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Soil Block Makers- Eco-conscious seed start recipes ?  RSS feed

 
Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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i ordered 2 soil blockers that should arrive tomorrow. psyched! they seem great.

but so far all the soil-recipes i come across for them use things i'd rather not support .

things like peat that destroys bogs/mires etc

and blood/bone-meal (im vegetarian,bordering on vegan) .

i dont even  know if there are issues associated with

other common ingredients as well (perlite?,rock dust?).



anyone using a grow-medium that they make from just vermicompost and soil or organic matter , horse manure, coffee grounds or?

something  with as little outside/commercial inputs as possible i guess is what i'm after.

any leads on this or the entire process would be appreciated, thanks guys!(and girls )

been googling this stuff like mad all night. dead tired and now i gotta go continue yanking out ivy patches,ugh
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Here is my thread on making your own potting soil over at SustainableCountry forums:

http://forums.sustainablecountry.com/forums/showthread.php?5924-Making-your-own-potting-soil

It's a little less than a week since the seed was sown in the flats and most seedlings are up and looking nice!  I'll try and post some updated pics there later today.

For fertilizer, I'm fond of very small amounts of blood meal myself, but I can understand your aversion to it.  Vermicompost, or compost/manure tea should work quite well.

I've found most seedlings need very little additional fertilizer until they are ready to go in their final locations.  A pinch of bloodmeal for a whole flat that is starting to show true leaves usually is plenty.
 
Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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Thanks K.B
i guess my query was pretty timely !

sad as it is ,i dont have an old creek bed or big dead fall on my 1/4-ish acre suburb plot ,sigh.
but i do have sand 10 minutes away at the beaches?.  and pure sawdust  for humus?  tons of that in the woodshop.. likely some jet-black compost under the leaf/yardwaste piles out back...3 years ago i blanketed most of the yard with fresh wood chips (40 yards!) raking some back yesterday found nice dark decomposed loamy soil, maybe sifting this would work out.
i've never made potting mixes withought that other stuff so i'm unsure,especially ones for the soil-blocks.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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sounds like your rotted wood chips may do the trick.  Can't imagine they would be much different or any worse than the rotted logs.

I haven't tried using fresh woody material like sawdust.  Not sure what kind of results you'd have from that.

If you are using pure compost like from mixed yardwaste, there may be a nice balanced fertility in the mix all ready to go.

As with any potting soil (but especially if it is "alive" like this mix is), I'd be cautious not to overwater the mix when sowing seed.  A lot of people like to cover their flats or pots for germination to keep the humidity high.  There should be a lot of fungus and other life in this mix and with too high a humidity, it could get out of hand. 

I haven't had any trouble, but I don't keep mine covered after sowing.

Good luck with the season!
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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For mine, I used sifted aged compost, some vermicompost, a bit of sifted biochar, a bit of sifted river sand, a bit of really nice garden soil.  They work great!
 
Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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thanks !

that sounds great vela'

they just arrived. 
should'a gotten it alll together yesterday when all was nice a dryish ,it is pouring rain today
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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When you said "sand", it made me think "where does he live?"  If it is river or lake sand, OK.  If it is from ocean beaches, it will need to be thoroughly washed to remove the salts.
 
                          
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NaCl from ocean salt is highly soluble.  If it's been left out in the rain a little it'll be fine.

Soil blockers are great if you're doing things in great quantity, but they're pricey, and I wouldn't recommend a home gardener run out and buy one.

I use Vermont Compost Fort V planting mix with mine.  It's much easier than trying to make my own mix, and doesn't cost any more.  I'm not bothered by the peat moss issue, as it's being laid down worldwide much faster than it's being harvested, and it's being harvested locally.

Dan
 
nancy sutton
gardener
Posts: 669
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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For a weak, on-site nitrogen shot to seedlings, I wonder if very dilute fresh urine would work?  Something to think about next fall - stuffing a big reusable plastic bag w/ damp leaves in the fall, will give you a bag of peat-substitue leaf mould in a year or so, earmarked for germinating. And, come to think of it, moistening the leaves with dilute urine will speed that process too.  (PNW)
 
                          
Posts: 61
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That's not such a bad idea, especially if you can shred the leaves first.

A number of years back, when I was still with my Ex and we were still bothering with organic certification, the inspector was looking at our seedlings.  She noticed that one flat of basil looked much better than the other.  The two of them were pondering this for a few minutes before I broke down and told them I'd peed on the one.

Some say that you want to avoid too much N during germination.  Feed once they've got cotyledons up.  Whatever.  In a good leaf mold compost things sprout just fine.

Dan
 
Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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thanks for the ideas' .
i tihnk next fall i'll have a landscape company dump off their leaf and lawn clippings for this purpose. i can put them through my shredder.
i have had free fresh tree trunks and wood chips dropped off many times (20-40 yards at a time) they otherwise pay to dump it.

the stand up blockers are pretty expensive. but the hand-sized ones are $25 for 3/4" and $30 for 2"  so not terrible IMO , i'm glad i got them.theyll pay for themselves with more succesful seed germinating.  i think they make sense even for home gardeners like me or anyone that wants to start seeds...course i havent used them yet    but from the videos and others i've talked to who use them,they love them.
gonna make some mix up this weekend probably.
cheers'
 
                                    
Posts: 12
Location: Alberta Canada
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peat moss is what makes bogs and mires it is the first stage of coal

alternatives to blood/bone meal, try straight horse or chicken manure, make sure it is well decayed at least 60 days in compost pile.

river sand, is it 'clean' river?

playground sand, from a hardware store, maybe cheaper than sand from a nursery/garden store.

some vermiculite or perlite is made from asbestos.  has anyone tried kitty litter or oil absorbent?

the back dirt from under bark mulch (any mulch) may be full of weed seeds.

