March 16, 2010

Soil Blocks

I spent the better part of the day making soil blocks for the mangels (more about mangels, which are huge beets, in a later post).  In addition to eliminating the need for thinning later on, the reason for starting them in blocks rather than as seeds in the field is that we are able to keep down any weeds in the planting area until the mangels are big enough to shade out the competition (not that we ever have weeds in the garden, of course).  To make the soil blocks, we use a recipe from The New Organic Grower, which has always worked well.  It calls for:

30 units brown peat 
1/8 unit lime
20 units coarse sand or perlite 
3/4 unit fertilizer 
10 units soil 
20 units compost

Your "units" can be whatever container is handy, as long as the ratios remain the same.  I use a bucket and measuring cup.  The ingredients are all mixed together dry in a wheelbarrow, and then enough water is added until you have a soft mud.  I've had more success with a very moist mixture which keeps the soil from sticking to the sides and top of the block press.  Once the seeds are planted, the blocks require vigilant watering, especially in the warm environment of the greenhouse.  Above is the pak choi (or bok choi) that we started recently.

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