Monday, February 2, 2009


We may be taking a non-interventionist approach to gardening this year, but that doesn't mean we have to deny ourselves some new toys. We're not made of stone, you know! Mark couldn't help ordering these soil block makers from Johnny's, which supposedly make seed starting and transplanting easier and more efficient.

You fill the blocks with your favorite growing medium and stamp them down into a seed tray. It's much cheaper and more effective than using peat cubes or filling hundreds of tiny little cups with soil. Peat is great for starting seeds, but those new seedlings need to be transplanted quickly after sprouting since peat doesn't contain many nutrients. We're hoping to cut out that time-consuming transplanting step for our alliums, brassicas, and some flowers. Our first trial will be leeks in organic, store-bought potting soil.

Since the blocks are separate from each other, the roots of fast-growing seedlings are less likely to get tangled up. Even if each block is rootbound, it should be easy enough to separate it from its neighbors and lift it out for transplant--a lot easier than those seed trays, which inevitably get mangled during the transplanting process. So there's the added bonus of not destroying a dozen plastic seed trays every year, sending them to the landfill, and then paying to replace them.

We'll let you know if these toys are worth the investment. They are industry standard for many commercial growers, so we have high hopes. Check back soon for the exciting results!


Sound Bite said...

Is this idea with seed blocks to deploy the soil into any container you want, or do you still use the plastic trays?
I guess I don't see how this helps or is faster than just taking a bag of pre-mixed starter and dumping it into the plastic trays?
I am intrigued but also confused. :)

Kate said...

You could use any container you want, but we are still using plastic trays, just not the kind with individual cells. We hope the soil blocks will make transplanting easier by preventing the roots from getting tangled, which is what happens when we just dump the soil in a tray.

Also, in the past we've started seeds with peat pellets and had to transplant to larger cells before it was finally warm enough to put the plants in the garden. The soil blocks will give the seedlings enough space so they can grow in there until they go outside, streamlining the process.

But this is definitely an experiment for us, so it might not make things easier at all! I think Mark mostly wanted to get a new toy :)