Depending on the type of wood chips there may be a problem with pH

(How do you tell the difference between weeds and good plants? If you can pull it out easily it was a good plant )

To speed up composting:
Mix new materials with good compost in layers, 2 to 1
Add fresh manure, chicken and horse have a higher nitrogen content, sheep manure is said to have fewer weed seeds.

Agitate the pile this allows oxygen in.

Compost that is no longer hot to the hand the best for starting seeds and transferring to larger pots.

Someone suggested stuffing a plastic bag with damp leaves, compost piles can self ignite, spontaneous combustion.

My Grandfather kept a pot of "tea" under the bench and close to stove, ingredients water and fresh sheep ship pellets.

I have been using block makers from 1 to 3 inch cubes and am getting 70 to 95% germination, occasionally under noted germination time.  At the moment my seeds are about 2 weeks ahead of my garden.

Have great summer and a better harvest.
 
Darren Collins
Posts: 34
Location: Jamberoo, NSW, Australia
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I've listed my soil block recipe on my web site here: http://green-change.com/2010/03/26/soil-blocker-recipes/

In a nutshell, I use the compressed coir blocks instead of peat, then bulk it out with whatever's available (worm castings, sieved compost, sand, etc). I chuck in a bit of lime and rock dust if I have it handy.
 
              
Posts: 52
Location: Australia
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Second for coir. Although I am not making blocks any more as I got to borrow blockers from a Permaculture farm just outside the city before I moved a state away to my farm, but I am now using an alternative system of re-using toilet roll tubes you get when done with a roll of toilet paper.

I saw the price of buying blockers locally in this country (take your price and double it!) and I said no way to blocks for now.

Either as is or cut in half they make a great little planter that bio-degrades as you plant the toilet tubes with seedlings directly into the garden.

 
Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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thanks

reason i dont like coconut coir is that it must be bought and shipped from far far away and is also expensive seing as it's a leftover waste-product from coconuts.

i'm going with loamy soil,decomposed punky/crumbly tree wood, sand,crushed shells (i live by the beach) little lime and good rich sifted compost... it's been working out great!!

pete, could you not buy online and have it shipped to you? is it the customs tax that makes it prohibitive?
i dont care for the toilet rolls, i did that,they were too thick.worse than the peat pots for roots to break through.. if i went that route i'd keep using the hand rolled paper pots from newspaper.with a little wood roller thing i turned on the lathe , those were good but not as well as these blocks!!
i have over 400 plants under lights now and another hundred already planted outside   going to be a great season!


thanks again guys'
 
              
Posts: 52
Location: Australia
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Yes, you can order overseas but the US stores ended up being more difficult and expensive with shipping options than in England where the costs were lower and the shipping a lot less than US.

I still have it in mind to perhaps order from England, but so far I've been using the toilet rolls with success. They are only a few inches tall and the roots come out the soil through the bottom so I have not been as fussed yet to spend more money.

I spent more than a set of various block makers getting hierloom and organic seeds to a whole swath of trees, bushes, and veggies and rare fruit trees instead. I went this route as after I moved I remembered that just up the road was an importer, but when I settled in to the new property I found out they no longer import them.

As I am far out in the bush, I am saving the next kitty of funds to extend the garden frame and fencing to keep out birds and local ground animals that love to eat the existing garden and to extend with some minor earthworks the garden into terraces. Its $230 average to rent the machine to do it (ground is almost rock hard clay, too difficult to do all the terracing by hand unless I had lots of time).

Cheers,
PeterD
 
Ed Johnson
Posts: 86
Location: Durham region - Ontario, Canada - Zone 5
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I realize this thread has been quiet for some time, which may be a good thing for my question.

How has the success been?
Can you water the blocks using wicking mats (ie from below?) or must they be sprayed?

somewhere I saw a guy making the blocks from compost and vermiculite, any thoughts on that?
 
Saybian Morgan
gardener
Posts: 582
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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Hi Ed
you can use capillary mates with a root barrier to keep soil blocks from turning into concrete blocks, i find I wreck blocks alot in the greenhouse in may. Too much water on too many overcast days and the seedlings can end up damping off, miss 1 watering between 11 and 4 and depending on your soil mix you can come back to concrete which doesn't wet easily. I've done vermiculite, worm castings and coir. I've never tried any in my life and i had made a batch of soil blocks that mutated into fuzz so I gave in and tried something conventional since soil blocks seem to be built for it. It did work but I can't really ever buy that stuff again on the scale in which I want to live my life so I went back to working on a homebrew that suits my resources.
I've done allot of experiments with sand, and the truth is if you don't have some rigid criteria for how you want to be able to operate in awkward design implementation situations I would go with something organically conventional. Coir, compost, castings, minerals and water and you'll be fine, I don't like how heavy my soil blocks are with sand, but sand I can always have and so can I compost so Im perfecting my blends.
 
Eric Markov
Posts: 100
Location: Bay Area CA zone 9
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Here's a nice way to wick-water soil blocks:

http://lowcostvegetablegarden.blogspot.com/2012/07/simple-soil-block-watering.html


Just used a 2" wood wafer for the capillary action.



 
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