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Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos

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Post  quiltbea on 3/31/2012, 2:04 pm

Here is a tutorial in photos with instructions on starting seeds with Soil Blocks.
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Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos Soil_b12

01. Put some soil mixture into a waterproof container. (Note: I bought a kitty pan for the purpose. Its the right size and sturdy). You can buy the mixture already made from johnnyseeds.com (512 Soil Mixture) or make your own:

3 Qts Peat Moss, 2 Tablespoons Greensand, 2 Tablespoons Phosphate Rock, 2 Tablespoons Bloodmeal. Mix together well. Then add: 1 Qt Perlite, 3 Qts Compost. Mix together and use this for your soil block starting soil.


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Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos Soil_b13

02. With some soil mixture in the container, add 1 or 2 cupsful of water. Check the consistency of the mixture. Keep adding water til it holds together and is the consistency of wet oatmeal.


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Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos Soil_b14

03. Press the soil blocker deep into the mixture. Do this a couple of times to be sure the holes are all filled.


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04. If all the holes are filled well, scrape the bottom off evenly. I use an old butter knife for the purpose. You want the bottom smooth so the blocks don't tip over.


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05. Release the blocks onto a waterproof tray of some sort. The blocks will all have a little hollow in their centers to receive a seed.


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06. You want to place only ONE seed in the center of each block. I use a pencil as my lifter. Wet the tip of the pencil.


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07. Touch the seed with the wet tip and it will adhere. Drop the seed in the middle of the mini-block.


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08. Place only ONE seed in each block.


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09. Make sure you label your seeds in some manner. I stick tape along the side of the base tray so I know what I've sown. When all the seed blocks are filled, cover with a thin layer of fine vermiculite. This is lightweight so the seeds can germinate more easily than if covered with soil. It also may help prevent damping off.


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Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos Soil_b21
10. Spritz your seed blocks lightly with water. You want them to remain moist in order to germinate. I often use a very weak green tea water to spritz mine. It may also help prevent damping off.

Green Tea water: Make yourself a cup of green tea and enjoy it. Take the used tea bag and drag it back and forth thru another cup of room-temperature water til it just starts to turn color a little. Fill a spritz bottle with the resulting weak tea.


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Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos Soil_b22
11. Cover the soil blocks with a dome or plastic wrap so the seeds stay moist and warm. I put mine on a heat mat but you can also put the tray on top of the refrigerator or atop a water heater for that needed additional heat. Except for lettuce and some flowers seeds, the seeds do NOT need light to germinate nor will they germinate if the soil gets dry so check every day to be sure the tops are moist. Spritz them with water as needed.

Once they germinate, they can be immediately removed to place under the lights. You do NOT have to wait for them all to germinate. Just remove each individual soil block with your fingers or a pair of tweezers, being sure you make a new label for it. Place it under the lights with the top of the plant about 2" from the light itself. Leave the lights on 16 hours a day. Water from the bottom.

You can transplant the mini blocks to 2" midi soil blocks in the next few days.
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Post  RoOsTeR on 3/31/2012, 3:04 pm

Excellent tutorial quiltbea! Thank you so much for putting it together. Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos 3170584802

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Post  AvaDGardner on 3/31/2012, 3:54 pm

Great post!

What does the green tea water do after you've put on the regular water? Antioxidants?

There's a form that you buy for making the squares?

LOVE the wet pencil tip. It's amazing how even short fingernails get in the way of nabbing one or two tiny seeds.

Ava
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Post  quiltbea on 3/31/2012, 8:31 pm

@Ava.......You can buy the soil blockers in a few different sizes at johnnyseeds.com and a couple other places. I have the 3/4" mini size and the 2" midi sizes only. I make my own air-pruning pots if I need anything larger. No, I don't get any freebies by this endorsement. Its where I got mine and I'm very happy with them. Sturdy and will last a lifetime, mine anyway, I'm 70 in less than a week. Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos 3170584802

I think the green tea may have bacteria that foils the damping off fungus so I use it. It doesn't hurt, that's for sure.
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Post  CindiLou on 4/26/2012, 7:50 pm

My soil blockers came today! I am out of veggies to try but you can never have to many flowers!

