Saturday, January 23, 2010

Make Your Own 4-Inch Soil Block Maker

Gardeness, Renee and Caffeinated Mom, welcome to the blog!

homemade soil block maker 6
I've been intrigued by the idea of soil blocks ever since I read Eliot Coleman's New Organic Grower a few years ago. Last month, I finally got around to purchasing 3/4-inch and 2-inch soil block makers from Johnny's Selected Seeds. I also wanted, but did not purchase, the 4-inch blocker simply because it was too expensive for my gardening budget. The 4-inch block is great for larger starts like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, and eggplant and for late transplanting. But I couldn't justify spending the $119 its costs. As a result, I thought I'd try to come up with a homemade solution.

kids blocks
I have to thank my son for this bit of inspiration. I came across his old set of nesting boxes in the basement a few months ago. They were made of sturdy wood and coincidentally enough, held boxes that measured 2 and 4-inches on each side. I also grabbed the 3.6-inch box that fits snugly inside the 4-inch box.

homemade soil block maker 2
I started by breaking the 3.6-box into its 5 sides. I took 2 of the squares and drilled at the center of each a hole big enough to fit around the diameter of a 4-inch bolt. I then drilled the same-size hole at the center of the bottom of the 2-inch box.

homemade soil block maker 3
To create the 2-inch soil block insert (which is used to pot-on transplants started in 2-inch soil blocks), I slid the 2-inch box bottom-side down onto a 4-inch bolt. Then I slid one of the squares on top of the box and secured the pieces firmly with a nut. To create the direct-seeding dibble insert, I slid a couple of nuts onto the bolt, followed by the other square and then secured with another nut.

homemade soil block maker
Finally, I cut a hole into the center of the bottom of the 4-inch box big enough to fit around the nut.

homemade soil block maker 4
To make the soil block, you slide an insert into the 4-inch box and fill firmly with the soil mix.

homemade soil block maker 5
To release the soil block, push down on the bolt to compress the block and lift the box.

I will probably apply a non-toxic water sealant to the inside of the box and inserts to keep them from warping. Hopefully, I will be able to test my homemade 4-inch soil block maker soon. So what do you think? Will it work?


  1. That is very inventive Thomas. I like how you always come up with frugal ways to garden....Btw your bean sprouter inspired me and I'm going to give it a try as I just got my mung beans in the mail!!

  2. The one John Best made for me was from a plastic tupperware container, a rod threaded at both ends (plunger), a square of plexiglass (soil pusher-outer), a nut and an acorn nut (dimple maker)and a knob. It works perfectly!

    Mine is a 2", but it could be made with any size container.

  3. These look great and very functional! probably some sort of non-toxic finish would keep the wood from warping when in contact with damp soil mix.

  4. That is so cute. I've seen round ones people make, but I like the square since it uses the space more efficiently. I think paint would help a lot, especially if it were smooth it would release the soil better. I think wet wood would grab onto the soil.

  5. Wow! Wish I had a set of those blocks!

  6. This is awesome! And cute to look at too:) I have a variation on the kids toys, although I have never tried blocking, I do use one of my kids' foam blocks to press the mix into the flats to tamp it down. I let the kids to this part since it keeps them busy and keeps them from playing with and mixing up my seeds. Busy hands = happy mom! I am also a sucker for kids garden tools - you will often see my kids playing in a dirt pile with my tools while I am using their butterflied and ladybug adorned tools in the garden :)

  7. And my first thought was that this looked like a child's toy. Cute reuse. I might have to make some of these with my dad (he's handy with wood).

  8. So clever and much more beautiful than the one for $119 - we need function and beauty sometimes ;)

  9. Those blocks are darling - I hope you use a sealer rather than paint so that those images stay intact! I have never used a soil block maker so I have no idea if this will work or not - but I will certainly be interested in seeing your subsequent posts letting us know how it performs.

  10. Clever idea, waiting to see how your different soil blocks work.

  11. Most definitely the cutest soil block maker ever !

  12. Well, yes! I have to say that those are the cutest soil blocker boxes I have EVER seen..all it...

    starting to rain out here...again

    off to scatter forget-me-not seeds

    more later, friend


  13. I have never used soil blocks. I guess that you have to have a soil mix that will keep its shape after watering... I’m not sure that it would work with soil that I’m using.
    It looks very inventive and I’m looking forward to see the soil blocks you will make with it.

  14. How did this project work?

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