grocery stores, and my own greenhouse locations. They sold with the farms I have owned. Sorry. However, after years of this, I am not convinced this is the slogan or name or title to give these soil blocks, it worked for me, but hasn't stuck around. But again, soil blocks themselves get way too lost in the American mind as being a construction technique. Why don't we both brainstorm this? By the way, what do think they could be called?
-What quantities of blocks per tray did you find worked best for each block size? We are going back and forth about how many blocks in each tray with relation to price point, etc. For example a 3 ct tray of 3" blocks might be $9. But that tray would be about 3/5"x9.5" or so. Quite small, but great if it sells!
3 and 6-8. Both fit in same size tray, as the 3" is only 3" on one side, 2.5 on the narrow side. So ideally, one large tray fits 6-8 2" blocks, 8-10 1.5" blocks, and 3, 3" blocks. Price point is all about LOOKS, if it looks like more greenery, it sells for more money. Even if the 3" blocks are only three, their roots are huge and the tops are bursting forth with lush greens. 9 is fine. That would mean perhaps making a spacious 6 pack of 2" go for 6.00. That should be about right.
I would suggest trialing out some packs, sizes, counts and crops with customers when you, yourself can interact with the customer and take a survey, narrow it down, and focus on the size/pack price point. Nail it down, and then roll it out.
-Did you offer a discount on pricing when a customer bought a tray vs. individual blocks? Is there an "incentive" to buy a tray or are the aesthetics the incentive?
All the same price IN the wood packs WHETHER you MIX AND MATCH, or not. Knock off the price of the wood tray IF you have other forms of packaging, or they bring their own. What I have found is that people will not be bring their own, or return the tray very often, so that you might as well have the large wood FLATS filled with Mix and Match crops, that sell IN a wood tray, or you have some cheap trays ready to go, either recycled containers or whatever, beer flats, etc. There is going to be a difference in customers regionally and locally based upon your clientele and their disposable income. I cannot say for sure who your customer is going to be, but if the extra cost of a wood pack is going to move like molasses, cut back on that and go for "beer flat" method. If high end gardeners are abound, go with wood, bill for the box, and they can have it!
-What did you charge for a deposit? I feel like a deposit should be small, much less than the product. However I also feel like we could turn around and sell our hand made, branded, wooden soil block trays for much more than we will probably charge for a deposit.
See previous answer to this direction, but I would say that, at this point, I would need to know about your customers, and proposed markets to be sure where exactly to guide you. Perhaps, varnishing them or something like that, putting a price tag on the whole tray with plants would be the best way to go? We want to remain competitively priced, with added-value for higher costs. Perhaps do something like this: Mix and Match in beer flat, with set-prices on certain sized blocks, AND 3 and 6 packs in wood branded wood trays for higher prices, but give them the BEST plants in the most popular varieties.
-Regarding saws I am wondering if a miter saw might be best. If we order our boards from our sawyer in the width and thickness we want, we should just have to chop them down to the lengths we want and nail them together. Is that correct? We won't really have to cut for height though.
Yes, miter it up! That's right.
Can you recommend a good box for blocking in and board for twisting the blockers on before pressing out the blocks in their flats? There are so many different bins and totes we thought we should ask in case you have a solid recommendation for one that works better than others. Is plywood good for twisting the blocker on to compress the blocks? Or is there something with a little less friction and more durable?
I have found large black cement tubs in the large Big Box Hardware Stores for mixing cement that works perfect!
Also, you can mix wet mix in an electric cement mixer.
Plywood, as you know, is not really recommended, unless you cover a nice piece with linoleum tiles, the kind that just peel and stick. That works well.
Fasten a strip of wood around the edge of a 2' x 2' plywood and it is good.
Another option is cutting the bottoms off large rubbermaid tubs, glue or screw to an overall larger piece of plywood for an anchor base that is wide.
Large Fiberglass trays are really nice, sold at hydroponic stores, but pricey.