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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

soil block makers I22gcj10soil block makers 14dhcg10

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soil block makers Empty soil block makers

Post  danieggert 3/27/2023, 2:08 pm

Hi all,

Spent the overnight with my adult son who is a total techy geek.  We were discussing gardens and I mentioned that I had seen some soil block makers on FB marketplace made with 3-D printers.  And of course, he has a 3d printer.  this morning he told me to go check his machine and overnight, he made me 3 very nice soil block makers.

Has anyone used these?  Any comments?

I, of course, will have to try them since he went to the trouble of making them.

Looking on videos, it looks pretty easy.  The main complain being they do not stay together. I thought I might put in a paper cupcake holder.

Thoughts?,  and thanks,

Dani from Burr Ridge
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Post  markqz 3/27/2023, 6:49 pm

danieggert wrote:
Looking on videos, it looks pretty easy.  The main complain being they do not stay together. I thought I might put in a paper cupcake holder.
Never heard of them before, but I see that Fiskars sells a nice looking one for only about $20. The thing is, their model has springs, which I'm pretty sure you can't print. Should I ask how much $$ in 3D plastic he needed? Wink

Some pictures of your unit would be interesting!

If you used cupcake paper, would you just peel it off later? Apparently they claim that if you use certain potting mixes or a custom mix and apply enough pressure the pots will stick together.
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Post  danieggert 3/27/2023, 6:59 pm

Hi,  I asked my son that.  He said less than a dollar for all three.   He set it up before he went to bed and it "printed" overnight.

No spring involved, you push it through.  I plan to see how it works soon.  I need to practice.   Babysitting grand-kids all week for spring break.  Hopefully, I will find some time to experiment.

Dani from Burr Ridge
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Post  OhioGardener 3/27/2023, 7:31 pm

I no longer use soil blocking, since I got old and lazy, but had good success with it in a former life (former life = before SFG). Back in those days I would start a tray of tomatoes, a tray of peppers, a tray of squash, etc., and soil blocks were the best way to do it.  Now days I start a few tomatoes, a few peppers, a few squash, etc., and soil blocks are not worth the effort for me.

The 2 old soil blocker tools I have - one makes 1.5" blocks and one make 2" blocks - are largely rusted memories. The 2" is necessary for large plants like tomatoes, squash, etc.

The two most important things I learned early in the soil blocking experiment is: 1) the correct soil mix is critical, and 2) plenty of moisture is essential.  

1. Here is my soil recipe:

Makes 36 2" blocks
16 cups sifted peat moss or coco coir
4 cups sifted compost
¼ cup greensand
¼ cup rock phosphate powder

2. Moisture is critical! Mix above recipe with 3 parts dry mix with 1 part water. It should be so moist that if you squeeze a handful of the mix there should be water coming out between the fingers.  Once the blocks are made and on a flat tray, keep them super moist at least until the seedling roots are well established.

When making the blocks, compression of the soil is critical. As much pressure as possible must be used to press down on the block maker to compress the soil into it. If they are not tightly compressed, the blocks will crumble before the seedling roots can hold it together.  Placement of the blocks for planting the seeds is also important, you want to ensure there is air flow around the blocks. If they are placed in a deep tray or pot, such as a 1020 tray, there will not be sufficient air flow around the blocks for good root development. If possible, use a flat tray with only a low lip around the edge to contain the water runoff.

That is the extent of my knowledge....nap time...

____________________________

"In short, the soil food web feeds everything you eat and helps keep your favorite planet from getting too hot. Be nice to it."  ~ Diane Miessler, "Grow Your Soil"
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Post  wargarden2017 3/27/2023, 7:48 pm

I just use colored popsicle sticks
to mark my soil blocks.
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Post  danieggert 3/27/2023, 9:07 pm

Thank you Ohio gardener

You have given me courage to move forward on this

I plan to use your recipe

By the way, I'm old also. It's 8 o'clock here in Chicago area and I'm going to bed

I have been known to go to bed at 7:30 and sometimes even 7 PM

 Sleep is so under appreciated by young people

Dani from burr ridge
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Post  danieggert 3/28/2023, 8:11 am

Hi Ohio Gardener

Do I really need the green sand and phosphate in that mix?  I have already spent so much $$ setting up my SFG, I really don't want to spend more than I have to.

I might be able to get a small amount of the phosphate but the green sand only comes in larger poundage.  Hate to buy just for a 1/4 cup.  I do have a bag of 'fine' vermiculite, can I use that?

Thanks   

Dani from Burr Ridge
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Post  OhioGardener 3/28/2023, 8:31 am

danieggert wrote:Do I really need the green sand and phosphate in that mix?  I have already spent so much $$ setting up my SFG, I really don't want to spend more than I have to.

No, they are optional.  The greensand  provides potassium, potash, iron, magnesium, silica, and other trace minerals. But, if you have high quality compost you probably have enough of nutrients.  I have a very old 44# bag of greensand that I periodically add to soils just because I have it. Old, retired engineers do things like that..... Very Happy

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Post  danieggert 3/28/2023, 8:34 am

OhioGardener wrote:
danieggert wrote:Do I really need the green sand and phosphate in that mix?  I have already spent so much $$ setting up my SFG, I really don't want to spend more than I have to.

No, they are optional.  The greensand  provides potassium, potash, iron, magnesium, silica, and other trace minerals. But, if you have high quality compost you probably have enough of nutrients.  I have a very old 44# bag of greensand that I periodically add to soils just because I have it. Old, retired engineers do things like that..... Very Happy
 What kind of engineer?
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Post  danieggert 3/28/2023, 9:34 am

danieggert wrote:Hi,  I asked my son that.  He said less than a dollar for all three.   He set it up before he went to bed and it "printed" overnight.

No spring involved, you push it through.  I plan to see how it works soon.  I need to practice.   Babysitting grand-kids all week for spring break.  Hopefully, I will find some time to experiment.

Dani from Burr Ridge
Update,  Son made me some more in different sizes   will pick up today.  He calc'ed out the price and I was wrong.   He said about $2.50 for all three

I hope to attach pics with this.  The part you push is a solid hollow square with the dimple for the seed.  The base is just a square.  These are 2" squares

Hope this helps

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soil block makers 20230321
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Post  OhioGardener 3/28/2023, 1:27 pm

It will be interesting to see how those work. The type I used are like the ones pictured below. The important thing when making the blocks was to press the soil hard enough that water came out the top of the blocking tool. If there was no water coming out, either the soil was too dry or the handle wasn't being pushed down hard enough.



soil block makers Soil_b10

soil block makers Soil_b11
Pictures from unit at Johnny's Selected Seeds (Hand-held 4 Soil Blocker)

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Post  sanderson 4/2/2023, 4:59 am

danieggert wrote:Hi Ohio Gardener

Do I really need the green sand and phosphate in that mix?  I have already spent so much $$ setting up my SFG, I really don't want to spend more than I have to.

I might be able to get a small amount of the phosphate but the green sand only comes in larger poundage.  Hate to buy just for a 1/4 cup.  I do have a bag of 'fine' vermiculite, can I use that?

Thanks   

Dani from Burr Ridge
You will get plenty of phosphate from the composts, especially the manure-based compost.

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Post  Scorpio Rising 4/4/2023, 5:06 pm

danieggert wrote: What kind of engineer?
Mel was a retired construction engineer.  Are you an engineer?
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