Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Soil Blocking Rocks!!!

Soil Blocking Rocks!  

No seriously.... If you have never seen it done, it is seriously amazing!  Let me tell you my experience as a newbie soil blocker.

Today we experimented with soil blocking for the first time.  I have my students working on a plant growing project down at school and we decided to give soil blocking a try.... No real reason to have tried it out at home or anything before taking down to school right!  I have to say though, it ended up being a great day!!

For those of you who have never heard of it, soil blocking is what happens when you take the correct mixture of soil type stuff, soak it up really good, and smash it into this amazing little tool that spits out these perfect little blocks of soil.  Its kinda like making sand castles, but way cooler because its spring loaded!  Once you pop those puppies out into planting trays, you deposit a seed or two in each one and your off and growing.  I am super anxious to see how this project goes.

I am still new to this whole blogging thing, but I will try and get a couple pics on here soon if I can't figure it out tonight.  (Oh yeah I figured it out!!)  For now, let me tell you our soil mixture from today.  I purchased everything that I needed from the home depot to get the project going.

Here is our base mixture:

3 Parts Compost (We used Miracle Grow Garden Soil)
2 Parts Peat Moss (Big bale of it will last forever based on today)
1 Part Coco Coir/Perlite  (They had this in stock and I was interested in adding Coir)
1 Part Vermiculite
2 Tbs Organic Fertilizer  (We used Espoma Veggie Fertilizer because I could recognize the ingredients)
2 Tbs Play Sand (I thought it would help add some structure)

We put all this in a tub and then sifted our way through the whole mix, removing any large chunks of stuff we came across.  We pulled out a decent amount of sticks and twigs that we were not interested in putting through our soil blockers, especially the micro block maker.  The resulting mixture worked very well and we were able to make hundreds of micro blocks and close to 75 or so larger size blocks.

We did learn a few tricks from all our research.  We added a piece of cardboard to every 10/20 tray before placing the blocks in it.... we had seen some indications that the smooth surface would be better for depositing our blocks on, and once saturated, it would help keep the blocks from drying out as easily.  More on that later as time is given to test the results.

I did find seeding some seeds to be.... interesting.  It was fairly time consuming to seed the micro blocks, and in fact on one tray I just sprinkled seeds all over the whole thing as an experiment.  I don't care how you do it, placing 200 lettuce seeds into individual tiny blocks is time consuming.... especially if you try and work them into the block at all so they are at least slightly covered in soil. But, we will see how it all goes.  (UPDATE:  The sprinkled tray grew amazingly well and far exceeded the performance of every other tray.  I will do lettuce in micro blocks that way from now on.) 

There is still much to learn and I will try and keep everyone updated.  Watering them will be interesting and I have no idea how well they will hold water under the lights once they start growing.  Its a work in progress, but so far at least, I am very excited about how well it worked today and plan to run further experiments throughout the growing season.

Today we were able to plant the following things:

Lettuce (Like, a lot of lettuce)
Collard Greens
Red Cabbage
Green Cabbage
Alyssum Flowers
Ground Cherries
Banana Melons
French Melons

Don't forget, we have a pile of additional information over at our other website which you can view here.

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