20 impatiens (may need more of these. I love them.)
20 salvia (Sunset - bright red)
20 dianthus (pinks are my favorite right now)

Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos Dscn0419

I got the 2" blocker also so I can up pot when ready.
It was very easy to use...after some soil adjusting.
First it was too wet then too dry...then is was juuuusst right Wink
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Post  llama momma on 4/27/2012, 5:49 am

I am Very interested in trying this out for next year can you assist me with figuring a rough set up cost? I don't mind the initial investment it's the long term savings I'm looking at.
Does the following sound right?
- 3/4" and 2" soil blockers are about 30 dollars each
- heat mat is about 50 dollars(?)
- plus initial outlay of soil mix ingredients ??
- trays look like pretty inexpensive plastic cake thingy's.
Would 140 dollars be a good rough estimate?
I'm spending nearly that much every year on flats of annuals and supplies for the flower garden. In addition, if I used this method for starting all my veggies too, the savings is making me dizzy! Wink
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Post  quiltbea on 4/27/2012, 10:46 am

I'm assuming you have the grow lights. I have 3 that are 4' long so:

Leak-proof trays are 5 for $14.95. I like to double them because they aren't the strongest things in the world. I also like to use them specifically because two side-by side fill the length of a light so that's approx $30. That makes me one pair short so I use an old seedling tray (bought by mistake one year but I've found they make terrific starting boxes outside for lettuces) inside 2 of the leak-proofs to make the leak-proofs sturdier. Got these all from Johnny's. Note: I used cat litter trays the first year from the Family Dollar Store for $2 each. They worked very well but I wanted to get the longer, slimmer trays in which the blocks fit so much nicer and bottom-watering works so well. Now I use the litter trays for transporting seedlings to the comm garden and hardening off some of the bigger pots so it was a good investment. Cost here is: approx $30 for 10 leak-proof trays.

My heating mat is 10" by 20" and cost around $30 a few years ago. Got it online. I use old cake containers with lids for my domed starting units on the heat mat so they cost me nothing.

The 2 Blockers are $25 and $30 and the insert kit to make the little square in the middle of the midi blocker is $7.95, also from Johnny's. Cost approx $63.

I bought my 512 Soil mix the first year and it is $12.95 for 20-qt bag and that handled all my seedlings and then some for the community garden. Johnny's. Cost $13 plus extra postage which is either $10 or $16 depending on distance. Up to $29.

Total around $152 plus regular postage.

You never have to buy starting kits or pots aagain. Cut soda bottles in half or use used soda-cups for the larger plants. You can use the soda bottles year after year after a good cleaning.

Usually when one starts seeds on the heat mat or in the window in the cells, one has to wait for most of the seeds to germinate but when some are getting quite tall, you really need to get them all under the lights. Some seeds may not have germinated by then. I have several varieties on the mat that germinate at different rates. With this method, you just lift the individual 3/4" block from the heat mat unit and put it under the lights. I wait a couple days to up-pot it to the 2" block. I like to have several before I mix up a soil batch and get my hands down and dirty.

I also found that allowing the tiny sprout to stretch up straight and about an inch or more tall while on the heat mat works wonders for its health. I think the extra heat from the heat mat does wonders for the tiny thing. It doesn't mind the change to the cooler conditions if its got its first burst of energy. That's when I place it under the lights and allow it to stretch out its leaves and if roots begin to show, I up-pot to the 2 incher. Just a personal observation.
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Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut on 4/27/2012, 11:08 am

Also - this seems to be the beginning in my area, of places marking seed starting items down. I just purchased a heat mat (10x20) at Menards for $12.99 last night.... I'm not sure at that price how it will fare in the long run...but I think it will do to let me experiment a bit since I don't already have anything at all in the way of undertray heat (my fridge is cold, my water heater would be attacked by cats, and I don't have radiators...LOL. Smile

Here is what I purchased:
http://www.menards.com/main/outdoor/storage-buildings/greenhouses/10x20-propagation-heating-mat/p-1730057.htm

They also had trays and lids marked down as well....

Smile
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Post  llama momma on 4/27/2012, 1:49 pm

Thanks a Whole Bunch to both of you for your generous help! And yes I have a few grow lights from old fish tanks no longer used. This is nice, between Mother's day, anniversary, christmas, and b'day I've got hubby's gifts to myself all planned out for next Spring's seed production! rock on
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Post  CindiLou on 4/27/2012, 2:02 pm

Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos 889526It's always nice when you can tell them what to get you! Saves you from all the oh hum and yuck presents.
Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos 1280598131 Garden supplies always welcome!
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Post  llama momma on 4/27/2012, 3:08 pm

#1 !!!
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Post  llama momma on 4/28/2012, 7:11 am

