Monday, April 23, 2012

Favorite Thing - Soil Blocks

I'm glad to say that my love/hate relationship with soil blocks has now grown into being one of just love.  (Exciting, I know.)  I think the "hate" part of it was the result of having to source and combine the ingredients to create the soil block mix each year.  One benefit of living in Vermont is that many of local garden centers carry Vermont Compost Company's Fort Vee potting mix, which is designed for soil blocks.  Having used it now for the past couple of months, I have to say that I'm a HUGE fan.  Hopefully I'll never have to go back to making my own mix ever again.

This year, I decided to buy a 1 1/2 inch soil blocker to accompany my 2 inch and 3/4 inch mini blockers.  I start most of my melons, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers and larger brassicas like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower each year using the 2 inch blocker.  However, this size block is a generally too large for greens like spinach and lettuce and most Asian greens like bok choy, tatsoi, mizuna, choy sum, etc.  The 1 1/2 inch blocks are good for onions and beets as well.  If you're on a tight gardening budget, I'd recommend getting the 2 inch blocker to start, but now that I have both, I couldn't imagine doing without either.  Admittedly, I haven't found much use for the 3/4 inch mini blocker and doubt that I ever will.

I generally sow 2 to 3 seeds per block and then thin the seedlings down to 1 (with the exception of scallions, which I don't thin, and large seeds, which I sow 1 or 2 per block).  Most of the time, I get pretty good germination rates this way. 

For tomatoes and peppers, I generally pot-up to a 3 or 4 inch pot once they've outgrown their blocks and bury as much of the stem as I can.  I'd consider buying a 4 inch blocker but don't think it's really worth it.

Anyway, if you've never tried soil blocks, I hope you give them a try.  The blockers run about 25 to 30 dollars each but are well worth the investment in my opinion.


  1. Everything looks really good, Thomas.
    Have a wonderful week! ♥

  2. Your transplants look really pretty. Currently I am using the 4" blocks. I never really bought them but I got most of them with the strawberry transplants I bought a couple of months ago.

    Now I can put off potting them into to bigger containers for longer. (This feeds my laziness greatly)

  3. I love that VCC potting mix too. I really have to work to get it here, but it grows things so well. I swear it is so much better than my own mix. Seedlings just pop up and take off. I also agree about the mini blocker. Seeds don't germinate well in it for me. So it isn't even good to use to pot up to the 2" one.

  4. OOohhh a shiny new soil block maker! I've been using my 2-inch soil block maker for 3-years now and wouldn't go back to little plastic cell block trays. I've never used any other size, so I don't know the difference.

    Your seedling look very happy and healthy.

  5. I have to try and use soil blocks - for now I'm just reusing old containers for seedlings.

  6. This is my first year using soil blocks, and while many have said they don't care for the 3/4" blocks, I've found them enormously helpful for simple things like lettuce and basil. I just transplanted 200 basil starts into blocks after having moved the beets, chard and other items out from the lights and into the cold frame. No way I could have kept 200 basil in the 1.5" blocks - no room under the lights!

  7. Where did you get that crisscross mesh tray liner? That would make a huge difference for compressed soil blocks.

  8. Those are such neat and tidy little soil blocks! Happy little seedlings too!

  9. I just started using soil blocks this year. I only used them on some things. There is a learning curve to using them. Next year I will try using them with my tomatoes and peppers. I was too much of a scardy cat this year!

  10. Looking cool there. My mini garden would pale in comparison to that. Isn't it amazing when all of them are bearing fruit at the same time?

  11. 1st year for me using the sb. Great stuff, just gotta watch to keep them from drying out.
    Why not 2inch pot for lettuce?


  12. That soil blocker looks like a neat tool. I don't really understand it - it makes shaped, stand alone soil to add seeds to, I guess?

    1. Advantages supposedly are healthier roots, (air pruning stops roots from twirling around). This helps them take off better when transplanted to garden.


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