Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Seedlings without Pots? Use Soil Blocks!

Tired of buying, using, washing and storing so many plastic containers for your seed-starting operation? Try making your own soil blocks. A soil blocker produces cubes of compressed growing mix that hold their shape without a container and can be transplanted directly into the garden – sort of like peat pots without the tough outer shell. Soil blocks have multiple benefits beyond their ability to eliminate garden-shed clutter. The blocks are containers without borders, so roots don’t twist into a tangled mat like they do with plugs and cell packs. And because you don’t have to pry seedlings out of containers at transplant time, your flowers and vegetables go into the garden shock-free. The British-made Ladbrooke soil blocker is the industry standard, crafted with zinc-plated stainless steel parts that last for years. Just press the metal mold firmly into a tub of wet growing mix, twist slightly, then lift and release your blocks onto a planting tray. Full-sized blockers for commercial growers cost up to $200, but a hand-held Micro-blocker that makes 20 three-quarter-inch cubes at a time sells for under $30. The Micro-blocker is perfect for lettuce, tomatoes, celery, basil and other small-seeded plants. A larger Mini-blocker makes four 2-inch cubes for cucumbers, melons, squash and larger seeds. And you can pair the two for double-transplants. When tomato or pepper seedlings outgrow the Micro-cubes, they can be dropped into a custom-made indentation in the larger blocks. Attachments allow holes for small seeds, large seeds or the cube-shaped hole that accommodates Micro-blocks. The key to making soil blocks that hold their shape is to start with very moist, almost soggy soil mix – like putty, wet cement or cooked oatmeal. Find more information at Reprinted from permission of the author Andy Tomolomis in the January/February issue of Hobby Farms Home magazine.

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