As we begin to establish our flower farm, I've been researching quite a few different approaches to seed starting, including soil blocking. Although this year we're only starting around 1,000 plants from seed, in the upcoming years we'll be growing many more, and I want to make sure I give all those little flowers the best possible start! In Europe, free-standing blocks of soil, rather than peat pots or seed flats, are almost universally used for starting vegetable and flower seeds. Soil block makers (I bought mine here) are used to form sets of blocks that serve as the container for starting and growing seedlings.
Not only does this eliminate the expense, waste, and storage issues associated with plastic pots/trays, but seedlings started in soil blocks reestablish themselves more quickly after being transplanted (and with minimal transplant shock) due to increased root surface area and "air-pruning" of the root systems.
This idea of less plastic waste (plus healthier seedlings) really appeals to me, so I decided to give soil blocking a try!
It's important to start with good soil. You can make your own, or there are several excellent mixes that you can buy. Either way, before starting to form the blocks, make sure you get the soil medium nice and wet...the consistency should be similar to oatmeal.
Once we had the right consistency, we started to form the blocks. Soil blocking is easy and fun, and both kids had a blast getting dirty and "playing'' in the soil!
Just work the block maker into the soil, really pressing it back and forth until water starts to come up through the top. Once that happens, pick it up and scrape off the excess soil from the bottom (we started off by using a butter knife to get the bottom nice and flat, but quickly decided to just use our hands, which worked just as well).
Then, you set the soil blocker down in a tray, squeeze the lever, and release the blocks. It took one or two tries to get it right, but once we did, we were able to make over 900 soil blocks in just a few hours!
The soil blocks are formed with a small indentation in the top, making it really easy to just drop the seeds in. For the larger seeds, the kids were able to do that themselves, but for the smaller seeds I used a toothpick.
All the seedlings seem to be doing really well, and I'll update soon with more photos. So far, the soil blocking method has really been a success for us!