Soil Blocks: Considerations and Benefits of Soil Blocking for Your Seed Starting
Wondering if soil blocking is for you? Some people love them, some people think they are a pain in the flower pot. For the latter group of people, they typically feel that way because they don’t realize you need to create a special mixture and often need to add more water so that the media holds together without a container. So getting the mix correct can take a little bit of experimenting, but once you get the hang of it, there are quite a few benefits to soil blocking. But before you jump on the soil blocking bandwagon, there are several factors you’ll want to consider before you decide whether or not it’s right for you.
To soil block the traditional way, you ideally want soil blockers. So there is special equipment needed for this process. And these soil blockers are an investment. Most decent soil blockers cost around $100. That’s quite an expense for many of us home gardeners. That’s why we were stoked to discover these 2” soil blockers from Bootstrap Farmer.
At the time this blog was written, the soil blocker is going for half of what they normally go for. And often a cut in price means a cut in quality. But Bootstrap Farmer is known for only carrying supplies they use on their farm. So they’re high quality, durable supplies that hold up on a farm. This makes them even longer lasting in most home gardening environments. Bootstrap Farmer also carries a smaller ¾” soil blocker. If you want to plant in the ¾” and then transplant to the larger 2” soil blockers later, be sure to get the inserts for that.
While there is an investment cost up front, soil blockers will last for years and years, often they can last longer than a lifetime with very small replacement costs!
Not only will they save you money from disposable and plastic pots over time, they save the earth too. Who wants to keep the earth cleaner and their pocketbook more full at the same time? We sure do!
Now, if you’re a first year grower, you might want to wait until you have a few years of gardening under your belt and be sure that you plan to make gardening part of your lifestyle before investing.
Soil blocking can be a bit more time consuming while you’re getting the hang of it. Soil block seed starting mix recipes are a bit different than other mixes because the mix has to stick together to maintain its shape. And it has to be dense enough to keep its shape, but not so dense that it suffocates seedlings.
Getting the mix just right requires patience and persistence. If you’re short on time or in a hurry, this may not be the ideal seed starting method for you. Once you get your recipe down and get
accustomed to filling and emptying the block maker, making your seed blocks will go more quickly. Just be prepared to spend extra time in the beginning getting the hang of it.
Healthier Root Growth
Aside from lasting a lifetime and being a fast process once you get the hang of it, seed blocking offers healthier root growth because the block is exposed to the air on all sides (versus meeting the edge of a pot). This prevents roots from wrapping around each other the way they do in pots. Instead, the roots will grow up to the edge of the soil block and then stop growing.
While you might think that it’s a ‘bad’ thing that the roots stop growing, soil blockers have noticed that while the roots stop growing, they maintain health and often show superior health compared to roots bound to a container.
Avoid Transplant Shock
Transplanting plants grown in containers means disturbing the roots. By disturbing the roots, the plants go into what growers call transplant shock. It can take them up to 3-4 weeks to recover from this shock. In some cases, the plants’ immune system is compromised and the plant doesn’t make it.
With soil blocking, there’s little to no transplant shock since you don’t have to pull the roots and media out of anything before planting. You simply place the whole block into the ground. Reduced stress means a shorter recovery time and an increase in your plants’ ability to maintain optimum health!
With a minimized transplant shock recovery time, your plants can resume growing sooner and that means they can mature more quickly and give you more harvests!
Easy Upgrades to Larger Blocks
Indents in blockers allows you to easily nest a smaller block into a larger one, so a baby plant that’s outgrowing its block can be placed inside a larger block easily and keep growing.
No More Sanitizing Trays!
While you’ll still need to clean your soil blocker, you’ll save so much time and chemicals not having to clean and sanitize transplant containers. For anyone with a substantially sized garden, this is a dream come true!
Soil blockers are for anyone who wants to get away from plastic and the constant financial and environmental stress of manufacturing disposable/biodegradable pots, has a little extra time and money, wants a high ROI (Return on Your Investment) over time, and wants healthy seedlings for your garden.
So how do you soil block? Stay tuned for more blogs on soil blocking!
Related articles you may enjoy:
• 3 Keys to Successful Indoor Seed Starting
• The #1 Key to Starting Healthy Seedlings
• The Top 3 Mistakes Growers Make When Growing Seedlings