I am sure if you have started seedlings, you have used either plastic solo cups, plastic nursery pots, or peat pots. All are good, but what if I told you that for quick growing crops, there is a better, cheaper, and simpler way? There is, soil blocks.
Soil blocks are a method of starting seedlings in which small blocks of soil are formed by hand or with a tool called a soil block maker. To create soil blocks, it is so simple!
How to make soil blocks
First, mix water to your favorite potting soil. I find the best potting soil is one that has a good amount of perlite and vermiculite in it so it doesn't get too muddy, clumpy, or dense. Mix water until it is moist but not soggy. You should be able to squeeze the mix and get some water drops to squeeze out.
Next, grab a tray. I prefer to use a seedling tray with holes for drainage. You will need to water them, and you don't want them sitting in water or they will break down faster. Also, they don't have a lot of strength, so if you need to move them, a tray is very handy. Next, Use a soil block maker to compress the soil mixture into small blocks. It helps if you use a dishpan or bus bin for this, since you will need to smash the soil into the blocks with downward pressure to pack the soil into the block maker squares. This can be a bit messy if it isn't contained, which is where the bin comes in. To release the blocks, most will have a spring action handle that will push the blocks out automatically when you release. You want to do this slowly as to not break the blocks. The blocks should be about the size of a standard seedling cell (1.5 inches square and 1 inch deep). Continue making soil blocks until your tray is filled.
Lastly, press a seed into the center of each block and make sure to keep the soil blocks in a warm, sunny location and mist them regularly to keep the soil moist. Also, pick seeds that are fast growing. Once you get your soil blocks wet, they will begin to soften and fall apart after a little while. The faster you can move the seedlings the better they work. Once the seedlings have sprouted and grown to a sufficient size, transplant them into the garden or larger pots.
Why are soil blocks better?
Soil blocks work with a process called air pruning. Air pruning is a technique used to control the growth of plant roots by exposing them to air. This causes the tips of the roots to dry out and die, promoting the growth of new, healthy roots. This is why your soil blocks will not look like some pots do, which is a tangles up mangled up mess of roots at the bottom of the pot all spiraling in one direction.
Pic Source: (Julia Walker)