soil blocking

I posted about soil blocking last year, but it is that time again!  In the name of reducing plastic here are some photos of the process.  The mix is a ratio of potting soil, peat moss, compost, sand, and a dash of lime.  Roughly a ratio (in order mentioned) 5-3-2-1 plus a dash of lime. I eyeball it, and I have a recipe written down somewhere, these numbers may not be fabulously accurate.  You will have to experiment depending on your materials.  There are several good websites on this topic, here’s one.  Here’s another.  Worm castings are also an excellent addition.

the wheel barrow is an excellent mixing receptacle

The potting soil is the least expensive and easiest component to acquire, you just want to make sure it isn’t too coarse.  You need a pretty fine texture to make good blocks that hold together.  The peat moss is for lightness and water retention.  Compost adds slow release nutrient, if it is home compost I would screen it well and make sure it is fully rotted and broken down.  The sand (or perlite) lightens the soil, the dash of lime balances out the acidity of the peat moss.  You are compressing two or three times the amount of material into a soil block that you would put into a seeding tray, so the sand or perlite is key for enabling the block to take up water easily even though the block is so dense.   I add warm water to the mix, for some reason peat moss absorbs warm water more readily than cold.  Plus it is more pleasant to mix.  You want the consistency to resemble cooked oatmeal, so considerably wetter than what I typically put into seedling trays.  If cold water is all you have, mix and let stand for a few hours before blocking.  Once the material is mixed, dip your blocker into a bucket of water and shove and twist it into the mix until all the cells are stuffed full.  Scrape the excess off on the edge of your container and then block into your tray.  I use a capillary mat (the felty stuff under the blocks) but I think you can get away without one.

Finally, you want to space the blocks out so they don’t touch, this way your plants will air prune their roots instead of growing into each other.  I will repot these tomatoes into quart containers (I often use old yogurt containers or sawed off milk cartons) before transplanting out, as they have to be pampered and kept warm until May.  Most other things I start in blocks go straight into the garden.  Here is a shot of a homemade block tweezer (those of you who carpenter, another excellent use of the shim).

And here are the block tweezers in use:

At the moment I only have the 2″ 4 cell blocker, they make a bigger stand up version for large scale production, and you can make blocks in several sizes.  This is a good general size for most of my needs.

Then the blocks are seeded up and go to the germination stand in the basement:

I have also tried my hand at making yogurt, as I just got a gallon of Amazing milk from Charlotte at Champoeg Creamery.  Yogurt keeps longer, and I eat it for breakfast most weekdays, so it is a good way for me to use up a gallon of milk without having any of it go bad.  Charlotte handles her milk meticulously, so it usually keeps for a couple of weeks.  We also made a fantastic gratin for dinner the other day.  This is a completely different beast than homogenized milk.  Anyway, here is everything you need for making yogurt:

That’s it.  A quart of milk, (this should work with store bought milk too), a tablespoon of live culture yogurt, a small cooler, a heavy saucepan, a thermometer (optional really), and some extra jars.

Heat the milk to 180 degrees, stirring occasionally (ie scald the milk, by heating until fine bubbles form around the edges of the pan and it is just too hot to touch).  Then let cool to 140 (just warm enough to dip a clean finger in comfortably) and stir in the tablespoon of yogurt.  While the milk is heating, boil a kettle of water and pour the boiling water into a small cooler to preheat.  Fill the jar you are going to make the yogurt in with hot water from the tap to preheat.  Once the milk has cooled to the point where you can add the yogurt dump the hot water out of the cooler and pour the milk mixture into your preheated quart jar and seal with a clean lid.  Fill your other quart jars with hot water from the tap (not too hot to touch), put lids on those and place them in the cooler as well.  You can wrap your yogurt jar in a clean dish towel if you like.  Put the lid on the cooler and place in a warm area where it won’t be disturbed for 8-12 hours.  Voila, delicious yogurt is yours, and it will keep in the fridge for weeks.  Starting with a fabulous product like Charlotte’s milk produces a homemade yogurt that really is miles above anything you can find at the store.  Truly nectar of the gods.

I cannot tell you how delicious this is. You have to try it for yourself.

And now, because you have been so good, baby bunnies:

There are seven bunnies in there. Really!

good momma



4 thoughts on “soil blocking

  1. Dr. Dirt

    This is super article on making soil blocks. Good tips on the wheel barrow, and the wooden tongs or grow tweezers as we call them.
    For more information on soil block gardening and a great garden store with Soil Block Makers
    for sale, see our world famous site keyword: Potting Blocks.

  2. Pingback: Starting | mamalooma

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