Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Seedlings


We are implementing a new system for growing seedlings here at the Funny Farm:

Soil Blocks

Soil Blocks are formed from a peat moss and compost soil mix by pressing with a hand-powered soil block maker. The result is a freestanding block of soil that is very space efficient and requires no container other than the flat it is placed in.


They're cute, but What's the Big Deal, you ask?

If you have ever purchased veggies or flower seedlings in those black plastic cell-packs, you have probably noticed that they are usually "root-bound", with the white roots circling the inside of the plastic container they were grown in. If planted as is, the roots tend to continue this habit, and when you pull out the plant at the end of the growing season, very often the roots look pretty much like they did when you started -- there is still that distinct "plug" that you planted way back in May!

Some gardeners (and I was among them) try to stimulate root growth by squeezing this root-bound cell, cutting the sides of the root-ball, or worse, tearing off the bottom half inch or so of the root-mass, especially if the roots are severely overgrown. This does stimulate more root growth but causes trauma to the plant, known as "transplant shock", evidenced by your newly planted seedlings just sitting there for a up to a week while they struggle to regrow those damaged roots.

This is where Soil Blocks shine. Because there are no plastic sides, the roots of the plant are air pruned and the plant can not become root-bound. This practically eliminates transplant shock, leading to faster maturity and possibly higher yields.

This makes it much easier to start indoors even difficult to transplant vegetables like peas, melons, corn, carrots, spinach, and other plants that are typically direct seeded into the garden later in the season.

I played around with it a bit last year and I was very pleased with initial results.

The Funny Farm is offering soil block grown snap peas, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and leaf and romaine lettuces for mid march planting dates on a pre-order basis.  Tomatoes, peppers, onions, herbs, cucumbers, melons, summer and winter squash will be available for sale in May.

If you are interested, please call Lisa at 615-9623

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You make it sound so easy. Your Dad

Anonymous said...

What keeps them from falling apart? Your Cousin.

Funny Farmer said...

Which cousin? :-)

They are compacted tightly. The peat moss and tiny bit of clay in the recipe help hold things together at first. They have to be handled minimally and watered carefully (it would be easy to erode them with a heavy blast of water) at first. Once the roots get growing, they do the main job of holding the root-block together.