Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Birthday Presents

It was my birthday recently and my MIL gave me a check to spend, but what am I going to spend it on? I have for many years wanted to know what soil blockers were like, but hadn't been growing many seedlings myself for a few years. The few that I grew got reused six-packs and flats. Now that I'm growing most of them, I think I don't have enough six-packs saved up. It would be a good time to try soil blocks.

I'm not sure what size to get. Should I just get one at 1 1/2"? Should I get a potting up system with the 3/4" and the 2"? The 1 1/2" would be able to fit more seedlings on the tray. I need at least 50 to fit in a tray. That would be squishy with the 2" ones, but I think possible - or maybe not. Maybe I can only fit them in at 4x9 instead of 5x10. If I pick the 2" size, there will be more soil in the block and the seedlings can be held indoors longer if necessary.

Of course EG is going to come in here and say just make them yourself. I did look into that. I could do it. I have the materials. They would be really cheap. They would also have to be round, since I would make them from pill bottles. To me round seems like wasted space under the lights. If I do a 4" one, I'll make it myself, because at $100 for one there is no way I'm going to buy one.

In addition I've looked at the soil mixes to use. It seems I need soil from the garden to make it. Ha! That garden is frozen solid until March sometime. Where do you get garden soil without a garden to dig it from? Potting soil perhaps? So if any of you have suggestions, or have used a soil blocker in the past. Give me some advice. I could really use it.

Oh and speaking of birthdays presents. My DH gave me a garden fork. My old fork came from his grandmother 20 years ago. She moved out of her house into an apartment and I inherited all the tools. The fork at the time was old, rusted and bent. I used it anyway. After 20 more years the handle eventually rotted away. I really need a new one and hubby got it for me. This one ought to last me for the rest of my life - as long as I don't lose it like I did my compost fork. Never let the kids play with you tools unless you don't want to see them again.


  1. Happy Birthday!

    I can't help you with the soil blocker. I've wondered about them, though, so I'll be curious to see what you think.

    I have a credit to spend at Gardener's Supply. I've been thinking about a seedling heat mat, but they are out of stock. Have you ever used one? We keep our laundry room on the cool side, so I though it might help.

    Enjoy your new fork :-)

  2. Happy belated birthday, Daphne. I don't know about the soil blockers but read someone blogging about it recently. They said that because seeds germinate at different rates, that it was not easy to move the growing seedlings away from being under the plastic dome. He recommended the newspaper pots, is that what you mean by the pill bottle? As for the kids and tools, as they say in TN, I hear that! :-)

  3. Hmmm... soil blocker? I can't say that I know what that is. Is it some kind of mold, that you pack soil into - and kinda make your own peat pellet? I'm confused.


  4. I've never quite been able to wrap my mind around soil blockers. How do the soil blocks stay together? I used to use paper pots made from newspaper, still have the mold somewhere. Now I have enough old 6-packs collected to keep reusing them instead. I'm interested in seeing your experiments with the soil blocks.

  5. And, I forgot to say Happy Birthday!

  6. Ali, yes, I have a heating mat. Now I do not use it to grow anything. I use it to germinate seed. Most seed germinates so much better with a little heat. Eggplant and cucurbits won't even germinate if it is cold. With a heating mat they have almost 100% germination within a week - even the eggplants that are notoriously hard to germinate. My laundry room where I'm growing my seedlings is about 60-70°F, depending upon the sunshine. I really don't need it any warmer to grow things there. I bought the mat for my last house. I grew my plants in the unheated basement that was in the low 50s in spring. I used it for my heat loving plants. They adored it. I'm sure they would still love it, but I don't deem the cost of running it worth the rewards. The plants do fine in the 60s. I may change my mind if they are growing really, really slowly this year. The house is set colder than last year.

    Frances, interesting. I am thinking I need a tool to move them around. It would have to be flat on the side and the width of a block and thin to get between them. But mostly I would keep them in place. For containers that don't have domes, I've used old plastic bags on the surface of the soil. It works fabulous and even keeps the mold spores from getting to the surface of the soil. So I'm thinking of not having to move them except to put them in and move them to the garden. Who knows if that will work. Your comment does remind me that I need a tool. I haven't seen one in the

    EG, Yup kinda like your own peat pellet. You basically jam potting mix (specially made to be able to hold together yet have drainage) into a form. The form has a way of pushing the soil back out once formed. Supposedly they hold together as long as you mist them to water them. I keep thinking that bottom watering ought to work, but everyone says to mist from overhead. If you want to make your own there are good instructions on the web:

    Michelle, I've made paper pots in the past, but just for hard to transplant things. Their flaw is they take a long time to make compared to blocks. They really are just as good, just slow. The blocks stay together because the peat moss when compressed will hold it together. Sadly the coir doesn't do this. Most people say to only use half coir, half peat or the blocks will fall apart.