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Posted: Sunday 8 February, 2004

by Dan at 6:50pm in Growing 3 comments Add your own

Soil blocksThis weekend has seen the start of the serious work surrounding the growing of vegetables. A sowing and planting schedule was produced yesterday, detailing which varieities of which vegetables I'm growing this year, where they are to be grown, when the sowing dates will be and the method of cultivation. Apart from planting shallots today's tasks included the sowing of early leeks, Startrack, possibly for showing at the local Horticultural Society show (I'm a new member this year and have never been to a show) but most certainly for munching come the autumn. The method of growing I'm adopting again this year for many crops, including leeks, is the soil block.

Soil blockersSoil blocks are exactly what the name says - blocks of soil. Well, not exactly soil but a mixture of peat, sand, compost, soil, lime and base fertiliser (I use a compound of phosphate, and fish, blood and bone). This mixture is watered to a slurry-like consistency and shaped into batches of 2-inch cubes using a soil blocker, which also makes an indent in the top of the block. The blocker ejects four blocks at the press of a sprung handle, 24 blocks fitting nicely into a standard seed tray. Seeds are dropped into the indentation on top and the tray placed in the greenhouse for the seeds to germinate - in the case of the leeks on a heated pad. Lots of benefits - none of the root binding associated with pots or modules; easy transplant with no root disturbance, just plant the whole block; high rates of germination and seedling survival, as the block mix caters precisely for the needs of the young plants; multiple seeds can be sown in a single block, for example 4 leek seeds in each block today; and blocks add fertility to the soil every year.

It's a technique championed by Eliot Coleman in his excellent book The New Organic Grower, and last year, my first using blocks, I had great success with most of the crops for which I used it. An article will be forthcoming, but for more information see the Coleman book or drop me a line and I'll try to help.

Comments

Suzanne McBride

Saturday 20 March, 2004 at 11:59am

I have read Elliott Coleman and want to try soil blocks, including his system of transplanting small (say one inch)blocks into larger ones as plants grow for our orgnaic veg business.

Have you found a supplier for anything other than the very small blocks, as sold in Organic Gardening? Or anywhere that supplies a commercial sized blockmaker - we need potentially thousands of blocks so I would be intersted in a PTO block maker if such a thing exists!

Dan

Saturday 20 March, 2004 at 6:38pm

Try the manufacturer of the 3/4 and 2 inch blockers I use - Labrooke - at http://www.ladbrooke.co.uk/

They have a floor blocker (used standing up) which produces 20 1.5 inch blocks at a time. A picture of it in use can be found here: http://www.allsun.com.au/Blockers.html

Hope this helps and good luck - it's a system I've found excellent for many crops.

Jenny Hall

Thursday 22 December, 2005 at 9:31am

Hi

Do you know of any soil blocker compost recipe that doesn't involve peat?

Best wishes

Jenny, Wigan, UK.

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