• Planning a block party—a soil block party, that is


    How to save space, use less plastic, and grow better seedlings using soil blocks.

    Just-made soil blocks

    Tray of soil blocks

    This summer I have discovered something that may just change my greenhouse forever: Soil blocks!

    Even though most of my seed sowing for the season has already been done, I still wanted to try out this “new” technique. (“New” means new to me, as the history of soil block gardening dates back thousands of years… we’ve just forgotten about it with the invention of plastic!)

    Soil blocks (also referred to as soil cells or potting blocks) are stand-alone cubes of compacted potting soil that hold their shape even when wet. They are the perfect solution for starting seeds of all sizes.

    mini 4 soil blocker

    Mini 4 Soil Blocker

    Soil blocks are created by using a soil block maker, a device that helps you press the specially-prepared soil into little cube-shaped compartments and compact them. When released from their “molds”, the soil blocks come out with pre-made indents in their tops and are immediately ready to accept seed.

    My first interest in soil blocking was to avoid some things that I’m sure all gardeners probably have suffered from at times… too many, or not enough starter pots. Right now, literally half of my greenhouse is a storage area for plastic pots. I would have twice as much room for plants if I didn’t feel the need to hoard pots! I have to admit that my Redneck-packrat side was a little unnerved at first at the prospect of not saving pots, but she finally accepted the reasoning.

    Lots of pots

    Ugh, greenhouse clutter

    My hippy side also agreed with the goal of reducing the need for pots… this part of me was happy that I might have an opportunity to eliminate a little more of my dependence on petroleum products. Also, those little pots are flimsy and break after a couple or three years. Where do they go? Into the garbage and off to the landfill. What a waste!

    So within a couple hours of receiving my blocking kit, I set up a blocking station on my back patio and after a few tries, I successfully created more soil blocks than I honestly knew what to do with. And within a couple of weeks, I had squash and carrot starts happily growing in the greenhouse. (I had to give most of them away because I didn’t have room in my garden, but I did make some friends happy, so we all won.)

    Squash plant in soil block

    Squash in soil block.

    This may well be the solution to my pot-hoarding nightmare! My mission for this fall is to get rid of most of the pots, clean that second half of the greenhouse that has not been used in years, and get ready for a much more productive spring. Come March I’ll be ready to plan a block party—a SOIL BLOCK party—and invite a bunch of friends over for soil block making and seed sowing. I can’t wait! 🙂

One Responseso far.

  1. Hope Barron says:

    • Space-saving: The compressed soil blocks require no pots and the cubic shapes can be set side by side with only a 2 mm (1/8″) air gap left between blocks. Root growth stays within the block and does not cross the air gap to interlock blocks. This means that 220 of the 19 mm (3/4″) cubes made by the micro blocker take up only about 0.1 sq. m (1 sq. ft.). Thirty-six of the 2″ cubes produced by the mini blocker take up the same space. This is a great advantage when starting seeds indoors and for starting slow-germinating or slow-growing plants like many perennials.

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