Couldn't wait...last night went to Menards and got the marked down trays, domes, and 16x20 heat mat. Thank you Walnut for sharing that sale info! Showed hubby this thread plus the savings involved. He said why wait, order the rest and be done with it. Yabbadabbadoo, it's Christmas,b'day,anniversary, mother's day all wrapped up in April. More garden toys on the way Very Happy cheers
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Post  quiltbea on 4/28/2012, 11:04 am

Yippee! Lucky Llama........I'm so glad you are able to get it all. Now you're all set for many years of seed starting. Go girl!
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Post  RoOsTeR on 4/28/2012, 11:08 am

Hmm, I wonder if this works for Father's Day thinking

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Post  llama momma on 4/28/2012, 11:09 am

I jumped online here hoping to catch you QB and there you are ! Thanks for your thoughts. Do have a question for you... when you up-pot things, do you always use the specialized seed mix or have you ever toyed with mel's mix instead?
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Post  llama momma on 4/28/2012, 11:10 am

@RoOsTeR wrote:Hmm, I wonder if this works for Father's Day thinking


Yes and tell Mrs. Rooster it would be a very fine gift indeed!
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Post  quiltbea on 4/28/2012, 6:21 pm

@llama.....I've always used the special blocker mix since its made to clump and not fall apart. MM is much too loose to hold its shape, as you must have noticed in your beds themselves. Too loose and light due to 1/3 being vermiculite.
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Post  llama momma on 4/29/2012, 1:18 am

Ok QuiltBea.
I purchased 20 qts of Johnny's 512. Also copied Eliot Coleman's recipe. I'll make my own at some point but I hope greensand and phosphate rock are easy to come by and suppose they are found at garden centers or feed stores? I'm familiar with the other ingredients and/or have them on hand. Thank you so much for your help, Llama momma
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Post  floyd1440 on 4/29/2012, 7:23 am

@RoOsTeR wrote:Hmm, I wonder if this works for Father's Day Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos 601593

My very thought as well. You cannot go wrong with garden stuff and it my age I have all the crap I reallyy need so and extra shirt, which doesn't fit, or pants, shorts, etc. tends to lead to more trips to a shopping areana is not fun to me.

Now if it something I want, I usually just buy it and hassle is over. But the block makers are a great idea to simplify the seed starting process and Bea has done an OUTSTANDING:cheers: job in demonstarating how these work. IMHO Johnny's should use here video on their website to promote the block makers. She has a much more in depth tutorial which I have bookmarked for future use.

Now Johnny's also has gift cards; how can one go wrong there if you need garden supplies as I do! So my father's day wish list is;

1) 2 inch block maker

2) 3/4 inch block maker + inserts

3) One Reotemp guage

4) One moisture guage

@Bea............you mention making your own potting mix for making blocks so I have some medium grade vermiculite, would this be a suitable substitute for perilite in your formula?

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Post  Turan on 3/8/2013, 12:55 pm

Tis almost Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos 274447 so I thought it a good time to bump my favorite seed starting threads. I learned so much from this.

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Post  quiltbea on 3/8/2013, 1:52 pm

floyd....Sorry, I didn't see this question sooner. I don't know if vermiculite would work the same. Mine had perlite in it and this year I just bought it from johnnyseeds and there's also has perlite in it.

llama mamma.......Rock phosphate and greensand are readily available at any feed and grain store. I got mine at Blue Seal feed. I never checked Walmart, Lowe's and Home Depot but they may also have it.
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Post  Turan on 4/5/2014, 2:55 pm

I was playing with my soil block maker getting ready to make some blocks. It squeeked so I spritzed it with Pam cooking spray. That cured the squeeks and the blocks release cleaner now too.

This is my third year using soil blocks and I still like them better tha nthe alternatives.

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Post  llama momma on 4/5/2014, 8:02 pm

Curious, could the oil somehow be a problem for the seeds later on if it soaked through? 
To make the block come out cleaner I wet the inside of the blocker and used more pressure to pack in the mix.  At times it still wasn't perfect, so I gently pressed more wet 'soil' on top.
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Post  Turan on 4/5/2014, 8:43 pm

I did not use that much.  The one spritz kept it working smoothly through out.
You know most seeds contain oils in them already. I do not see how this could of hurt anything.

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Post  llama momma on 4/5/2014, 8:47 pm

Wow. There is no end to learning new things.  Soil Blocks: Tutorial In Photos 3170584802
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