On March 13th, students and community members gathered in the Anthropology building greenhouse at U of T to learn how to soil block with Bonnie Scott, and to plant seeds for this year’s growing season.
Soil blocking is a technique for growing seedlings without the use of plastic pots.
Soil blocking, in contrast, looks like this:
Blocks are made up of a combination of soil, sand and nutrients, Bonnie explained that this method of germination produces healthier seedlings because roots are able to spread out and don’t become bound and tangled in the pot, which allows for a more successful transplanting of the seedling into the ground. For this workshop, Bonnie used Eliot Coleman’s soil blocking recipe, which can be found here, there is also a useful series of videos on the internet for reference. We used Coleman’s recipe as a guide, though another great aspect is that soil blocking mixes are customizable depending on the resources you may have. For our mix, we used less then half the recommended amount of sand because the type we had was really fine. Also, lime will only have to be added if you are using peat, to balance its acidic pH. There are lots of resources available on the internet to guide you through soil blocking mixes.
Soil blocking requires the use of a small soil compactor, as shown in the picture. Soil is packed into the mechanism and is extracted with a small hole in the top of the soil block where seeds can be planted. Soil is then pinched closed, to cover the seeds. Larger seeds may need to be pushed down slightly. Make sure to place soil blocks onto a container to hold excess water.
Soil blocking is a great way to seed in a cost-effective and plastic free way. Soil blockers can also be shared among community gardens or urban agriculture organizations in the city, making it a truly sustainable technique for planting.
Students returned after the work shop to plant more seeds. Between the two work days we planted a variety of tomatoes, herbs, squash, cucumbers, hot and sweet peppers, greens such as swiss shard and kale. Other veggies and herbs will be sown directly into the gardens