If you are into gardening and you live in the city then you know just how important space is. Every inch matters and so you really need to think about what you are going to place there. You also have to use containers especially if you are living in an apartment setting and you are just using a small veranda for your plants. But there is a better way of doing it and that is to use soil blocks.
What Are Soil Blocks?- Soil blocks are soil and growing matter that has been compacted and compressed in order to take on the form of blocks that can be used in gardening and in growing plants. Gardeners are using them at an increasing rate these days because of the tremendous advantages that they offer.
A Brief History- Soil blocks have been in use for centuries. The earliest known users of this form of planting are the Aztecs. They originally occupied some shallow lakes in present day Mexico City. They did not have much land to cultivate for agriculture so what they did was to set up small plots that are anchored to the bottom of the lake. These “Floating Gardens” are combination of lake mud and reeds. For planting they would create small blocks of earth mixed with manure and that is where they place the seedlings. It was a very efficient means of farming and it was able to support a large city in those days.
The more modern counterpart of soil blocks was developed in Holland. It first came into common use there in the 1890s. During the Second World War the use of soil blocks spread to the rest of Europe because of the shortage of fuel which was needed in order to make clay pots and other earthenware.
Advantages of Using Soil Blocks– The use of soil blocks has certain advantages over using containers for plants. First of all is the savings that it can bring in. There is no need to buy the pots which when you add up, especially if you have a huge garden and you have many plants can cost a lot. The plants can also grow a lot better when they are in soil blocks because the roots are in full contact of the air. When you transplant a plant from a pot to the ground or to a larger pot you might sometimes experience the plant dying on you. You can easily avoid that with the use of soil blocks. When plants are in a pot their growth is generally restricted once their roots hit the edge of the soil and touch the surface of the pot interior, when they are transplanted they experience shock which can easily kill them off. You are not going to have any of these problems when you are using blocks.
With the use of soil blocks there is no need to purchase all the other accessories that go with using pots and other containers and also it is environmentally friendly. Disposal is a problem with plastic containers and clay pots have to be made using up valuable fuel. In gardens that are lacking in space it makes sense to use square blocks rather than round containers because it allows you to maximize every square inch of space that you have. That means you can put in more plants there.
Disadvantage of Using Soil Blocks- The biggest disadvantage with the use of soil blocks in gardening is that they are going to need a lot more attention than regular methods. The plants that are placed in soil blocks need a lot more care since they will grow at a more rapid rate when compared with plants that are placed on pots. So you have to increase the amount of attention that you give to your garden and plants once you switch them over to soil blocks. Another problem with using soil blocks is that while it is cheaper in the long run, it costs a lot to get started on it if you are going to use specifically designed block makers. If you are the DIY type of person then you need not worry about this disadvantage.
Soil to Squeeze- The term soil block might be misleading. You can not just go out, dig up some earth and then use that on your block maker. In order for your blocks to work and your plants to get the full benefit of this system of planting you have to use a specialized mixture that has all the needed nutrients of plants. To save some time you can just buy some mix because there are many that are commercially available. However making your own Blocking Mix can give the best results. It is best to use the soil that is local to your area and mix it with some sources of fiber like peat and compost, which preferably came from your own pile. Then you need to add some rock dust to it all. Rock dust such as limestone can help give your plants a variety when it comes to the nutrients that they can use for their growth.
Making Your Own Soil Blocks- As we have mentioned, the use of specialized block makers can make the cost prohibitive to some. The good news is that there are ways that you can make soil blocks without having to buy the expensive equipment. There are some inexpensive block makers being sold online Here are some steps on how you can do that:
1. You can use plastic trays in making soil blocks. You need that because you are going to be messing around with soil and water. You need to have a large space where you can move around when making your soil blocks.
2. You can then place the soil on the tray. Put in more than what you think should be used. You are going to compress the blocks so it should require a lot of soil. Pour water on your soil and make sure that it is totally soaked in it. When you pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it water should trickle down from it. That is how moist it should be.
3. Make a pile of soil that is twice as high as your block maker. Then press the maker on the pile, giving it a little twist. Now you can place the maker over the spot where you want your soil blocks to be placed. Ejecting the blocks is done by simply pulling away its handle. Make sure that you have got a bit of space between the blocks so that roots can not cross over.
4. Most block makers place a small hole on the blocks where you can plant the seedlings. You need to keep the blocks regularly moist with a mister because once they dry up you can not get a uniform level of moisture on it again. Never let it dry up totally since that might permanently ruin the blocks for you.
5. Remember that using soil blocks is different from gardening with the traditional containers for plants. Be open to learning some new techniques that might be required for using soil blocks on your garden.