Monday, June 21, 2010

Mud Pies for the Adult Gardener

Last weekend, I finally got out to my garden and PLAYED!!! Spent a glorious afternoon with my hands wrist deep in soil blocking mixture and water. For weeks now, my soil blocker had been calling me. This spring's finicky weather worked against me. I was fooled into direct sowing only to be hit by cold weather and then by scorching heat and freaky cold spells!! As a result the seeds took too long to germinate and  then grew so slowly that they were old before they reached full size. My current plan is give my seedling a fighting chance by starting them in soil blocks. The evening before, I mixed up a batch of blocking mix for my soil blocks. Added water, mixed and let it sit to ensure that mixture was evenly moist.

Two years ago, I bought 2  soil blocker mould to avoid using plastic pots in my yearly seeding starting routine. More than 20 years ago, I read Elliot Coleman Organic gardening book and was immediately attracted to the idea of using soil blocks to start seeds. I had just moved to the US at that time and the idea of spending so much money to buy a contraption to press mud into mud/soil blocks that acts as pot was ridiculous. I was still converting Malaysian Ringgit to US Dollars - $4.50 Ringgit to US $1.00 was tough to swallow. But a good idea will stick with you. When I started being serious about growing heirloom vegetables it made sense that I grew them as green as I could.

Blocking mixture - soil, perlite and coco fiber

Correct blocking mixture yields perfect soil blocks
Essentially a soil block is a soil pot made of wet soil mixture, shaped and compressed with the use of a soil blocker. A seed is inserted in a depression in the block. The seedling grows uninterrupted, its roots air-pruned when it reaches the edges of the block, creating a strong root system. There is no transplanting shock because it is not in a container.  I love that I do not have seed starting plastic pots to clean and store. It is essential to mist the soil blocks daily to avoid it drying out. I start minuscule seeds in my 15 soil block sets and larger seeds in the 4 soil block sets. If I am working with the soil block in early winter I sometimes start off the seeds in the 15 soil block sets and later pot up  into the 4 soil block set  before setting out the plants in the garden.

I'll keep you posted on how this year soil blocks work out.

N.B. - birds have started to peck out the seeds in my soil blocks. Since the weather is warm, they are flying all over my garden. I covered the soil blocks but the wind blew open the fabric cover. Hopefully they left me enough seedlings!!

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