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Seed balls for seed starting in place of soil blocks  RSS feed

 
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Thought of a novel use for seed balls the other day. I'm gonna try it, thought I'd share it with you all before I've actually done it, maybe save somebody some money or frustration this year. If it's actually a garbage idea, well, sorry.

For those who don't know, you can get these things called soil blockers that make a block of soil for starting seeds in. They're supposed to eliminate transplant shock by causing the roots to "air prune" themselves instead of wrapping around and around like they do in a cup. Also there's no dumping involved, so that probably helps. None of that awful webbing stuff you get with those peat pots either.

Buuuut they're pretty expensive. So I thought Fukuoka style seed balls, which are usually used for direct sowing, would make a great replacement. Just made bigger than they're normally made.

Advantages, #1 of course is you don't have to buy anything to achieve the same effect. #2 is you can make all different sizes and everything in between. With soil blockers you've got to buy different sizes and you're still limited to those. #3, the mix needn't be so specific, with soil blockers you need specific mixes which usually involves buying bagged materials. Spheres are a more forgiving shape; simple heavy clay soil with some manure mixed in should do fine. #4, I swear I had a number four but I forgot.

(Important to note: the seed balls or blocks have to be kept off of the ground with a board or something, as well as from touching each other, or the roots will spread where you don't want them. Keep them moist if there's a lot of clay in them.)

ALSO, I've got a grand idea for the cheapest and best greenhouse/cold frame ever. It involves windows made from split branches or 1x1s or other long and straight pieces of wood, with the edges of plastic garbage bags pinned in-between them with thin, peenable nails. And four simple corner joints holding it all together.

That probably needs pictures though so I'll make a post when I've built it. But hey, if you can figure all this out from words then you've got a professional market gardening level seed starting system with basically zero financial investment. Beats the heck out of starting stuff in cups in your window.
 
pollinator
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My understanding(although I've never actually done it either) is that seed balls are meant to dissolve during a single rain event, and so release the seed to germinate in existing soil, with just a little help from the clay/compost coating.

whereas seed blocks you will be watering (or keep continually moist) in a protected location until the seed sprouts a bit - seems like the watering here would dissolve your seed ball a bit too early?



But maybe you can use a "soil block" mix and just hand form/compress them into shapes and use them like soil blocks? Either way, I'm looking forward to hearing about your results :)
 
L. Tims
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Hey Dustin, I'm reasonably confident it will work, the idea is just to get them sprouted and stick them in the ground not to get them to a large size. I'm sure I can manage the moisture well enough under a cold frame to keep them from dissolving.  

I've seen time lapse videos of seed balls and it seems more like the plants themselves break up the ball as the seedlings grows upwards and the roots spread into the ground than it just dissolving.  Here that would be negated by keeping the ball out of contact with the ground and keeping it to one seed per large ball.
 
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This sounds like a really good idea to trial, most seed balls are more clay than soil which is why they end up dissolved by rains as Dustin mentioned.
I await your results L. Tims
 
Dustin Rhodes
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Any progress update L. Tims? How have the the hybrid seed ball/blocks worked out so far?
 
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I vaguely recall a video where someone made a cheap soil blocker set using different diameters of pvc pipe and scrap wood.
 
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Location: Willamette Valley, Oregon
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L. Tims wrote:For those who don't know, you can get these things called soil blockers that make a block of soil for starting seeds in. They're supposed to eliminate transplant shock by causing the roots to "air prune" themselves instead of wrapping around and around like they do in a cup. Also there's no dumping involved, so that probably helps. None of that awful webbing stuff you get with those peat pots either.

(Important to note: the seed balls or blocks have to be kept off of the ground with a board or something, as well as from touching each other, or the roots will spread where you don't want them. Keep them moist if there's a lot of clay in them.)



I actually have one of those soil blockers. I haven't used it for a while but I wanted to say that they work great. One difference: I placed them in flats, side by side, filling the entire flat. The roots did spread a little but they were very easy to separate. Of course, the longer you wait to transplant the more the roots will travel. The blocks make transplanting very easy.
 
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