Before we get too much further into the season, at least up north here, it’s fun to talk about soil blocks. Soil blocks are gaining in popularity with home gardeners. Since I talked about starting seeds last week and how seed starting mixes work and and how they are designed, it is worth talking about a completely different way to germinate and start new plants.Making soil blocks has been around a long time and are commonly used by commercial growers that use them for their own farming or growing plant starts.. To make soil blocks you need a gadget called a soil blocker, a mixing pan, and a planting tray as well as a soil blocking planting mix. This may seem a little more involved than starting seeds but then so is starting seeds in a starter mix and transplanting to a larger pot and another soil.Unlike seed starting mix, the growing material for making soil blocks should have some nutrients in it as the seedlings aren’t directly transplanted into another soil. They grow up right in the original soil the seeds are started in. An interesting aspect of using soil blockers is there are various sizes and, depending on how early you start a plant and when it can be safely planted outdoors, you might nest one soil block into another larger one over time before planting into the ground outdoors.One of the fun things about making soil blocks is being able to ‘seriously’ play in the mud. Your blocking material needs to be very wet to pack inside the soil blocker. Soil blockers have plungers that you push down on to release the soil block onto a tray.
A great benefit of planting with soil blocks is they are more efficient or ‘green’ in that you don’t use a lot of plastic containers. Soil blocks nest next to each other in rows in a single planting tray. Also, the air around the soil blocks acts like as natural deterrent to the starts becoming root bound as they do in small starter containers like pony packs.
If you aren’t familiar with soil blocking, be on the lookout for more of them. Some growers at our local growers market are selling plant starts as soil block. The cost is less as they don’t buy plastic starting trays, but you have to bring something to put your start in when you buy it.
Green Planet Naturals introduced a Soil Block Mix last year at the request of a local organic farmer here in our area, and the news is spreading.