You may not have a soil blocker and don't want one, but you are still interested in making soil blocks. You are inclined to do so because we all realize that plastic comes from oil, and oil is on the price hike. Plastics used to be cheap, very cheap. Now, even my cheapest wholesaler can't sell me a 5 gallon plastic bucket for under $7.00! So, it seems fitting to write about the subject of Do-It-Yourself Soil Blocks. Before I was a farmer, I lived in New Mexico and built Adobe and Rammed Earth homes since I was 19 years old. These principles guided my ability to create soil blocks at home. These techniques are nothing new to agriculture, as the ancient Aztecs made soil blocks over 2000 years ago. They are, however, revised and updated so that anyone, anywhere can make them for free. The idea is that the gardener has nothing but seeds, and would like to grow and protect them in a nursery until better planting conditions exist. Here, you will receive the most comprehensive subject ever written on Home Made Soil Blocks and Free Soil Blockers. I encourage readers to write and to add to the expanding list of techniques.
How To Make Free Soil Blocks: Part 1 of 4
First, we will follow the way of the old school American Farmer. He made Turf Blocks and raised them in a glass house or glass cold frames from old glass windows. All that was needed was a good piece of sod from a good pasture or backyard. The soil should be dark brown to black and have been growing grass or grasses for years. It should be cut from soft soil and not hard packed from human or animal traffic. You will also want a sod cutter; a wide, semi-circle metal blade atttached to a handle. A long serrated kitchen knife will do as well. Something to cut the thick matted root mass is all that's needed. Try bones, sticks, wittled hard wood scraps or old pieces of metal. Water the patch of sod the night before so that it's easy to cut in the morning. Get right down to it and cut the sod in a 1 foot by 1 foot square. This first cut may not come out well and it doesn't have to because you're just getting the edges started for the next cut. Rip or tear or cut that first square out and discard. Clean up the edges all around the square and cut another 1' by 1'. With the one edge previously cut it should lift out easier. You'll want all that root mass and soil to be about 3-5" thick.
How does it look? Square? How does it hold up to handling? Intact? Solid? Keep searching for a good tight strong piece of sod. Different grasses have different lengths of roots and runners. Find a good chunk! When you have a perfect square and about 3-5" thick, cut it further into 4 squares. A serrated blade works best, scissors will do the cut, too. A machete blade can dice it into four squares with two hard, precise chops. An old cow or sheep shoulder bone will work, too. Now turn them over and place them where they can grow for a while, like a board or on cleared piece of ground, or some metal roofing or against a south facing building. The idea to make blocks in the first place was to get a head start. So, create your nursery with the best place possible. Sunny windows? If you provide no cover, it is best to at least protect them from the wind and keep them on the sunniest side of a building. If you're expecting a frost, sprinkle the seedlings with straw or long dead grass, or cover with an old blanket, but use some wire hoops are fir bows or bent poplar sapplings for support. Do not crush seedlings. Next, you will want to wet your blocks really well so you can poke a hole in them with your finger or a stick, depending on the size of the seed. Plant your seed and cover lightly with some good compost or black topsoil. Water again and do what you can to increase the temperature of the blocks. See http://www.pottingblocks.com/season_extension.html for ideas on creating a micro climate.
Don't worry about the living grass underneath the block as it will die and become organic matter when you transplant in your garden. Keep them moist. Fertilize with compost tea, rabbit manure tea, fermented seaweed, or your own urine diluted with water at 16:1. Hey, you're the one gardening on the cheap, you don't have to tell anyone, anything. Human urine has been used as a fertilizer since the dawn of man. But don't take my word for it, try a little research and see what you find. Look at this book called "Liquid Gold", by Carol Steinfeld. Even Jesus Christ mentioned it: "Drink thy water from thine own cystern." Quoted from another farm book called 'The Water of Life". I may have gone out on a limb, but hey, now is the time and here is the place. Transplant your turf or sod blocks when all your garden soil is warmed up, all danger of frost has passed and the block is starting to show white tipped roots poking out. Stay tuned for more in Part 2. This is the Potting Block Guru signing off.